Behind the Music
An Interview with Michael W. Smith
Michael W. Smith is a Grammy and Dove Award-winning artist, who has sold more than 18 million albums worldwide. For more than 35 years, he has used his music to uplift and inspire people with the message of hope in Christ.
We recently connected with Michael to discuss music, ministry, family…and joining Joyce this September to lead worship at her 35th anniversary Love Life Women’s Conference.
You’ve written literally hundreds of songs throughout your career. What makes a great song?
I’d first say great songs are hard to write! There are a lot of “good” songs out there (and let’s be honest, some not-so-good ones, too!), but there are few of what I would consider GREAT songs.
The late-great American songwriter Leon Russell said every songwriter has one great one in them, and if they can get that right they’ve really accomplished something.
A truly great song has a long shelf-life—it sticks around for a long, long time. It moves people, it changes them, it can impact their very mood or spirit. They are indeed few and far between, but they are certainly special.
So many of your songs address relationships and loving those around you. Why is it important for love to begin at home?
Well, there is an amazing quote from Mother Teresa that says, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” As they sometimes say here in the South: “That’ll preach!”
What role does your family play in your music and ministry?
They have EVERYTHING to do with my music and ministry. They motivate me, they inspire me...and they’re the reason I can’t wait to get home after a run of concert dates!
You’ve been a big advocate for reaching the mission field “all around us.” What are some practical examples?
I think having a global mindset is important and it’s our responsibility to help those less fortunate than us, regardless of distance. But I think it’s also important to remember there is a tremendous mission field in our own backyard.
Most of us are set in fairly predictable routines—we go to the same grocery store or office week after week. Think about the route you take every day. Is there a homeless man sitting in the same spot week in and week out? Do you see the same young person standing on the corner?
There are opportunities all around us every day to be the hands and feet of Jesus to someone in need. It might be your next door neighbor; it might be the son or daughter of a close friend. All around you, there are people who need compassion and need to be introduced to Jesus.
How has serving others impacted your life—whether it’s through music, missions, or day-to-day life?
If you know much about me, you probably know I started a teen club called Rocketown. Rocketown serves as a safe haven for kids that might otherwise fall to drugs, gangs or just hopelessness.
Since we opened, we have literally had over a million kids walk through our doors. And for the staff at Rocketown, that is their mission field. What a privilege to have the opportunity to share Christ with kids that might otherwise never hear the Good News.
You’ve played at a lot of men’s conferences. How does it feel to know you’ll be leading worship for a stadium full of women at Joyce’s conference this Fall?
Oh, I’m really looking forward to that night! I have tremendous respect for Joyce and the impact she’s had on countless people.
I really look forward to being in St. Louis with her. From what I have heard about her conferences, the crowd will be ready to worship and I am so excited to be a part of it all!
What’s next for you? Are there any new projects we should look forward to?
I am in the studio now working on a new project, but I’m not totally sure what that looks like at this point. I feel like something is stirring inside of me that could be different than anything I have ever done so far. No parameters—a leap of faith. At the end of the day, you just have to be who you are. Let the adventure begin!
7 Questions with Michael
Where did you get the nickname “Smitty?”
I’ve had that nickname as long as I can remember! All my friends that I played ball with started calling me Smitty at a very young age.
What’s your perfect day?
Breakfast with my wife…a walk around Radnor Lake with my mentor and pastor Don Finto…some alone time in the studio…an evening with my wife and kids and grandkids.
What would you have done if you weren’t a musician?
I had dreams of playing professional baseball. And hopefully being a very hip youth pastor.
What was your first job?
An instrument you wished you could play:
Electric guitar, like Stu G (of Delirious?).
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I am an introvert...and a people person at the same time.
What does the “W” stand for?
Whitaker! It’s a family name.