Grammy Winner, Michael W. Smith talks about new album “The Spirit of Christmas”

Photographer: Cameron Powell

A few weeks ago I got a weird text. It said “do you want to do an interview next week?” When I replied “with?” I got back “you. Michael Smith.” I was excited. Someone wanted to interview ME! Actually I was told that I would be the interviewer and the subject would be Christian singer Michael W. Smith. I was even more excited!

A winner of (3) Grammy awards, as well as (40) Dove awards, Michael W. Smith has enjoyed success not only on the Gospel/Contemporary chart but in the mainstream as well. This month he has released his fourth album devoted to Christmas, entitled “The Spirit of Christmas.” The album, on which Smith duets with such singers as Vince Gill, Michael McDonald and Bono, consists of both long time favorites (“Silent Night,” “What Child is This”) and new originals.

As he readied to embark on a short tour to support the album Smith kindly took some time out to speak with Media Mikes.

Mike Smith: This is your fourth Christmas-themed album. What is it about the music that makes you want to revisit it?
Michael W. Smith: You know this is the music I grew up with. All the way back to when my sister and I used to pull out the Christmas LPs and play them for four months straight! When I hear those songs they just take me back to my childhood. Especially the first part of this record, for sure.

MS: This album consists of duets. There are a few performers on it that your fans might surely expect, like Vince Gill and Amy Grant. But then you’ve also got Bono and Michael McDonald. How were you able to get them on board?
MWS: Well first let me tell you that I’m still pinching myself that it happened, you know? We had these people picked out from day one…before we even recorded one song. We had the whole record sequenced. We had a plan and we had a wish list of who we wanted to invite. And everybody said yes. I’ve known Michael for about 10 years and I’ve known Bono for 12 years. These guys get asked to do stuff all the time, so the thought that they said “yes” is still pretty miraculous to me and I’m very, very grateful.

MS: Is there anyone out there that you’d like to sing with that you haven’t so far? Do you have a wish list?
MWS: I grew up being a huge Barbra Streisand fan, you know. I’ve always loved her voice…I’ve loved her movies…”Funny Girl,” “Funny Lady.” Recently she’s kept a low profile though I know she has a new album out. (NOTE: Ironically, Barbra Streisand’s latest album, “Partners,” is also a duets album). I would love to record with her.

MS: Do you have a favorite song on this new record?
MWS: Oh, man…that’s so hard to pick. I mean, if I had to pick…gosh, it’s hard to pick! Wow. “Almost There,” which is an original song that I did with Amy (Grant). There’s something really special about it. I love…I think it’s one of my favorite songs that I have written….”All is Well,” that Carrie (Underwood) does. And the one song that I get choked up on is “Peace,” which is the one I do with Michael McDonald. And Michael actually co-wrote that song, so I’m sure that’s one of the reasons he wanted to jump in and be a part of it.

MS: When you’re writing songs, do you sit down and write about a certain theme, like Christmas? Or do you later go back and realize that a certain song is right for the project you’re doing at the time?
MWS: Definitely the latter, because I never know what I’m going to write. Obviously if I’m working on a Christmas record I’m going to be a little more intentional. I’m going to be thinking about textures…how a bell sound will go with a piano sound…something that might inspire me to be a bit festive. A bit “holiday-ish,” you know? On “Almost There” I knew I wanted it to be a little haunting. I mean when you’re on that 12 hour drive to the beach how many times do you ask mom and dad “oh my gosh, are we almost there?” My friend, Wes King, came up with the idea which was why not imagine Mary riding on that donkey. She’s pregnant and she can’t find any place and she’s wondering how long it’s going to take…you wonder if she ever said to Joseph, “are we almost there?” And that was the premise for the lyric.

MS: Are you going to tour at all to support the album?
MWS: Oh yeah! The Christmas tour started the Saturday night after Thanksgiving and we’ll be doing about fifteen shows around the country.

MS: What else do you have coming up?
MWS: I know it sounds a bit insane but I actually released three records this year. I did an exclusive record for Cracker Barrel called “Hymns.” That came out early in the year. Then the pop/worship record, “Sovereign,” came out in May. And now, of course, the “Christmas” album has just been released so it’s been a pretty busy year. After the “Christmas” tour we’re going to tour with “Sovereign” all over…South Africa…Asia…Europe. That will all happen in 2015.

