Michael W. Smith Brings Music to Zeeland

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Smith MW225    Inspirational singer-songwriter Michael W. Smith still wasn’t sure exactly what songs he would include at his Nov. 8 sold out concert at Community Reformed Church in Zeeland.

     “It’s a good question,” he told a reporter by phone during a late October interview. “We’re doing a mix of songs as we figure out a way to showcase a bunch of stuff and I think we’ll come up with a pretty cool evening.”

     Smith, who turned 57 last month, said he plans to do several songs from his “Sovereign” album - a “pop” worship project released early this year.

     “I think the song ‘Sky Spills Over’ is one of the highlights,” said the artist. “It gets one of the bigger responses of the night. But probably the best song on the record is one called ‘Sovereign Over Us’ based on the fact that what it says is so powerful.”

     The “Sovereign” collection is not a typical “worship” record. It was not recorded live nor are all the songs necessarily suited to sing in churches.

     “It is for the most part a ‘vertical’ record and maybe it’ll stretch some people. But at the end of the day I took what I got and made the record I felt I was supposed to and found the best songs.”

                         A LONG TRACK RECORD

     Selecting songs to perform in concert is a challenge for the veteran artist. The West Virginia native has hundreds of songs to choose from – plucked from a recording catalog stretching over his 30-plus year career that includes two dozen record albums selling more than 15 million copies.

     “People always want to hear the older songs like ‘Place In This World,’ Smith noted of his early 1990s hit that actually reached the top ten on mainstream pop music charts.

     An inspirational favorite of baby boomers is the signature ballad “Friends,” which goes back to Smith’s 1983 debut album. The hopeful chorus “Friends are friends forever….” is an automatic sing-along at his concerts.

   Other fans lean toward Smith’s earlier worship albums (2001-02) in which he led audiences in contemporary anthems such as “Above All” and “Heart of Worship.”

     “It’s all a little strange because some of the younger people may not even know ‘Place In This World,’” Smith observed. “But (in a concert) you go with your gut and what you think will work….and everything gets a response.”

     Smith said he recently pulled out some more obscure songs, including the rhythmic “Cross of Gold,” and the early “All I Needed to Say.” “It’s about getting to re-invent and figure out how to do it better and make it different.”

                                       LONG TERM RELATIONSHIPS

     Smith has long been associated with fellow artist Amy Grant. He began as a songwriter and wrote several of her 1980s hits. He opened for Grant on her “Age to Age” concert tour that came to the old Knollcrest Fieldhouse at Calvin College, surprising everyone with his on-stage energy.

     Smith has often recorded and performed with Grant, including in 2011 when they shared the stage at the same Community Reformed Church in Zeeland which Smith visits Nov. 8.
     “I remember that,” Smith noted.

     The two are scheduled to do several Christmas shows together next month.

     Speaking of Christmas, Smith has recorded four solo Christmas albums over his career. And his most recent collaborative holiday project (“The Spirit of Christmas”) is filled with duets with country artists such as Carrie Underwood and Little Big Town and others - even U2 lead singer Bono joined in.

     “I thought it was a long shot to get him and that he didn’t have the time,” Smith said. “But he recited an Irish Christmas poem for the record, and I wrote the music that goes behind it.”

     Smith will also perform on the “CMA Country Christmas” special, along with artists like Sara Evans and LeAnn Rimes, scheduled to air on ABC-TV in December. He is wrapping up a year in which he also released a “Hymns” record, which won a Dove Award as Inspirational Album of the Year.

     “That’s three albums in one year, something I’ve never done before.”

                                        WHAT’S NEXT

     Smith and his wife Debbie have five adult children, all of whom are married and have at least one child of their own. It adds up to 10 grandchildren for the Smiths, “with two on the way.”

     He said he’s just started thinking about the direction of his next recording. “It seems I can’t completely walk away from my pop (music) roots,” he observed. “What if this next one is supposed to be a straight-up pop recording? Not strictly for mainstream because I’ll always have faith-driven lyrics. But that’s one of the first things I’ll consider.”

Just the Facts:

Michael W. Smith

7 p.m. Sat. Nov. 8
Community Reformed Church, 10376 Felch St. Zeeland
Tickets are sold out, but current ticket holders can upgrade to VIP Tickets, which include early admission and meet and greet time. VIP Tickets are $40 in advance, $45 day of show.
Check at http://www.itickets.com/events/325001/Zeeland_MI/Michael_W._Smith.html
Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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