Michael W. Smith

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Michael W. Smith
MWS South Africa Tour 2010.JPG
Michael W. Smith singing in South Africa in May 2010
Background information
Birth nameMichael Whitaker Smith
Born(1957-10-07) October 7, 1957 (age 56)
Kenova, West Virginia, U.S.
OriginNashville, Tennessee, U.S.
GenresCCM, Christian rock, pop rock
OccupationsSinger-songwriter, musician, composer, actor
InstrumentsPiano, keyboards, vocals, guitar
Years active1983–present
LabelsReunion, Provident, Capitol[1]
Associated actsAmy Grant, Kathy Troccoli, Chris Rice, Steven Curtis Chapman
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For other people named Michael Smith, see Michael Smith (disambiguation).
Michael W. Smith
MWS South Africa Tour 2010.JPG
Michael W. Smith singing in South Africa in May 2010
Background information
Birth nameMichael Whitaker Smith
Born(1957-10-07) October 7, 1957 (age 56)
Kenova, West Virginia, U.S.
OriginNashville, Tennessee, U.S.
GenresCCM, Christian rock, pop rock
OccupationsSinger-songwriter, musician, composer, actor
InstrumentsPiano, keyboards, vocals, guitar
Years active1983–present
LabelsReunion, Provident, Capitol[1]
Associated actsAmy Grant, Kathy Troccoli, Chris Rice, Steven Curtis Chapman

Michael Whitaker Smith (born October 7, 1957) is an American contemporary Christian musician, who has charted primarily in the contemporary Christian and occasionally in the mainstream charts.[2] His biggest success in mainstream music was in 1991 when "Place in this World" hit No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. Smith is a three-time Grammy Award winner, and has earned 40 Dove Awards. Over the course of his career, he has sold more than 13 million albums and recorded 29 No. 1 Hit songs, fourteen gold albums, and five platinum albums. Smith is an American Music Award recipient.[3] He has also published 12 books including This is Your Time, which he worked with Christian author Gary Thomas to write.[4]

Early life[edit]

Michael Whitaker Smith was born to Paul and Barbara Smith in Kenova, West Virginia. His father was an oil refinery worker at the Ashland Oil Refinery, one of the ten largest oil refineries in the world, in nearby Catlettsburg, Kentucky. His mother was a caterer.[5] He inherited his love of baseball from his father, who had played in the minor leagues. As a child, he developed a love of music through his church. He learned piano at an early age and sang in his church choir. At the age of 10, he had "an intense spiritual experience" that led to his becoming a devout Christian. "I wore this big cross around my neck," he would recall, "It was very real to me."[6] He became involved in Bible study and found a group of older friends who shared his faith.[6]

After his older Christian friends moved away to college, Smith began to struggle with feelings of loneliness and alienation. After graduating from high school, he gravitated toward alcohol and drugs.[5] He attended Marshall University for a few semesters while developing his songwriting skills. He also played with various local bands around Huntington, West Virginia. During that time, his friend Shane Keister, who worked as a session musician in Nashville, encouraged him to move to Nashville, the Country Music capital, and pursue a career in music.[6]

In 1978, Smith moved to Nashville, taking a job as a landscaper to support himself. He played with several local bands in the Nashville club scene. He also developed a problem with substance abuse.

In November 1979, Smith suffered a breakdown that led to his recommitment to Jesus Christ. The next day he auditioned for a new contemporary Christian music (CCM) group, Higher Ground, as a keyboardist and got the job. His lead vocals were heard on much of CCM radio with the single, "I Am". It was on his first tour with Higher Ground, playing mostly in churches, that Smith was finally able to put the drugs and alcohol behind him.[6]


Beginning (1981-1989)[edit]

In 1981, Smith was signed as a writer to Meadowgreen Music, where he wrote numerous gospel hits penned for artists such as Sandi Patty, Kathy Troccoli, Bill Gaither and Amy Grant, to the effect that some of these popular worship songs can now be found in church hymnals. The following year, Smith began touring as a keyboardist for Grant on her Age to Age tour. He would eventually become Grant's opening act and recorded his first Grammy-nominated solo album The Michael W. Smith Project (which he also produced) in 1983 on the Reunion Records label, a label started by Grant's brother-in-law, Dan Harrell, along with Michael Blanton. This album contained the first recording of his hit "Friends", which he co-wrote with his wife Deborah. They wrote it one afternoon for a friend who was moving away.