MICHAEL W. SMITH’s Upcoming Tour Dates

December 18, 2014 Spokane, Washington
December 19, 2014 Portland, Oregon
December 20, 2014 Seattle, Washington
December 21, 2014 Abbottsford, British Columbia
January 11, 2015 Nashville, Tennessee

For more information go to www.michaelwsmith.com

Volbeat’s Rob Caggiano talks about Grammy nominated song “Lonesome Rider”

Rob Caggiano is the former lead guitarist of the thrash metal band Anthrax and current guitarist for the Danish-metal group Volbeat. The group was recently nominated for a Grammy and also put out a new music video for the song “Lonesome Rider”. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Rob about the group’s nomination, how he came to join the band and what the group has planned for the rest of this year.

Adam Lawton: Can you walk us through your transition from leaving Anthrax, to producing Volbeat and subsequently joining the band?
Rob Caggiano: I first met Volbeat around 2010. They had taken my other band The Damned Things out on tour with them. We all became friends as we hit it off instantly. The first time I really heard the band was on this tour and was just blown away. During the tour they always asked me to come up and play on the Misfits song “Angel Fuck” which was just such a blast. In talking during that tour we all flirted with the idea of working together in the studio with me as a producer. They were fans of the Damned Things album as well as the Anthrax album “Worship Music” which I produced both. It seemed like a cool idea that I was into but it all seemed a bit far-fetched because of our scheduled and the fact that I am in the States and the rest of the band is in Denmark. A few years later when I decided I needed to move on from Anthrax my scheduled had opened up and it was perfect timing because Volbeat was set to go in to the studio. They heard of what was going on with me and Michael called me up to see if I would be interested in producing their album. Things happened all really quickly because a day or two after that phone call I was in Copenhagen and about two weeks after starting work on the album I was asked if I would join the band.

AL: Did you have any reservations about joining a band that you initial only signed on to produce?
RC: I am kind of used to that as I have done that a lot lately. (Laughs) It was similar with The Damned things and Anthrax. I did have to change how I looked at the project from a production stand point because now I was not only trying to get good performances out of the band but I was also trying to figure out how I was going to put my stamp on the music. What we ended up trying worked out perfectly for the record. We put my rhythm guitars on the left and Michaels on the right we put Anders bass in the middle and Jon is everywhere. You get the sound of the band running on all cylinders.

AL: Did you have to rework your sound at all in order to fit with the new band?
RC: My sound is my sound. Coincidentally it works perfect with Volbeat. (Laughs) I really didn’t change anything. There are certainly more stack of amps on the stage now and it’s a lot louder.

AL: What were your first thoughts when your first album with band both as a producer and as a member was nominated for a Grammy?
RC: It was an honor. I have been nominated a couple times before but never was able to go to the Grammy’s. This year I went and it was surreal. It was a very cool night. I think the Grammy’s is sort of misunderstood. For me it’s not a competition of whose better or worse it’s a celebration of the most successful artists of that year. Just to be able to be in that mix for me is a honor.

AL: Can you tell us about the new video for the song “Lonesome Rider”?
RC: I think this is the first Volbeat video not to feature the band. (Laughs) That was the main idea. Michael talked to our video guy and asked him to come up with something cool that didn’t feature the band. That’s exactly what they did. I think the video turned out great and totally compliments the song.

AL: You just returned from this year’s NAMM convention. Are there any new products being released that with have your signature on them?
RC: ESP is continuing with my signature line of guitars. There aren’t any changes to this year’s model as compared to last year’s however I have been thinking about some. I love the guitar the way that it is but I have just been thinking of some stuff. The newest thing I have coming out is a signature guitar pedal. It’s going to be put about by Haden which is part of ESP now. They are originally from the UK and put out boutique amps. They are just killer! I am excited about the pedal as it’s unlike anything that is currently on the market. You should start to see more about it in the coming months.

AL: What other plans do you and the band have planned for this year?
RC: Volbeat will be back touring the States in April. We are bringing Trivium out with us and hitting a lot of B market places this time around. Our last few time out we really only hit the major markets. From there we will be heading overseas for most of the spring and summer. I also have a few other things in the pipe but I can’t talk about those just yet.

