Craig von Buseck: You talk about the ‘Father heart of God.’ People have said that during your concerts they begin to get a revelation – or maybe a reminder; it depends on where you’re at in your walk – of this concept. Tell me what that means to you and how you see the Lord using you in this way.
Michael W. Smith: Well, I see it every night. I see it on people’s faces – what faces I can see. But in those first five, six, seven rows you see people weeping. You see something happening.
I’ve been involved with this AIDS hospital outside of Capetown, South Africa – John Thomas runs this hospital and it’s amazing. I’ve visited that hospital in the past, but I couldn’t visit during my recent tour in South Africa. But John brought a bunch of patients with him to my concert and I knew where they were going to sit. It was an amazing night and I kept seeing this guy down there. I was zoned in and I acknowledged him. Then there was a moment where I talked about hope and the love of God. In a non-threatening way I was just speaking truth. I found out that this guy had a revelation that night and got saved at the show.
CVB: It’s incredible how the Holy Spirit will do that.
Michael W. Smith: Yeah. I didn’t know about this until 3 weeks later when John Thomas sent me this email saying, “You’re not going to believe what happened.”
So you just never know. You hear people talk about how their life was changed at my show when I said a certain thing. Back in the day I would get letters, and this 18-year-old girl wrote to say she had been abused by her uncle. “I heard your song ‘My Place in This World’ as I was driving to take my own life. I’ve had a hard life. I was on my way to the lake and I was going to take my own life. I was driving down the freeway in Los Angeles and I had the pop radio station on. Your song played and I pulled over and just began to weep.”
CVB: Isn’t that amazing? Some people have criticized Christian musicians for crossing over into pop music, but look at this testimony. God can use it all.
Michael W. Smith: I think we need more Christian musicians in mainstream music.
CVB: I absolutely agree.
Michael W. Smith: I’m not really sure that separating music into genres is such a good thing.
Michael W. Smith: Because it pigeon holes you – oh, you’re that certain artist. It’s really interesting in ‘Christian Music’ – that’s what we call it – has every genre. We’ve got rap, we’ve got rock, we’ve got it all. But every other genre is just ‘Bluegrass,’ or ‘Heavy Metal,’ or whatever. I just don’t like to be labeled. I feel like everything that I write is influenced by my Christianity. So are you saying my instrumental music is not Christian?
CVB: Like Steve Taylor said, “I only drink milk from a Christian cow.”
Michael W. Smith: There you go.
CVB: I heard Branford Marsalis say, “As a musician, you should try to do all kinds of genres. You’re a musician. Whatever you have a passion for, go ahead and experiment. Why just stay in one thing?”
Michael W. Smith: Yeah.
CVB: Let’s go back to the beginning. You said you were influenced by Andre Crouch.
Michael W. Smith: Yeah.
CVB: As a piano player you gravitated towards him. The other one was Phil Keaggy. Tell me how both of them had an influence on you.
Michael W. Smith: I was influenced by a lot of stuff. I loved Elton John records. I was influenced by all the guys who played the piano – all the guys who wrote songs and played the piano. But Phil was not one of those guys. Phil’s record was a game changer for me because back in the 1970s, what we call Contemporary Christian Music began. Everybody thinks me and Amy blazed the trail. We didn’t. It was Larry Norman and Phil Keaggy.
CVB: I had ‘What a Day’ on vinyl.
Michael W. Smith: I did, too. I remember listening to that record and it changed my heart on so many levels. And I said, “I want to do that one day.”
Michael W. Smith: Yeah.
CVB: Isn’t that interesting.
Michael W. Smith: Then I see Phil – and I tell him all the time – I say, “Dude, you changed my life. I’m doing this because of you.” And he’s so humble. I tell him this all the time.
CVB: As much as I love ‘What a Day’, my favorite album from that era was ‘Love Broke Through’.
Michael W. Smith: Great song.
CVB: And the album, too! That was great stuff.
Michael W. Smith: You mentioned Andre Crouch. I have every single Andre record. Every one of them. ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’ was my favorite.
The very first Christian album I ever bought was when I went to this clothing store in this little tiny town in West Virginia where I grew up and they had a record bin. There was a record with a big, red ‘Maranatha’ emblem on a white cover. It was called the ‘Maranatha Everlasting Living Jesus Music Concert’.
CVB: It sounds like ‘The Magical Mystery Tour’ for Christians.
Michael W. Smith: It was the first Maranatha record that ever came out. That was part of the Jesus Movement. It included Chuck Girard, Love Song, and others. They all had long hair and they were singing about Jesus. I thought, “Wow! This is the coolest thing ever.” So then I bought the second Maranatha album and that introduced me to that world. That is where I discovered Second Chapter of Acts, Andre Crouch, and Phil Keaggy.
Read part one of my interview: Michael W. Smith on the Heart of Worship
Learn more at MichaelWSmith.com
Dr. Craig von Buseck is Managing Editor of Inspiration.org.
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