Spend an evening with Michael W. Smith

In the world of Christian music, they don’t come much bigger than Michael W. Smith.

While he might be best known for his 1991 Top Ten hit Place In This World, Smith is no one-hit wonder. With three Grammy Awards, 40 Dove Awards, 29 number one hits, and more than 13 million records sold, Smith is no stranger to success.

Although Smith started playing music before to 1981, he first gained fame as a songwriter for Christian artists including Amy Grant and Sandi Patti. He began touring as the keyboardist for Grant in 1982 and one year later, he released his debut solo effort, The Michael W. Smith Project. Success greeted Smith early on, earning himself a Grammy Award nomination for his debut and by the time his sophomore record was released in 1984, Smith had graduated to headliner status and has never looked back.

Smith’s latest record is entitled Glory. Released last year, the record is an instrumental collection of 12 originals featuring Smith on acoustic piano, accompanied by the London Symphonica, which helped orchestrate Smith’s songs. If anything, the collection shows that while Smith is a brilliant songwriter, his abilities are not strictly limited to writing songs with lyrics.

Smith will be performing his first Metro Moncton concert on Thursday evening at the Moncton Wesleyan Church Celebration Centre.

When the Times & Transcript caught up with Smith last week, he had just returned from a run of shows throughout Europe where he has spent much time building his fan base over the past decade.

‘The market in Europe is absolutely great,’ Smith says. ‘The crowds are amazing too. Any time that you perform somewhere that doesn’t tend to receive much in the way of shows or entertainment, the crowds tend to be very responsive. We have found that performing in some of the former communist territories where people are now free, the experience is heightened even more. It really shows that music is the great (uniting force) amongst us all.’ When we address the fact that Smith has been making music for three decades now, he expresses a mix of disbelief and wonderment at the good fortune that has seemingly greeted his every move.

‘I have had such an amazing run and when I look back upon it, the past 30 years have gone way too fast. At the end of the day though, it is all dependent on if the songs can speak to people. It is always going to come down to the songs that you are playing. I have led such a blessed life but in some ways, I feel as though my best work is yet to come.

‘My faith is the most important thing in my life. I feel as though God has protected me and given me great favour,’ Smith says. ‘I have been very fortunate with my career in that the team that I have worked with were always more interested in developing me as an artist and helping ensure my longevity. When you play on a beach in Brazil and there are 50,000 people there to see you, it can be a bit overwhelming but I have to thank the good­ness of God for being able to do what I do.’ Despite plugging away at his career for three decades now, Smith insists that one of the most important aspects of him continuing to feel fulfilled is keeping his music fresh.

Without this constant evolution and rejigging of the status quo, he says that he feels that playing music would then be very boring and unfulfilling.

‘It has been so important for me to keep things fresh throughout my career,’ he says.

‘It is so easy to stay in your comfort zone but I have always liked to push myself and I like to be challenged. If I had to do the same thing day after day, I think that I would probably arrive at the point where I would rather do something else. And it isn’t something that is exclusive to the studio; live, the band and I never tend to stick to the same set list night after night. We all feel as though it is good to change things up every once in awhile. It keeps everyone’s chops up and ultimately helps keep everyone on their toes.’

Article published in May 2, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript