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