By the time Smith's second pop album "Michael W. Smith 2" was released in 1984, he was headlining his own tours. In 1986, Smith released The Big Picture, produced by John Potoker. Smith intros the song "Tearin' Down the Wall" with an Amy Grant recording of "Emmanuel" played backwards via the CD search button. Asked about this at a promo event in Vancouver, BC in August 1997, he explained that he and Potoker were trying to come up with a different way to go into the song.[citation needed]

After the release of his 1988 effort, i 2 (EYE), Smith once again collaborated with Grant for her "Lead Me On World Tour". The following year, Smith recorded his first Christmas album.

Mainstream venture (1990-1999)[edit]

Michael W. Smith and Toby Mac with evangelist Billy Graham in 1994.

In 1990, Smith released Go West Young Man, his first mainstream effort, which included the mainstream crossover hit single "Place in This World". The song peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1992, he released Change Your World, which included the No. 1 adult contemporary hit "I Will Be Here for You". In 1995, Smith released his eighth album I'll Lead You Home, followed by Live the Life in 1998. Also in 1998, Smith released his second Christmas effort, Christmastime.

In 1999, Smith released "This Is Your Time", a song based on Cassie Bernall, a student who was killed during the Columbine massacre. In the music video for this song, a real video of Bernall talking about her religious beliefs and how she wanted to spread the word of God was shown in the beginning. Smith co-wrote the song with Wes King, the brother-in-law of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Smith had also been asked to perform the song at some of the memorial services that were held in honor of the victims.

Also in 1999, Smith collaborated with Jim Brickman on "Love of My Life", a song for Brickman's album Destiny. The song went to chart at No. 9 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks.

Smith opened his own record label, Rocketown Records, in 1996. The label was named after a song on his third album The Big Picture. Smith does not personally record on it, but he stated the label was driven by the artists. The first artist signed was Chris Rice, who had written "Go Light Your World", a No. 1 hit song by Kathy Troccoli, in 1995.

Instrumental and worship albums (2000-present)[edit]

Nearly all of Smith's albums include at least one instrumental track, and in 2000, Smith recorded his first all instrumental album, Freedom. The following year, Smith released an all Christian music album, Worship, on September 11. This album was followed by a sequel, Worship Again in 2002, recorded live at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY. Both albums were recorded live in concert. (Both are also the only two albums to be composed almost entirely of songs he did not write himself). A Worship DVD, which comprised a selection of songs from both albums, was recorded live in Edmonton, Alberta at YC Alberta and released in 2002. It immediately topped the Billboard video charts and went gold in both the U.S. and Canada.

Michael W. Smith during a concert in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania in 2005.

Smith won the Male Vocalist of the Year award at the GMA Music Awards in 2003.[7]

Smith wrote a song entitled "There She Stands", inspired by the September 11, 2001 attacks. He performed this song live for the 2004 Republican National Convention,[8] saying that President George W. Bush, whom he said is a fan and a family friend, had asked him to write a song about the attacks.[9]

Smith's album, Healing Rain, was released in 2004 and debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 200 Chart. The title track rose to No. 1 on the Radio & Records Charts and a music video for the song was released. The album nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album, combines the pop style of his previous recordings with the religious feel of his two releases in that genre. A new album, Stand, was released in November 2006.

In October 2007, he released It's a Wonderful Christmas. On June 20, 2008, Smith recorded his third live Worship album at the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, titled A New Hallelujah. It was released in October 2008. That same month he began a tour with Steven Curtis Chapman. In September 2010, he released Wonder,[10] and in October started touring with Third Day, tobyMac, and Max Lucado on the "Make a Difference" tour.

Smith's second instrumental album, Glory, was released on November 22, 2011. Unlike his first instrumental album, Freedom, this album features a 65-piece orchestra at AIR Studios Lyndhurts Hall in London and Wildwood Recording Studio in Nashville.[11]

Smith was scheduled to perform at the Draper Amphitheater of Draper, Utah, on July 24, 2012. However, a Utah resident named Todd Ouzts filed a complaint on July 16, 2012 saying that a concert show that is "conflated with prayer and worship" should remain in church or private property, not "public's backyard." He also threatened legal action if the city proceeded with the event titled "Wonder, Worship and Glory." The city council initially decided at a meeting on July 17, 2012 that they would cancel the concert because they didn't want to risk a lawsuit, but a day later they decided to host the show as planned after all. The decision followed a criticism from a Utah evangelical group that equated cancelling the concert to an assault on religious liberty.[12] The Mayor of Draper and several city council members were present at the event and were recognized for their support.

