Q&A With Michael W. Smith
Christian music icon Michael W. Smith makes his Pops debut tonight. He recently took some time with Fanfare Cincinnati to discuss his career, the rich Christmas repertoire and his Cincinnati Reds fandom.
Fanfare Cincinnati: Your album The Spirit of Christmas recently won the Dove Award for Christmas Album of the Year. With 45 Dove Awards, three Grammys and 32 No. 1 hits over the course of your career, where do you seek and find inspiration?
Michael W. Smith: It’s not hard to be inspired by great songs and great music. I’ve always loved Christmas music—recording four Christmas albums probably makes that obvious. There is a lyric from an old Rich Mullins song that says: “Everywhere I go I see you”—and that really says it all. I’m inspired by God’s creation.
FC: The repertoire for Christmas music is vast. How do you make traditional songs that have been passed down for generations your own?
MWS: Sometimes you don’t try and make it ”your own.” Some songs are such classics that you want to do just the opposite—you want to pay homage to the tradition of the song or to the person that sang it. Andy Williams, Nat King Cole and Barbra Streisand set the bar pretty high on some of these Christmas classics!
FC: With a career spanning decades, how do you keep your older classic songs fresh and new?
MWS: For me it’s more about seeing how an audience responds to a song. That is different night to night and that keeps it fresh for me.
FC: This will be your debut with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. What makes performances with full orchestras special and/or challenging?
MWS: Challenging? The only challenging thing for me is I don’t want to leave the stage. I have been blessed to perform with so many great orchestras and I love the experience. To be at the piano in front of an orchestra like the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra is a real treat for me. I’m really looking forward to this night!
FC: What other big concerts or projects are on the horizon for you?
MWS: 2015 was a busy year. Lots of international travel including Europe, South Africa, Nigeria, Ukraine, Faroe Islands, Canada, Brazil, Korea, Philippines, Singapore and two tours of Japan! I’m looking forward to being home a bit more in 2016. I’ll be releasing a new album exclusively for Cracker Barrel early in 2016, and we do a cruise every other year with some guest artists and ”a couple thousand of my closest friends.” Those are really a blast and I definitely look forward to that in July.
FC: Anything else you’d like to share?
MWS: I grew up just across the river in West Virginia and I grew up a die-hard Cincinnati Reds fan—so it’s always fun to be in your city. And I can’t wait to perform with your amazing Pops Orchestra!