Listen to the new single from 7 Hills Worship!
Listen to the new single from 7 Hills Worship!

Michael W. Smith

Michael W. Smith is no stranger to the music world, and with another studio album hitting streets, he's still in Wonder.'s Nathaniel Schexnayder caught up with Michael via phone call to discuss the new record, his career, and touring with TobyMac and Third Day this Fall...
This interview took place on: 8/31/10.

  • JFH (Nathaniel Schexnayder): Can you please talk a little about your upcoming Make a difference tour?

    Michael W. Smith: Yeah man I'm pumped about it. We're trying to foster 25,000 kids with World Vision with tobyMac, Third Day and myself, and I think it's going to be a great night. I'm probably more excited about collaborating and doing something people have never seen or experienced before. I'm pretty stoked about it for sure.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): What are the specific goals of the tour?

    Michael: Well you know what I have been involved with Compassion for a long time, I know World Vision does a great work. I just have seen firsthand what a child being sponsored does to their lives, it really does work. I've been to these third world countries. I've been to India, Ecuador. I've seen first hand the magnitude of a child being sponsored. Not only just for that kid but how it spills over to that family. A child I sponsored a long time ago came to know the Lord at seven and a half years old and five years later there are twenty two people who live there who are believers. I believe that stemmed out from that one child getting sponsored. You just never know the spillover effect from just one child being sponsored. And that's really the goal, mainly. The thing to us tonight is to get them sponsored and, honestly, we are going to make some great music and we are going to have some great moments creatively and artistically.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): How did the artists all come together for this?

    Michael: I think it was the simple invite. Mac called me up then asked me if I would be interested in doing something like this and I said "yeah I would love it." Mac and I and Third Day have a little history cause we did a tour called "Come Together and Worship Tour," which was a very successful tour with Max Lucado. And Max would teach and would give the whole five minute deal and it was really powerful. You know that dynamic. And I've always wanted to do something with Toby -- my long history with DC Talk goes way back. I think we all feel great about pulling Toby into the mix as well. And that's really kinda how it all started. We started dreaming.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): You have also been involved with Freedom concerts with Sean Hannity. Can you talk a bit about this? How did you become involved?

    Michael: Me and Charlie Daniels and Leonard Skinner. On paper it doesn't work, but if you were there, it worked. Charlie played first, I'm in the middle, (me and piano) but it worked. It was a great night. Great cause, raising tons of money for kids who have lots parents in the war. It's just a very inspirational night. We just did the last show on Saturday night in San Diego, it was pretty amazing. I'm very grateful to be apart of it, and I got to really know Sean a lot. Glad to be apart of it.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): What's the inspiration for the title of your new album, Wonder? Michael W. Smith

    Michael: First of all, I love the inspiration. I love that it pops. I love albums that are one word. I love the line that says "you're a mystery that makes me wonder." I'm just in awe of who He is. I'm awed by His grace, and I also have a lot of questions. That's okay, I probably have more questions than answers. I can just go outside and I can look and see how cool the sky is and I go "man, that's unbelievable." Looking at the little things and I begin to wonder. I have gotten really good at turning the cell phones off and escaping to the country side and going to my farm. I could pretty much start to appreciate just about everything today. I'm sorta in awe of that and it just makes me wonder. It just seems to be the right title for the album. I'm glad it is.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): With a few decades spent immersed in the music business, what keeps you on your toes creatively?

    Michael: I listen to a lot of music. It's hard to find really great music, honestly. I find it from time to time. I just surround myself with great people and great people creatively. And just learning how to re-invent yourself. How do you re-invent yourself and stay true to who you are? And that has been the real challenge with me, and I'm loving it. I think I'm at a better place today than I have ever been. I think this is one of the best things I've done. I'm glad I feel that way and I think everyone feels that way as well. I'm driven in a good way. I feel great. After all this time, you think I would want to do something else, but I'm more sure of my calling today than I ever have been. I'm pretty passionate about this album.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): Wonder is ambitious musically. Did producer Bryan Lenox have a lot to do with that?

