This Week's Episode: Alexa PenaVega!!
Aug. 31, 2021

Michael W. Smith


Few voices can claim to have shaped Christian music as much as Michael W. Smith. From humble beginnings as a child learning to play piano by ear and singing in the church choir, Michael W. Smith’s commitment to the Gospel of Christ and the craftsmanship of songwriting would catapult him to 3 Grammys, 45 Dove Awards, and countless number 1 hits. But before there were accolades, there was a family— and a testimony.

 

On this episode of Trevor Talks, we’re privileged to hear the origin story of Michael W. Smith. He gives us a glimpse at the incredible character of his parents, detailed in his new book The Way of the Father. He honestly shares about his prodigal experience in young adulthood, about how drug and alcohol led him to rock bottom a supernatural encounter with God’s love. He brings us up to the present day, detailing the way his career began through God’s grace expressed through fellow musicians (like Amy Grant and Higher Ground) and has continued in grace every step of the way.

 

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Follow Michael W. Smith:

Website: michaelwsmith.com 

Instagram: @mwsmithofficial

Facebook: Michael W Smith

YouTube: Michael W Smith

Twitter: @MichaelWSmith

 

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Transcript

Trevor Tyson  0:01  
Thank you for tuning in to Trevor talks podcast where we talk to real people about real topics and real stories. Today's guest is a living legend in Christian music. Not only has he had more number one hits to count, but he's written songs that have been empowering the local church around the globe for over three decades. Aside from all the amazing accomplishments, including Grammy Awards, Dove Awards, and many others that he has achieved in his life. He has a story to support it. And he's here to share it with us today. Ladies and gentlemen, here's my interview with Michael W. Smith. Michael, thank you so much for joining us today.

Michael W. Smith  0:39  
Thank you appreciate it very much.

Trevor Tyson  0:41  
Yeah, I saw you at a ye fest a few weeks ago and you there wasn't a roof to tear down. But if there was, I mean, some clouds parted. And it did not rain on you like it did the last night. So it was an amazing. Oh, we got to catch that.

Michael W. Smith  0:54  
It was good. It was good to just jump in my car and drive out there and do that thing. That's great.

Trevor Tyson  0:59  
I bet and how did it feel to be doing live music again, especially in Nashville?

Michael W. Smith  1:04  
Well, long overdue, you know, but yeah, hey, and I've been fortunate to be out to do a couple of things. But yeah, in Nashville is great to be out. It's great to look out there and see friends and and I'm glad that they decided to come and bring that festival to Tennessee. I think it's the only Christian festival that's ever been in Tennessee. And it's so probably long overdue.

Trevor Tyson  1:27  
And it's wild. It was on a Johnny Cash his farm out in the boondocks hideaway farms, and they're going to do it next year. So God's moving through that. And it's super awesome that you were able to jump in and be able to help them watch that thing off. But I really want to dive into some parts of your story that not many people have heard before. And of course, starting with your dad, which you just wrote the book mapping out kind of his legacy and the oppressions that he had on your life and you becoming the man you are today. So if you're up for it, I'd really like to start with, like, if you can map out your dad in three words, what would those three words be to explain him?

Michael W. Smith  2:06  
Oh my gosh, three words. Kind of consistent. And joy.

Trevor Tyson  2:22  
Those are three heavy trades.

Michael W. Smith  2:25  
I had the really thick, it's thick. It's hard to do that with my dad is take only three words. But for his glass was always half full. He was just an amazing human being. Yeah, this man had ever known who had to be my dad.

Trevor Tyson  2:38  
Hey, man, man. And you mapped all this out in the way of the Father, which is your new book. And it's really unique to have a son map out. His dad's legacy usually is everybody trying to have a book written about them. And you're like, you know what, my dad had such a good impression on me that I want to map this into a book. So tell us a little bit about your dad and some of the things that he taught you growing up and how they helped you become who you are today.

