Ever wondered what it’s like when you’ve scored an interview with a ‘big’ name in Christian music? Our Big Breakfast Show host Wayne Hindson opens up about the time he (nervously) interviewed Michael W. Smith!

When you think of the biggest names in Christian music, people like Steven Curtis Chapman, Amy Grant, tobyMac, and Crystal Lewis come to mind. Each of those artists have had a long and fruitful career in Christian music.

We have had the opportunity to chat with several of these iconic artists and recently we added another to the list – Michael W. Smith. This man has been involved in Christian music for nearly 40 years, he has won multiple Grammys and other awards, he has appeared on network television in America, plus so much more. Over the recent Easter break I received an email saying that Michael would be available for an interview for our program The Artist Spotlight.

I confirmed the time by return email, only to find out that that time slot was no longer available. I sent off another email and suggested another time, and that slot had since been taken as well. It can be hard to lock these things in with delays in communication due to time differences between Australian and the USA.

Eventually an interview time was confirmed! It was at this point I started to get a little nervous. I have interviewed many artists during my time at Rhema FM but this time I was going to be chatting with Michael W Smith!! I am not a ‘super’ fan, don’t get me wrong I like his music and think he is wonderfully talented, but I wouldn’t travel half way around the world to see one of his concerts, as I will shortly do with Third Day, or as I did last year for the DC Talk reunion. Yet, despite this, I was still really nervous as I dialled Michael’s number.

The nerves only increased as the phone rang. And rang. And rang some more. Eventually I was met with a voicemail message from Michael which said “Sorry I missed your call. Leave a brief message and the time you called and I will call you back as soon as I can. Have a blessed day”. How does one respond to that? What kind of message do you leave for one of the legends of Christian music? I couldn’t answer those questions in that split second, so I just hung up.

After about 4 or 5 times of calling Michael, he finally answered the phone with “Sorry Wayne, I got held up with another interview.” For some reason, that settled my nerves and we started what would become a much too brief chat about Michael’s latest albums, his appearance at Rev. Billy Graham’s memorial service and more…..

W: Now Michael I want to talk to you because you have recently released two records in the space of a week. A Million Lights is your new contemporary album, and Surrounded your new worship album. What was the thought process behind releasing two albums almost at the same time?

M: It’s a little insane, isn’t it? I actually thought I had lost my mind. Long story short is that my Dad had passed and gone to heaven in November 15 and I was grieving my Dad.

I miss him so much. He was the kindest man I had ever known in my life and I was just sort of trying to process that through 2016. I wasn’t writing anything, and anything that I was writing was awful. I just didn’t have it, even to the point where I thought “gosh, maybe I need to find another job”. And then the election happened in our country, and this is not about politics, but I just realised how divided we were and just how mean people were. You can get behind your computer and say whatever you want with no regards top people’s feelings, I mean it was just awful. I thought “what’s going on here?” and so in January 2017 I wrote this song called Revolution and after I wrote that song I couldn’t hit record quick enough. All of a sudden I had 50 ideas for A Million Lights, which is the pop record, and I thought that was the only record I was going to do. And then I read a passage from Amos 5 that I’d read many times before but for some reason it sort of annihilated me and threw me back against the wall. It made me re-examine if I was doing this thing right, have I totally missed it? Then this wild idea popped up, going you know what, I think I’m supposed to do a worship experience record in the round and release that record a week after A Millions Lights. And that’s what I did.

W: Not to be out done, forthcoming this year is your very first children’s album and a book as well. Do you find it easy or is it a challenge to continue pushing yourself?

M: I love adventure. I’ll never go and play it safe. If I have to do that, I’d rather just quit and do something else.  The kids thing I’ve wanted to do for a long time, I’ve got a slew of grandkids. Even my kids, I’ve been writing songs for them and my grandkids forever and I’ve known for at least five years that I have wanted to do a children’s project. So I’ve teamed up a great guy called Mike Nawrocki, who was Larry the Cucumber in VeggieTales, and we co-wrote this book and this lullaby record. My grandkids love it and I think we might have something special on our hands.

W: A couple of months ago you performed the song Just As I Am at the memorial service for Rev. Billy Graham. Can you share with us the moment you got the call and also the experience of remembering Rev Billy Graham.

M: Well I was just honoured. Billy and I were really close, we’d spent a lot of time together over the last 25, 30 years and I’ve spent a lot of time with him at his home. I was just with him last October. You know it was a tough week for me. We’d been kind of waiting for this day for a long time, you know he’d almost died ten times, but he always kind of came back to life…. then you get the call that it happened, and it just put me down. I just couldn’t stop crying and I think I’m still processing all that, you know. So in the middle of that time in DC and in Charlotte, doing both those services, I just tried to just hold it together and get through the songs. I think maybe there was something passed down to me from Billy, you know he poured his life into me and then maybe the thought that there’s nobody, there’s not another Billy Graham. There’s no none that I know of that is like the heir to what he did. And you just feel like, gosh there’s something sad about that on some level, maybe it’s bittersweet. I don’t know. I’m just trying to move through all of that emotionally and be in the moment. I didn’t sing the songs very well, I have to admit, but I’m just glad I got through it.

W: Finally Michael, the movie I Can Only Imagine has come out recently and while you don’t feature yourself, you are represented as “Smitty” in a backstage scene with Amy Grant and Mart Millard. Do you actually remember that event taking place?

M: Yeah it was crazy. I’ve had that happen a lot and I didn’t know who Bart was. I knew he was this kid that had just moved to town and they’re trying to get this break in music and he was in this band called Mercy Me. I just remember he was a little giddy, you know, and I remember that Amy was there too. Matter of fact I watched it again last night, because I got a copy of the movie, and I’m trying to think how accurate it was. And I think it was pretty close!

Thanks so much for catching up with us Michael! You can click to listen to the full interview at rhemacatchup.com!