    Michael: Brian had a lot to do with it sonically. He brought some creativity. I love working with Brian. I've known him for years. We did Go West Young Man together. We did Freedom. We did This Is Your Time. It's been nine years since we have done a project together. He has really good instincts. He has great ears, he is sorta king at getting sounds. It was his idea to bring this new technology in called the CLASP, which allowed us to record everything on this record analogue. I think anybody who has ears out will hear a huge difference when you put this up against something that has been recorded digitally. There is a massive difference and the record sonically sounds really big. And Brian was a really big part of that.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): On more than one occasion you've mentioned your sole need for God in your life; is that something you have been dealing with personally?

    Michael: I know today the truth more than I ever have. I know where my peace comes from; I know the only One who can rescue me. Selling millions of records and selling out arenas or whatever it is doesn't last. As you get older, and hopefully a little wiser (I hope I'm getting there on this journey), man, I know what works and I know where my hope comes from. I know He's the only one who can save me from myself. It's a great place, because when you come to know that fully, it really does change your perspective on things. 'Cause if you don't have anything to prove, then you are not trying to be a rock star. You are not trying to impress anybody. You really have an audience of one. That's the most important thing -- that you're about the business of God. And you're here for a reason and He's given me these gifts and I need to use them for His glory. It's a pretty cool place to be and I'm happier now than I ever have been in my life.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): So, you would say to any fellow recording artists that God takes priority to making lots of money.

    Michael: Oh man, if I was supposed to do something else and leave the record business tomorrow, I'd do it. I don't feel that's what I'm supposed to do. I feel like I'm hitting in my sweet spot. The place that I would anchor down and say the most important thing for people to know is that God not only loves us but is actually really fond of us. And wants to father us and wants to be a daddy. For many people, it's about performance mode. This whole thing is about the grace of God, and when you come to know that you are fully loved - period - it doesn't matter what you have done, where you have been. You are loved. It will change your life. It will change the way you look and perceive everything, and it's very freeing. So, I know that today more than I ever have. I don't have anything to prove. I'm fine. Are the temptations still there? Oh yeah. You have to wake up every day, you have to die to yourself. It's a good place and I'm very content for sure.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): What's the story behind "Leave?"

    Michael: It's about abuse. It's about abuse and abuses going on in the world today. You read about child slavery and the sex trade and then I have friends that have come out and said they were abused as a kid. In the Church, the Catholic priest with the boys... The girl who got bullied at school and she finally gave up and hung herself at fifteen years of age. I mean, c'mon. And there are a lot of people who have suppressed this for years, and they are ashamed and they don't want to bring it up. I just think it's time to invite God into the thing. I believe He can walk you through it and then He can forgive the uncle or the dad or whoever who have abused you. There is a way to forgive that person and be able to get whole and be healed in your life. I believe that the song might be the most important song on the record cause I think you'll find a lot of people coming out going "you know what, I have to deal with this." I don't think you can be ever be whole and really live the life you are supposed to live unless you deal with the past and that's why that song is on the record.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): Would you say the song is more for Christian adults than it is for young people or is it for everyone?

    Michael: It's for anybody who has ever been abused. I tell you what, I think anybody who ever hears the song, if they have not been abused, they know someone who has been abused either verbally, sexually, emotionally, physically. I mean, we all know people who have been through stuff like that. It's for everybody.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): You have been in the Christian music industry for over 25 years. What are the most significant changes you have noticed over those years to the industry?

    Michael: It has changed lot, especially the business part of it. You just have to figure out how to stay on course. I'm not going to worry about the business part of it. You have this whole thing about people downloading music and all that sort of thing. That's a little problem for our industry. There are a lot of artists out there and hopefully we can stay the course and do this with integrity and great character and that's the key.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): That's the main way the industry can improve?

    Michael: We need a lot of accountability. There are a lot of artists and bands out there and there is not much accountability. It's a dangerous world out there. It's crazy. I don't care if you are a Christian band. There are all the temptations that go with being on the road. And you can lose your touch and grip if you are not careful.

  • JFH (Nathaniel): What is your favorite song on your album?

    Michael: I don't know. That's a hard one. If I had to pick one I would probably pick "I'll Wait For You."

  • JFH (Nathaniel): What has God been teaching you lately?

    Michael: To be still. You get busy. Everybody is trying to do everything. Everyone is running and gunning. I don't think it was ever God's will to run and gun. You have to slow down. I don't think you will ever hear the voice of God until you turn the cell phone off and chill out. Find a place where you can just be quiet.

    Michael W. Smith's new album Wonder is available now wherever music is sold.


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