Michael W. Smith  3:01  
Yeah. Well, as I said, kind of three words. He was he was kind he was he loved my mom well to watch him. Just being my mom and Deborah and love, they just were they just loved each other period. It was amazing to watch that relationship all growing up. The way he treated my sister and I growing up the way he served his community. When he moved to Nashville, he's involved in the homeless community. I vividly remember all these times we'd have dinner at our house with all the grandkids who's in there washing the dishes, my dad, you know, he just he just was he just was a servant. This whole life was never about him. And and then to watch him which I talked a lot about the book talks a lot about baseball, which is was our great love for the sport and something we had in common. And to watch how he would coach us and His love for us was never based on performance you know just just loved us he always just encouraged us you know if we lost the mirror I think the start out the book about this crazy story about us you know having 16 games we lost the first 15 We were awful you know he came in that dugout and gone boys we'll get him next time you know let's go to Dairy Queen if you want to gain a you have to go to Dairy Queen and we went to Dairy Queen 15 times and we got an hour you know just but this positive just like I said his class always have full lots of joy smother laughed every day of his life. And so, you know, I know he had his faults, but I didn't see very many of them. You know, the only time I would see him kind of get upset was when my sons wouldn't go number one or if I didn't win the Grammy he couldn't he just couldn't figure that out. I got that. All my songs can't go number one. And he would say things like why not saying you're the best, you know? He just sort of what He was my PR agent. So, yeah, this is but but what a great man. And so all these things I've learned from my dad how to do life I'm hopefully doing that for my kids and my grandkids, you know, so I found myself doing things that bad dad does his his little mannerisms, you know, he'd say hi to everybody. I mean, you don't do that. In today's culture. My dad said, not everybody, he just wave hand wave that found myself going down the road waving at people.

Trevor Tyson  5:34  
You wouldn't have enjoyed this pandemic, then no shake?

Michael W. Smith  5:37  
Oh, no, golly, he would struggle to.

Trevor Tyson  5:42  
And he instilled in you that servant's heart, you've been serving the local church around the globe for so long. And that all started at home, you learn that mindset from your mom and your dad. And how are you instilling that in your grandkids? What are some ways that you're teaching them and even your kids? Hey, be good to people love people, you're never over anyone show them Christ's love. And you beautifully explained, while you're explaining about your dad, the love of God like he, it's not based on works. It was based on how you love and your genuine spirit. So how are you implementing that? And your grandkids and your children?

Michael W. Smith  6:25  
Will you try to teach them that, obviously, but I'll tell you what they watch what you do more than what you say. That's what I loved about my dad. You know, my dad. And when he did good for all, all this stuff he did for people he never busted about it never said anything about he just did it. He just, there's a need. He just did it, you know, so. So your kids are going to watch you what what are they they're going to watch what I'm doing with my business or how I treat people, or how I treat people at the grocery store. If we're out and about, you know, that they're watching those kinds of things. You know, you can, you can preach at them all day long, but they're watching what you did. And so hopefully I can, I can be that force of nature that my dad was for me, hopefully I can be that for my kids and grandkids. Already see what my kids have learned. From my mom and dad, you know, because my mom just went to heaven 30 days ago, and I just, you know, she was, I could write a book about my mom. But I'll watch and can see a lot of my mom and dad and my five kids. Yeah, they love granddaddy and Mimi, they loved my mom and dad. And my mom, mom and dad had a profound impact on my on my children.

