Behind the Music
Mac Powell Plots a Solo Career and Talks the End of Third Day, Co-writes in Nashville and His New Gig as a Worship Leader
By Lindsay Williams
Michael W. Smith has been making Christian music for over three decades and shows no signs of slowing down. Having just released his latest album Sovereign in May 2014, he remarks, "I’m probably enjoying making music more than I ever have in my entire life. I’m having fun and I’m excited about this record and this next chapter.” Featuring "Sovereign Over Us" and "You Won't Let Go," Michael continues to inspire listeners with heart-felt lyrics and infectious beats, reminding us that God is always with us, no matter how dark our times might be.
Before becoming one of the most influential and pioneering artists in the Christian music scene, Michael was just a songwriter hoping to find his proverbial sea legs in a city already full of musicians—Nashville, Tennessee.
When Michael first moved to Music City, his life and faith were both in shambles as drug use and drinking filled the void in this life. After suffering a breakdown that eventually led him back to his knees in November of 1979, Michael recommitted his life to Christianity and later, hit the road on his first tour with Higher Ground, a Christian music group that primarily played in churches.
Two years later, Michael was signed as a songwriter with Meadowgreen Music where he wrote for everyone from Sandi Patty to Bill Gaither to Amy Grant, who he eventually toured with as a keyboardist. Before long, the artist known to his fervent fans as “Smitty,” was Amy’s opening act and well on his way to becoming a household name. His breakthrough heartfelt ballad “Friends” is still played at graduations (and occasionally, funerals, too) that Michael wrote with his wife, Debbie.
After the release of his successful debut album, The Michael W. Smith Project, Michael began headlining his own tours. Merging a progressive pop sound with lyrics that boldly reflected his faith, Michael’s built a reputation for delivering a high-energy show as he’d run up and down the stage while belting out his songs.
Michael also wasn’t afraid to experiment with his sound over the years. His mainstream pop/rock sound of the 1986 album The Big Picture contrasted with some of his more classical approach utilized with his first-holiday album in 1988, Christmas.
Then in 1990, Michael’s musical appeal also extended to the mainstream pop world with his hit single “Place in This World,” which peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In addition to being named one of People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful People in the World,” Michael was also a regular fixture on VH1. His momentum only continued with “I Will Be Here For You,” which was a #1 hit on mainstream adult contemporary radio.
After a good crossover run in pop music, Michael’s more recent projects were made with the church in mind. Making his foray into congregational praise music with his Worship album in 2001, he has now been writing the songs heard commonly in churches on Sunday mornings. Michael's newest album, Wonder, depicts the amazement and awe he has for God, as well as giving listeners a window into his romantic dedication to his wife, Debbie.
Throughout his career, Michael has used his reputation as a musician to give back to the community. He founded the Rocketown club in Nashville, Tennessee to provide an alternative hang-out spot for teens to go and share Christ's love. Michael has also done work with Compassion International.
This winter, the singer is headlining the Celebrate Christmas tour in various cities across the nation. In addition, Michael will perform two nights with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra- continuing a six-year tradition.
"Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Christmas, so I always look forward to touring at Christmas," Smith says. "Christmas is special. It deserves to be celebrated and that's what we plan on doing!"