The 2012 Grammy Award Winners & Wrap-up

The 2012 Grammys were held on Sunday, February 12th 2012 at the Staple center in Los Angeles California. Though the night may have been overshadowed by the death of Whitney Houston the show continued on. Performances by Bruce Springsteen, the reformed Beach Boys, The Foo Fighters, and a touching rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” performed by Jennifer Hudson were definite highlights of the night. A heavily religious themed performance by Niky Minaj left people either scratching their heads or highly disturbed. LL Cool J did an ok job as the host for the event however his segues were kept very brief. Chris Brown made several appearances over the course of the evening as he has seemed to have earned his way back into the good graces of the music community. The big winners of the night were Adele who brought home 5 Grammy’s including one for Record of the Year and Album of the Year. The Foo Fighters also took home 5 Grammy’s which included Best Rock performance and Best Rock Album. Other noted winners were Bon Iver who beat out the likes of Skrillex and The Band Perry for Best new Artist while Lady Antebellum took home the award for Best Country Album beating out the likes of Jason Aldean and country staple George Strait. As with any awards show there will be high points and low points. Sadly I think the 2012 Grammy’s had more lows than highs but to end on a positive there are some really big releases slated for this year that will hopefully catch the attention of the right people.

2012 Grammy Award Winners

Record of the Year- “Rolling In the Deep” – Adele

Album of the Year- “21” – Adele

Song of the Year- “Rolling in the Deep” – Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth, songwriters (Adele)

Best New Artist- Bon Iver

Best Pop Solo Performance- “Someone Like You” – Adele

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance- “Body And Soul” – Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse

Best Pop Instrumental Album- “The Road From Memphis” – Booker T. Jones

Best Pop Vocal Album- “21” – Adele

Best Dance Recording- “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites” – Skrillex

Best Dance/Electronica Album- “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites” – Skrillex

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album- “Duets II” – Tony Bennett & Various Artists

Best Rock Performance- “Walk” – Foo Fighters

Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance- “White Limo” – Foo Fighters

Best Rock Song- “Walk” – Foo Fighters, songwriters (Foo Fighters)

Best Rock Album- “Wasting Light” – Foo Fighters

Best Alternative Music Album- “Bon Iver” – Bon Iver

Best R&B Performance- “Is This Love” – Corinne Bailey Rae

Best Traditional R&B Performance- “Fool For You” – Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona

Best R&B Song- “Fool For You” – Cee Lo Green & Jack Splash, songwriters (Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona)

Best R&B Album- “F.A.M.E.” – Chris Brown

Best Rap Performance- “Otis” – Jay-Z & Kanye West

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration- “All Of The Lights” – Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie

Best Rap Song- “All Of The Lights” – Jeff Bhasker, Malik Jones, Warren Trotter & Kanye West, songwriters (Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie)

Best Rap Album- “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” – Kanye West

Best Country Solo Performance- “Mean” – Taylor Swift

Best Country Duo/Group Performance- “Barton Hollow” – The Civil Wars

Best Country Song- “Mean” – Taylor Swift, songwriter (Taylor Swift)

Best Country Album- “Own The Night” – Lady Antebellum

Best New Age Album- “What’s It All About” – Pat Metheny “Instrumental Oasis, Vol. 6” – Zamora

Best Improvised Jazz Solo- “500 Miles High” – Chick Corea, soloist

Best Jazz Vocal Album- “The Mosaic Project” – Terry Lyne Carrington & Various Artists

Best Jazz Instrumental Album- “Forever” – Corea, Clarke & White

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album- “The Good Feeling” – Christian McBride Big Band

Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance- “Jesus” – Le’Andria Johnson

Best Gospel Song- “Hello Fear” – Kirk Franklin, songwriter (Kirk Franklin)

Best Contemporary Christian Music Song- “Blessings” – Laura Story, songwriter (Laura Story)

Best Gospel Album- “Hello Fear” – Kirk Franklin

Best Contemporary Christian Music Album- “And If Our God Is For Us…” – Chris Tomlin

Best Latin Pop, Rock or Urban Album- “Drama Y Luz” – Maná

Best Regional Mexican or Tejano Album- “Bicentenario” – Pepe Aguilar

Best Banda or Norteño Album- “Los Tigres Del Norte And Friends” – Los Tigres Del Norte