Trevor Tyson  7:54  
Wow. Leading by example. It's running through the Smith family tree there. And growing up, were you always like inclined musically? Or is this something that you got from your parents? Or you just kind of found yourself on a piano somewhere? Where did that all start for you? Well,

Michael W. Smith  8:11  
I grew up in a musical family. We were involved in church when church choir, we're there all the time. We live with my grandmother my whole life. And we had she was a church organist and the church, one block from the church that we went to, and we had a little upright piano in our house and watch my grandmother play and when she wasn't playing, I just took on the piano and start beating around on it, you know, and I think I wrote my first song when I was five was awful. But the fact that I wrote something, you know, and I remember when I was like, eight 910 I forgot what it was, is that played let it be for my mom and dad. And there was no sheet music in the house for let it be and they went How do you do that? I don't want I just heard it, you know. And so I realized at a young age that I could play by ear. And at the same time I was being a musician. I was a jock. I was playing baseball, but that you know, and then 15 years of age, I did make the All Stars for the first time and I realized that, that I felt like beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was calling me into this world of music. And maybe it's the second time I ever walked down the aisle. First time I was 10 when I had an encounter with Jesus and then 15 I went down and told Stan Franklin, my pastor about I think God's called me in the music. I don't know. I don't know what the rules are out there. How to get there. Would you pray for me and he laid hands on me and pray for me.

Trevor Tyson  9:38  
Yeah, and you got your first like career start you were playing piano with Amy grands. I correct.

Michael W. Smith  9:46  
Yeah, I was at a couple other little groups. So for that, but the real break came. I was I was in the middle of working on my first album and then that Amy and I got to be friends I wrote for her owner, aged 18 Record and she asked me if I would come out and lead her band on the edge days to her. That was the spring of 1982. And then in the fall of 82, I'd finished my record and I actually opened up for Amy sang for songs. And we ended the night with friends every night. So fall of 82, all of 83 I did the straight Ed tour, which is innovative three and 84. And that's how that's how it all kind of kicked off. And it seemed like her audience gravitated toward by music. And yeah, I wouldn't I don't think I'd be having this interview if and been for me, honestly. Wow.

Trevor Tyson  10:39  
And it's the same thing for BART Millard Mercy Me, y'all were a big part of that story that's crazy. Sold, or a sign over the rights for I can only imagine she's like, Nah, you got to do it. So she's kind of been that person to help network people into the music industry, like the Holy Spirit's given, obviously, given her and yourself a really keen understanding of networking and helping other people out. And that's amazing to hear how you've been a part of other people's story, but someone invested in you upfront. And was it playing music or writing music? That was like the first thing where you're like, Okay, I can really do this for a living.

Michael W. Smith  11:17  
Well, it was probably playing, I mean, obviously, but I was, but I will also writing songs. And then I also realized that probably if I had to pick something that was the most important it was the song. You can, you can have a okay voice and be very successful. I'm wanting to relate to that, you know, I'm saying I'm not a great singer. You know, I just got through work with Andre bacilli in Italy together, you know, and I stand beside him. And he's tried to sing with Andre or Chili's, like, Whoa, this is a whole other level, you know, but he got song. If you have the song, then you can have a pretty amazing career. And I've just been fortunate to be able to write a few of those and, and it's propelled me into places that never ever thought I would be, you know, so and singing songs that you didn't think you were gonna have to sing for the rest of your entire life. Like, like friends, you know, or even placed in this world, I'd ever get tired of singing that song because of the 1000s and 1000s of letters and stories of people who had a massive encounter with Christ through that song that not only ended up on Christian radio, but pop radio.

Trevor Tyson  12:31  
Yeah, it was a crossover hit. It was almost like for my generation. Now we have like Orrin Daigo will need to breed Switchfoot and steal Michael W. Smith. And it's like, how did they cross over into that other genre and etc. And we were talking to David Crowder a few weeks ago, and he was like, doing music and getting paid to do it is like winning the lottery. It just, it doesn't happen for everybody. And it's obviously down to your anointing and what God wants to do for your life. In hearing people introduce you being like, This dude has been impacting the church on a global scale. For decades. Now, is that still surreal to hear? Did you ever think like, oh, God's got this for me? Was it a confirmation that you got their prophetic word or just God given you a vision? Or was it just like, I'm going to chase this thing? And I'm not going to stop until I get there?