Other ventures[edit]

In 1994, Smith opened a teen club, named Rocketown, in Nashville, Tennessee (6th Avenue). Later in early 2003, the club was moved to a new location—a renovated warehouse in downtown Nashville. The venue offers a large dance floor, extensive indoor skate park, and a cafe hosting live acoustic music.

Smith is actively involved in volunteer service and is vice chair of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation, which is chaired by Jean Case of the Case Foundation. He is also an avid spokesperson for sponsoring children through Compassion International.[13] Smith finished work on a film directed by Steve Taylor entitled The Second Chance which was released on February 17, 2006 in select theatres. In the movie, he stars as a pastor assigned to work in the inner city. The DVD of the movie was released in July 2006.

Personal life[edit]

Michael W. Smith is the founding pastor of New River Fellowship in Franklin, Tennessee, where he was the lead pastor from 2006 to 2008.

Smith is married to Deborah "Debbie" Kay Davis (b. 1958) and has five children: Ryan Smith, Whitney Katherine Smith-Mooring (married to Jack Mooring of the band Leeland), Tyler Michael (keyboard player for the United Tour), Anna Elizabeth, and Emily Allison. He resides in the Nashville suburbs and spends time at the Smith family farm. His son, Ryan Smith, is a filmmaker who directed the film After.

Alderson-Broaddus College awarded Smith the degree Doctor of Music honoris causa in 1992.

Smith attended Belmont Church in Nashville, Tennessee and is mentored by its long time pastor, Don Finto.[14] Smith is the founding pastor of New River Fellowship in Franklin, Tennessee, where he was the lead pastor from 2006 to 2008. Smith and his wife remain involved members of the church.

Smith supports the Republican Party, and is personal friends with several prominent Republicans, including former President George W. Bush.[15][16] He endorsed Sam Brownback's brief run for president in 2008.[17]

He was also named one of People magazine's "Most Beautiful People"



Amy Grant (left) and Michael W. Smith (right) have gone on several concert tours together.


Audio books[edit]



Grammy Awards
Grammy Nominations
Dove Awards
American Music Awards


  1. ^ http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/2709311/michael-w-smith-christian-music-icon-leaving-provident-for-capitol
  2. ^ Strombitski, Mary Ann; Matt Williams (January 31, 2003). "Michael W. Smith Helps Compassion Gain Nearly 4,000 Sponsorships". Compassion International. Retrieved August 15, 2009. 
  3. ^ "'Inspiring' Smith set for Spirit Jam", Corpus Christi Caller Times,[1] August 1, 2008.
  4. ^ Smith, Michael (1999). This is your time. 
  5. ^ a b Sandra Brennan. "Michael W. Smith: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved August 15, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Long, Jim (March 1988). "Michael W. Smith Looks Back". Christianity Today 46 (8): 56. 
  7. ^ "GMA Dove Awards Male Vocalist of the Year History". About.com. Retrieved November 10, 2011. 
  8. ^ Croteau, Roberta (December 2004). "Ready for His Close-up". CCM Magazine. Retrieved 15 August 2009. 
  9. ^ Woodland, Shannon. "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington". CBN Music. Retrieved November 10, 2011. 
  10. ^ Michael W. Smith Reveals the "Wonder" of God's Grace: Review, CBN.com.
  11. ^ "Glory". CD Universe. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Christian concert in Draper on again despite lawsuit threat". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved July 22, 2012. 
  13. ^ Phan, Katherine T. (2007). "CCM Artists Lend Voices for Children". Christianity Today. Retrieved August 15, 2009. 
  14. ^ Black, Beau. Gloria In Excelsis, TodaysChristianMusic.com, Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  15. ^ Russ Breimeier (April 10, 2004). "The Real Dubya (interview with Michael W. Smith)". Retrieved February 12, 2008. 
  16. ^ "Remarks by the President at the National Republican Senatorial Committee Annual Dinner". The White House. September 25, 2002. Retrieved February 12, 2008. 
  17. ^ "Michael W. Smith Endorses Brownback for President". blog4president.us. Retrieved August 17, 2008. 
  18. ^ "Michael W. Smith Discography". Allmusic. Retrieved December 14, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Discography". Michael W. Smith. Retrieved December 14, 2011. 
  20. ^ http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com/news/2014/03/05.Michael%20W.%20Smith%20and%20Cracker%20Barrel%20Old%20Country%20Store%20Announce%20Exclusive%20Album%20Hymns%20March%2024.asp
  21. ^ "YOU WON'T LET GO - Now Available for Download!". Michael W. Smith. February 4, 2014. Retrieved February 5, 2014. 

External links[edit]