Best Tropical Latin Album- “The Last Mambo” – Cachao

Best Americana Album- “Ramble At The Ryman” – Levon Helm

Best Bluegrass Album- “Paper Airplane” – Alison Krauss & Union Station

Best Blues Album- “Revelator” – Tedeschi Trucks Band

Best Folk Album- “Barton Hollow” – The Civil Wars

Best Regional Roots Music Album- “Rebirth Of New Orleans” – Rebirth Brass Band

Best Reggae Album- “Revelation Pt 1: The Root Of Life” – Stephen Marley

Best World Music Album- “Tassili” – Tinariwen

Best Children’s Album- “All About Bullies… Big And Small” – (Various Artists) James Cravero, Gloria Domina, Kevin Mackie, Steve Pullara & Patrick Robinson, producers

Best Spoken Word Album- “If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t)” – Betty White

Best Comedy Album- “Hilarious” – Louis C.K.

Best Musical Theater Album- “The Book Of Mormon” Josh Gad & Andrew Rannells, principal soloists; Anne Garefino, Robert Lopez, Stephen Oremus, Trey Parker, Scott Rudin & Matt Stone, producers; Robert Lopez, Trey Parker & Matt Stone, composers/lyricists (Original Broadway Cast)

Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media “Boardwalk Empire: Volume 1” – (Various Artists)

Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media- “The King’s Speech” – Alexandre Desplat, composer

Best Song Written For Visual Media- “I See The Light” (From “Tangled”) – Alan Menken & Glenn Slater, songwriters (Mandy Moore & Zachary Levi)

Best Instrumental Composition- “Life In Eleven” – Béla Fleck & Howard Levy, composers (Béla Fleck & The Flecktones)

Best Instrumental Arrangement- “Rhapsody In Blue” – Gordon Goodwin, arranger (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band

Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist (s)- “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)” – Jorge Calandrelli, arranger (Tony Bennett & Queen Latifah)

Best Recording Packaging- “The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story” – Dave Bett & Michelle Holme, art directors (Bruce Springsteen) “25th Anniversary Music Box” – Matt Taylor & Ellen Wakayama, art directors (Danny Elfman & Tim Burton)

Best Album Notes- “Hear Me Howling!: Blues, Ballads & Beyond As Recorded By The San Francisco Bay By Chris Strachwitz In The 1960s” – Adam Machado, album notes writer (Various Artists)

Best Historical Album- “Band On The Run (Paul McCartney Archive Collection – Deluxe Edition)” – Paul McCartney, compilation producer; Sam Okell & Steve Rooke, mastering engineers (Paul McCartney & Wings)

Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical- “Paper Airplane” – Mike Shipley, engineer; Brad Blackwood, mastering engineer (Alison Krauss & Union Station)

Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical- Paul Epworth – “Call It What You Want” (Foster The People) (T); “I Would Do Anything For You” (Foster The People) (T); “I’ll Be Waiting” (Adele) (T); “Life On The Nickel” (Foster The People) (T); “No One’s Gonna Love You” (Cee-Lo Green) (S); “Rolling In The Deep” (Adele)(T)

Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical- “Cinema” (Skrillex Remix) – Sonny Moore, remixer (Benny Benassi)

Best Surround Sound Album- “Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (Super Deluxe Edition)” – Elliot Scheiner, surround mix engineer; Bob Ludwig, surround mastering engineer; Bill Levenson & Elliot Scheiner, surround producers (Derek & The Dominos)

Best Engineered Album, Classical- “Aldridge: Elmer Gantry” – Byeong-Joon Hwang & John Newton, engineers; Jesse Lewis, mastering engineer (William Boggs, Keith Phares, Patricia Risley, Vale Rideout, Frank Kelley, Heather Buck, Florentine Opera Chorus & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

Producer Of The Year, Classical- Judith Sherman – “Adams: Son Of Chamber Symphony; String Quartet” (John Adams, St. Lawrence String Quartet & International Contemporary Ensemble); “Capricho Latino” (Rachel Barton Pine); “85th Birthday Celebration” (Claude Frank); “Insects & Paper Airplanes – Chamber Music Of Lawrence Dillon” (Daedalus Quartet & Benjamin Hochman); “Midnight Frolic – The Broadway Theater Music Of Louis A.