Michael W. Smith  13:23  
No, I think it was more of a. I mean, I think it's more of a calling, you know, your call to do this. And it was never driven by I want to be successful, or endeavor driven going, I want money, and I want fame was never any of that. It was just, this is my sweet spot. This is my gift, you know? And so how do you use this to further the kingdom? And then, and then you just pray for downloads? You know, what is the next record? What's that next record look like? What do I need to write about? What does his record need to sound like, you know, let me let me create whatever that product is, say it's 9095 Let it be absolutely perfect for what's going on in the world. You know, let me write a song that can completely change somebody's life, you know, and then you get to these instrumental records, you know, you're gonna do the instrumental record, you know, why not? You know, but I felt like I was supposed to do it, and then all of a sudden, 2001 You're, you're making your first all vertical record, a record called worship. The exit came in on 911 and was a go to record for millions of people all around the world, you know, especially America with all the app and you know, so it's just trying to sort of like, you just want to be able to hear God you want to build a, whatever that creation is. You just want it to be what God wants you to do. So, I'm sure I've missed it a few times, you know? Sure. Hope I've hit the mark more than not So, believe me, I've, I've written my share of bad songs that I hope I never have to sing for the rest of my entire life. But I won't mention those. So,

Trevor Tyson  15:09  
yeah, but if you look at it like from an outsider's perspective, like, I can't remember how long I've heard your name. So I even I called my mom, when we booked this interview, I was like, what like, and she's like, this dude is like a global superstar and all this stuff. But it doesn't seem like that. Even just having a conversation and just hearing how God has used you to impact like I said, the global church, they sing your songs all around the world. And you would never be able to tell that if I walked into you at frothy monkey and Franklin or wherever, these random spots, I would never know if I didn't know who you were, and you keep it humble. You keep. I've seen you around people, you're super respectful. And like you said, it's never been about the money. And it shows, it definitely shows. So for the up and coming musicians and people that think that they may be called to do this for the rest of their life. Where would you start? If you were to have to start all over here in 2021? Hopefully, we're at the tail end of a pandemic, if things don't, we're not gonna get on that, you know, if we were if you were starting in 2021, in this position, where would you start?

Michael W. Smith  16:22  
Well, I would probably start out the way I started out a long time ago, I mean, but but the way to get music to people and promotion and trying to figure it out, that's a whole different, that whole thing looks completely different than it did 3040 years ago, you know, you know, there's a different way about doing things. Now, it's still all about the song, though, to me. And it's still about if you get a great song, it's gonna find its way into people's lives, it will find a way if it's a great song, somebody's gonna hear it, somebody's gonna want to sign it. On a personal level, I would I wish I could just go back in the early days of my career and just drive it into my head and heart gone. It's not about you. You know, and I think when you're young, young in the faith, and you become successful, you get, oh my gosh, this is amazing. And how many T shirts that we sell my number one and all that stuff? And now you guys go, what was that? All that stuff didn't matter? Doesn't matter. So to me it's just what's your posture? What's your motivation? You know, I always tell these young artists going, it's all about humility. You know, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble in believing you want to take care of the job, because no fun when he has to do it. And I've been humbled few times, you know, so, but it's just, it's just your hands are wide open and go here am god this is this is your thing. And God and direct me keep, you know, keep me from temptation to think this is about me. Whatever. Whatever applause comes my way, let me deflect the glory. And I think if you can have that kind of posture, man, he can do anything through you. I really believe that.

Trevor Tyson  18:18  
So true. And is there a time that you could recall that you were heading down the wrong direction or about to make a stupid decision? And your dad or your mom were there to say, Hey, I am What was that life lesson? How did you get back on track?

