Michael W. Smith Speaks About His Friendship with Billy Graham and Upcoming Album in the Spring (INTERVIEW)

Smith on his relationship with Billy Graham, discovering God's calling for him to get into music, and his forthcoming album.

Michael W. Smith profile picture.
Michael W. Smith profile picture. | (PHOTO: Facebook)

Michael W. Smith is one of the most beloved singer/songwriters over the last 30 years of Contemporary Christian Music, and now with his Executive Produced, My Hope: Songs Inspired By the Message and Mission of Billy Graham, he has partnered together with legendary minister Billy Graham to lead a two headed gospel assault of the unsaved.

Smith chatted with the Christian Post about his relationship with Billy Graham, discovering God's calling for him to get into music, and his forthcoming album.

Christian Post: Why do you feel Billy Graham is such an important figure in Christianity?

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Michael W. Smith: Look at what he's done, he's a legend. He would never tell you that, but look at the history, all the way back to the L.A. Crusades in the 50s, all around the world, starting a youth night in 94 that I got to be such a huge part of. This guy has changed the world with the gospel. He's a great friend, I love him dearly, and I'm a blessed man that he's in my life. So when Billy told me a year and a half ago that he wanted to preach again and that he was going to write another book, if there was a way for me to be involved, I'm in. The thing was to build a whole music project around the book and sermon. It's an honor.

CP: Was the My Hope album his idea, or was it something that you came up with it?

MWS: No, that came later down the road. It was more Capital Records putting it together. When we talked it was mostly about him wanting to preach again, and then I found out he was going to write another book and then the music community said we need to build record around My Hope, and that's how the whole thing came about.

Billy Graham Album.
Billy Graham Album. | (PHOTO: MergPR)

CP: Did Graham have any involvement in putting the album together or picking the artists?

MWS: No, but my conversations with him in the last two years was a big inspiration for the song I wrote on the record, "Take Me Home."

CP: Does the feel of the record go hand in hand with his book and sermon of the same name thematically?

MWS: I think it goes well with the book. Most of it was inspired by that. I don't think mine was. I felt so compelled to write the song I did because I wanted to write about his desire to go home. At the end of conversations he would always say, "I'm ready to go home. I just want to go home." My response is, "Yeah that's great but I like you being around. I like you here." The last two or thee years he always talks about being home.

CP: How do you think evangelism goes well with music, and why is it so powerful?

MWS: I think it's the most powerful universal language there is. It's just amazing how powerful it is. Everyone is preaching something, what is it about music? For me my goal all those nights is to go out and play out my music and prepare people's hearts for what Billy was about to say. Just glad that I got to tag team with the guy for so many years.

CP: How have you seen Christian music evolve since you started?

MWS: I've changed a lot but I'm still Smitty. Hopefully I'm more mature and I'm a little wiser, and I plan on by the grace of God finishing well, and I'm more passionate than I ever have been in my life. I've watched it change and I've watched it evolve. It's an amazing run, I could have never orchestrated any of this, very surreal.

I always knew that we had this moment, and we've watched it grow. I think we can get better. I'm always trying to challenge everyone to raise the game on the artistic level. We are supposed to be the best. Make sure we don't get complacent or comfortable, and always trying to push the limit on trying to write great songs. At the end of the day it's why we do what we do.

CP: What style of music are you leaning toward at this point in your career?

MWS: You know what, I still write all of it. The other night I wrote a movie theme. Last night I wrote two pop themes, and three days ago I wrote a worship song. The new project that I'm working on, which comes out in April of next year, is more of a worship mode, not so much corporate, but more anthemic. More of the pop sensibilities I've been known for, but worshipful at the same time.

CP: What was the moment you realized God called you to minister in music?

MWS: I was 15 years old. It was only the second time I ever walked down the aisle of my church. The first time was at 10, when I made a decision for Christ. Then 5 years later, I walked down the aisle and I had wanted to be a professional baseball player my whole entire life, and had played music my whole life while growing up. Then all of a sudden I said, "Oh my gosh, I think music is my destiny. I want to commit myself for what God called me to do." And I was there for good, I was a teenager. I didn't know how I was going to get there, and I didn't have a clue, but that's what I felt was my destiny.

CP: Care to share any fond moments with Billy Graham?

MWS: I don't think there's a story, more like a great source of encouragement to me. We are good friends, we love to chat, we love to talk. I don't know if it's a story but his idea to do youth night was unprecedented. It was met with much opposition to change it up. "What do you mean, let Michael W. Smith and DC Talk do a rock show?" It was just very hard for people to swallow. Billy was so adamant, with this is the only way we are going to reach the next generation. We did many youth nights and watching thousands of kids come forward was just simply amazing. It was one of the best messages I ever heard him give in Cleveland, Ohio in October 1994. I will never forget it for the rest of my life.

CP: When it is all said done, how would you like people to look back at your life?

MWS: I would hope that they say Michael W. was faithful, that he loved his wife and kids well, and that he finished well. By the grace of God that will happen.

CP: Anything else to add?

MWS: Working on this brand new record, working with all these kids, I'm old enough to be their dad. I'm reinventing myself again, I did a world tour, everywhere but Russia. I'll do a few string of Christmas dates, but just working on this record.

Smith has three Grammy Awards, 37 Dove Awards, 20 albums, and has written 13 books.

In addition to Smith, My Hope features songs from: Israel Houghton, Kari Jobe, Newsboys, Matthew West, Tommy Coomes Band, Nichole Nordeman, TobyMac, Darlene Zschech, Amy Grant, and Lacey Sturm.

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