Best Orchestral Performance- “Brahms: Symphony No. 4” – Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Best Opera Recording- “Adams: Doctor Atomic” – Alan Gilbert, conductor; Meredith Arwady, Sasha Cooke, Richard Paul Fink, Gerald Finley, Thomas Glenn & Eric Owens; Jay David Saks, producer (Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Metropolitan Opera Chorus)

Best Choral Performance-“Light & Gold” – Eric Whitacre, conductor (Christopher Glynn & Hila Plitmann; The King’s Singers, Laudibus, Pavão Quartet & The Eric Whitacre Singers)

Best Small Ensemble Performance- “Mackey: Lonely Motel – Music From Slide” – Rinde Eckert & Steven Mackey; Eighth Blackbird

Best Classical Instrumental Solo- “Schwantner: Concerto For Percussion & Orchestra” – Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Christopher Lamb (Nashville Symphony); Track from:

Best Classical Vocal Solo- “Diva Divo” – Joyce DiDonato (Kazushi Ono; Orchestre De L’Opéra National De Lyon; Choeur De L’Opéra National De Lyon)

Best Contemporary Classical Composition- “Aldridge, Robert: Elmer Gantry” – Robert Aldridge & Herschel Garfein “Crumb, George: The Ghosts Of Alhambra” – George Crumb; Track from:

Best Short Form Music Video- “Rolling In The Deep” – Adele; Sam Brown, video director; Hannah Chandler, video producer

Best Long Form Music Video- “Foo Fighters: Back And Forth” – Foo Fighters; James Moll, video director; James Moll & Nigel Sinclair, video producers

Chickenfoot Earns Grammy Nomination for 3D Packaging of Critically Acclaimed “Chickenfoot III”

CHICKENFOOT EARNS GRAMMY NOMINATION FOR 3D PACKAGING OF CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED CHICKENFOOT III ALBUM FROM eONE MUSIC and earMUSIC/Edel

Chickenfoot Scheduled to Play The Mark & Brian Christmas Show at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre on December 15th Before  January 2012 European Tour

LOS ANGELES, CA—December 9, 2011—Chickenfoot –the supergroup featuring guitarist Joe Satriani, drummer Chad Smith, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and frontman Sammy Hagar – have earned a GRAMMY nomination for the “Best Recording Package,” for the creative 3D design of their recent Chickenfoot III (eOne Music/earMUSIC/Edel) album. The GRAMMY-nominated band plans to return to Los Angeles with touring drummer Kenny Aronoff to perform at the Mark & Brian Christmas Show on December 15th at the Nokia Theatre and will embark on a European tour in January 2012.

Designed by art director Todd Gallopo, Chickenfoot III, features an elaborately designed 3D package with optical illusions and special codes giving fans a fully immersed creative Chickenfoot experience, creating a spectacle with spectacles.  With special “3D optical enhancers,” otherwise known as old-skool 3D glasses that come with each package, the cover and inside photos feature artwork that trick the eye by looking through the two different red and blue lenses of the glasses.  Having used a special state-of-the-art 3D camera rig to create the designs, Chickenfoot gives fans a truly multi-dimensional experience throughout the packaging that also offers a 3D photo of each band member with stats and Q&As, QR codes for behind the scenes 3D video content from the photo shoot on smartphones and much more.  A look through the red lens even reveals a very special message on the CD itself.

The band recently wrapped a sold out 2011 Road Test Tour that took them through San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago and New York with a stop for a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.  In each city along the tour, Hagar made a donation to a local food bank in a special partnership with Feeding America to encourage fans to do the same to help fight hunger, an important message that he also intended to convey through the music video for “Three And A Half Letters (I Need A Job).”

The first single from Chickenfoot III, “Big Foot,” debuted at #1 on the Mediabase Classic Rock Chart holding the position for 11 weeks, earning over 1.85 million listeners, and the album received critical acclaim.  Chickenfoot III features 10 tracks with so many moments of epiphany that one can barely take them all in on first listen.  Colossal, stadium-shaking riffs abound on earth-movers such as “Alright, Alright,” “Last Temptation” and “Lighten Up.” Tradition meets innovation on the Nashville pop-tinged “Different Devil,” the Delta-blues flavored “Something Going Wrong” and the aching rock ballad “Come Closer.”  Chickenfoot III debuted at #9 on the Billboard Top 100 and follows the band’s 2009 debut album, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 100 and was certified gold for sales over 500,000 units by the Recording Industry Association of America.