Michael W. Smith  18:36  
Well, I was probably more I think probably more that was when I was going through my crazy four years of walking away from the Lord. I was a particle. That was extremely difficult. I've been on just on some level, I'm very fortunate to be alive. You know, I was doing drugs and making a lot of bad choices. Cool thing was my mom and dad never condemn me. They never raised the voices at me. It was just I was met with kindness and love. i Do you remember, which I do talk about in the book. When I came home from Nashville to get some money and to visit for a little bit. My dad took me on the front porch and and he's disappearing going son, you got to pull together. Good. He knew he didn't know to the extent. So I'm really glad he did. He knew I was in trouble. And he knew that if I didn't pull it together, and I knew this as well, that I might very well lose my life. And I knew that was not my destiny. There was a credible calling of God on my life, and I think Satan was trying to snuff me out. That's what I really believe and So, I'm having this interview with you today. Probably because the prayers of my mom and dad to say my life.

Trevor Tyson  20:11  
Yeah. How old were you when you got into drugs? 7017. So this was

Michael W. Smith  20:18  
17 to 2070 21. So this has been 1975 to 79. Wow. And then almost kind of near drug overdose. The what even when I talk about it, it sounds so weird. It's like, what was I doing? I mean, I got to see it, I just got to see it. And when that whole incident happened, I knew that something needs to change, because I thought, I'm gonna die. Something doesn't change. And so that's when I began to pray that God would do whatever he had to do to get my attention. And my mom and dad were praying the same thing. And so, you know, I hit rock bottom, I literally hit rock bottom, November of 1979, sprawled out on my lolium floor in my kitchen in East Nashville. And I convulsed and I cried, and I shook and twisted and it's like I was having a seizure. We're there for three and a half hours. And then I just thought, just remember, everything just went. You know, the whole body was just sort of like exhausted. And I remember ABA just laying down on the floor beside me with his arm around me. And I haven't been the same since that night. Literally, it was a 180.

Trevor Tyson  21:37  
Were you able to quit cold turkey after that?

Michael W. Smith  21:39  
I did. Crazy. Wow. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I remember the next day I got a call. I got up with his publisher, Randy Cox. He said, Because I remember waking up the next day, being somewhat tempted to go back out. But I knew something happened to me. Oh, God, what was that? And I remember going, Lord, just give me a give me a give me a sign. Give me any another rescue today. And I remember going into my publisher, and he Brandini brings me and he I want to talk to you about some because there's this group gospel group called Hard Brown, and they're looking for a piano player. No way, I'll take the job. And he said, Well, you don't want to meet him. No, I'll take the job. I mean, I thought, That's my rescue. And I joined that band. And for eight months, they nurtured me back to health spiritually,

Trevor Tyson  22:35  
come on. Deceived in that way, where they're like, oh, I'll just take one hit of this. I'll just do that. Like, I'm only going to do it temporarily. I just want to have some fun. And then they just keep getting roped in and roped in. comes your it's an addiction. It's a epidemic. Yeah, dang. Like, God brought you out of that. And he's brought, he's delivered so many people from drug addiction and sex addiction. And I mean, we see church leaders fall we see normal people fall at the end of the day. We're all human. We're not. We're not exempt from the struggles of this world. But God's always there. And just to hear you say that is it's going to impact so many people. And he brought you from drug addiction. He took you where you were gave you that job for eight months. And he had the right people in mind for you.

Michael W. Smith  23:27  
Yeah, no, it was. Now it was it was sweet time. And I'm indebted to them for the rest of my life. And then then I got came back, I got off the road, got my first songwriting contract, and all of a sudden, I ended up in a room with Amy Grant, writing songs for the eighth stage record, you know, so this, and you know, you can look back at all that you got, you can't orchestrate that stuff. You know, it's just, you just all of a sudden, you meet that person, you meet that person, all of a sudden, I'm here. And all of a sudden moment, this record company and this girl walks by, and I fall in love at first sight. You know, and I ended up marrying her, you know, which we celebrate 40 years of marriage in September this month, you know, five kids 16 grandkids.

Trevor Tyson  24:14  
Congratulations, Christmas bill on that. That's crazy. You've, you've had quite the life and I knew going into this I ever if people want to hear about the Grammy Awards, if they want to hear about the accolades, they can go listen to another interview. This wasn't it like this was a real conversation, hearing how God's lifted you out of that hearing how your parents raised you to become the man you are today. And the one thing that I really wanted to touch on before we close out is the new film that you're a part of Jesus music or tell us a little bit about that and what we can expect from that.

Michael W. Smith  24:53  
It's an amazing film. I mean, it's it's never been told Hold on the big screen. I think 99% of the people who see this film will be astonished and realize how much they did not know, on how this whole thing started. Really from the 60s, late 60s in Vietnam and civil unrest and the racial thing, all that and then LSD and drugs and just in the heroes are Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, and they all die, you know, and, and it's kind of a living hell, honestly. And then, there's this guy, this hippie guy preaching at Calvary Chapel. And he's preaching to the hippies. And the hippies gets saved. And they're all playing music, so they don't stop playing music. They just changed their lyrics, you know, and they're here within six months, we get six bands or 12 bands. And all of a sudden here comes love song and Larry Norman and Randy stone, yeah, all of a sudden here comes around a crouch, Phil, Katie, all through the 70s. And I had all those records changed my life changed, I changed my life. So that's so being an executive producer, Amy Grant myself were executive producers, which was really a joy to be a part of, I've been watching this film for a year. Trying to take myself out of it, you know, you know, I don't need to be, you know, but there's so much to cover me, how do you tell the whole story about the Jesus music in an hour and 15 minutes is really difficult. I think this thing will end up being a 12 hour documentary at some point, but it it really is. You're captivated. It's very captivating. And everybody we've played it for, you know, the critics and people, they all they are all saying, We really believe you all have something here. So Irwin brothers who did I can only imagine. It's their film. And yeah, it's it's a it's a good one hour and 50 minutes, and I don't think you'll ever forget, especially if you love this genre music if you love Christian music, I think it's gonna light you up. And and it's the it's the good and it's it's some of the not so good. You know, you've got to be honest. And you know, there's there's struggle, there's, you know, you'll find that bands and some artists who would do stuff, you see some of that, which I think makes it real. It makes it real and authentic. And I think you'll I think people will come away, grateful, but really compassionate on all their favorite artists that they love in this genre. So

Trevor Tyson  27:51  
maybe a newfound respect there. And people have to realize Christian artists are not God. They're human. They make mistakes, even evangelists like preachers, nobody's exempt from sin. Some people are better at hiding it than others, but you're never too far gone for God. And I'm super thrilled to see that film. We're gonna put the link in the description below, along with the link for your new book, and also your Apple Music, Spotify and everything. But Michael, just thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to be here. It's truly been an honor and I can't wait for people to be able to dive in a little bit more on your story. Hopefully go pick up the book, stream some music and dive into a rabbit hole of encouragement, which is your life story.

Michael W. Smith  28:37  
Appreciate. Thank you. Yeah. Thanks for having me. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

Trevor Tyson  28:41  
Definitely. Thanks again. And thank you to new release today for making this episode happen. And I'll be sure to check out all of the links in the description, a lot of stuff, Jesus music, the new book, music, everything's going to be in there and we'll talk to you guys next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Michael W. Smith Profile Photo

Michael W. Smith

Multi-Platinum artist, best-selling author and acclaimed actor Michael W. Smith continues to live out his dream; he releases new music regularly and performs around the world to sold-out crowds of loyal and inspired fans. During Michael’s storied career, he’s not only been honored with three Grammy Awards, 45 Dove Awards, an American Music Award and has sold more than 15 million albums, he’s also given back to the global community. Michael has raised funds to battle AIDS in Africa alongside longtime friend Bono, started Rocketown, a safe haven for young people in Tennessee to meet and find hope, and has helped more than 70,000 children’s lives through Compassion International.

In many ways, Michael is a statesman, at the fulcrum of Christian music in pivotal moments. And like the ‘heart of a lion’ that is said to never go away, Michael isn’t content staying with the equilibrium. With that drive and a non-stop touring and recording schedule, Michael hit a wall most creative people hit at some point in their careers.

“I talked with my team at the beginning of 2017 and told them I’m not going to do another record unless I can write some stuff that really excites me,” he explains. “I was still grieving over my dad passing in November of 2015 and I thought it might be two or three years before I did any recording at all, if I ever actually did record at all.”

That impasse lasted about two weeks…all it took was the divisive national sentiment of 2017 and the mean-spirited banter on social media to once again ignite the creative fires. In February 2018, this prolific artist comes roaring back with not one, but two full-length albums from Rocketown Records and The Fuel Music: both a USA Today and Yahoo! Music-acclaimed studio album A Million Lights (Feb. 16) and Surrounded (Feb. 23), his first live worship recording since 2014’s Sovereign that became a top 10 Billboard 200, No. 1-selling Christian album.

One of the first songs to emerge from the studio was “Conversation,” a track that addresses the paradox of modern technology making it easier to speak at rather than with people.

“In the age of social media, people have forgotten how to talk with one another, to be civil,” affirms Smith. “If you put these same people in a room together, what was once an agenda becomes a conversation.”

The studio album also features the title track, first single and video that had USA Today raving, “Michael is shining brighter than ever,” and completing their first-ever “Life” section cover story on Michael.

Admittedly a Sci-Fi geek, loving shows like “Star Wars” and “Lost In Space” and enamored by the expanse of the heavens, the “A Million Lights” video sees Smith at work in a sleek, high-tech spaceship. “I’m an astronaut. My whole life, I’ve always wanted to go into space. And now it looks like I’m in Rogue One.”

“In the video, my job as an astronaut is to get up every day and record the stars because they’re all vibrating. In fact, the whole universe is vibrating. Now, I think it’s from the voice of God. But whatever the source, each star is generating audio,” he says, recounting the story of this extraordinary video that is directed by his son Ryan.

Remarkably, this ethereal sound of the stars that is literally the music of the stars, captured and translated into sound by scientists, is in the same musical key as “A Million Lights.” There’s nothing like it in the world we know — haunting, endless and pulsating.

Other songs on A Million Lights focus on the ever-present need for love — hardly a new topic for Smith, but one he explores here perhaps from more perspectives than ever before. The titles make that clear: “Love Always Wins,” “Hey Love” and “Love Revolution.”

Turning the focus on love heavenward, Michael gathered worshippers around him and his band Nov. 2, 2017 for an intimate, set in the round recording of Surrounded at The Factory / Jamison Hall in Franklin, TN. His desire with this project is to unify the Church’s diverse expressions into one passionate, joyful cry of worship.

“I feel God moving through His Church and He is calling us together to be one voice and one heart. One bride. Every nation, every tribe and every tongue. Every social class, every denomination.

“What if we bring Him the thing that pleases Him most– our unity,” implores Michael. “We may each have different stories, and skin, and songs, but we all share His same Spirit.”

Leading a diverse chorus of voices, Michael’s new worship album features 12 tracks, including the declarative “Surrounded (Fight My Battles),” which also becomes the first video from the recording that was world-premiered Christmas Eve on Michael’s Facebook and website and has since received hundreds-of-thousands of streams.

Taking the new music and fan favorites from his extensive repertoire on the road, Michael embarks on his “Surrounded By A Million Lights World Tour” March 2017. And along with the tour, more adventurous projects are in the works for Smith. Even as A Million Lights and Surrounded sparked to life, Smith is diving into other projects, each one enhancing the others in ways he never experienced before. From mapping out a memoir of lessons learned from his father to completing a symphonic composition, he’s realizing a wide range of ambitions and senses a convergence of all he’s done and has yet to do.

“For me, though, music is always my first creative outlet,” he clarifies. “Forever, until the world ends, music is the most powerful language there is. It can transform your life on every level, not just the spiritual. It can help people reconnect with why they’re here. That’s what I’m doing with A Million Lights and Surrounded.”