Few people enjoy spreading Christmas cheer more than Dove Award-winning Christian singer/songwriter Michael W Smith, and this year he’s at it again with a new Christmas album, Every Christmas, and a holiday tour that kicked off November 26 in Atlanta and will visit such cities as New York City, Dallas and Minneapolis before wrapping with two shows in Nashville December 22 and 23rd.
“I put my Christmas hat on, which is not very hard for me at all because I so admire the season so much and I love the music,” Michael W Smith tells Woman’s World. “I’m doing 10 Christmas [concerts] by myself and nine with Amy [Grant]. I love it because you see what’s happening out in the audience. They are loving it and are excited to be there.”
Smith says audiences seem even more appreciative in recent years. “It’s always been exhilarating,” says the 66-year-old. “I think people have always loved it, but probably more so in the last couple of years because of the pandemic. People lost hope. It’s been a hard ride for a lot of people. This show has so much life in it.”
Smith continues, “That’s the most gratifying thing is that we not only supply something that’s very needed, but it’s also life giving and life changing. Somebody can show up that’s never had a relationship with Jesus at all and they walk out going, ‘Gosh! Maybe this whole thing is really true.’”
Michael W. Smith’s early years
A Christian music icon, Smith has been spreading the gospel through his music for decades and the West Virginia native is also known for such mainstream pop hits as “Place in this World” and “I Will be Here for You.”
He has recorded several worship records that were so well-received they expanded worship music beyond church walls to become a vital part of the faith-based music industry, played on Christian radio and performed on stages all over the world.
Among his many accomplishments — including the Dove Awards and memorable hits on the radio — Smith’s Christmas music has always held a special place in his heart. “This is five full records,” Smith says of Every Christmas. “I had no idea I’d be doing five Christmas records. I just had the dream as a little kid of just doing one.”
The Michael W Smith Christmas era has arrived
Last year he released a six-song EP titled Christmas at Home that featured such memorable songs as “Freeze the Frame,” “God with God” and the title track. This year he added six songs and expanded that collection into Every Christmas.
“I started writing more songs,” Smith says of creating the full album. “I kept thinking, ‘Gosh, let’s carry on the tradition. Let’s get the family involved!’ [My daughters] Anna [Mooring] and Whitney [Smith] wrote something and [my son] Tyler is orchestrating again. It was so fun. It just doesn’t get any better than that to get to see your kids, not only your kids, but your grandkids take part in it. It’s a dream come true.”
Tyler co-produced the album with his dad. “I just thought he deserved it honestly,” Smith says, his voice teeming with pride over his talented son. “What he did with the orchestrations created these magical moments. He just gets better and better every time he does this. And then working with your kids! Like I said, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
It really warms Smith’s heart to see his children following in his footsteps as a musician and songwriter. “Anna wrote ‘Christmas Is Here’ with me, and then she wrote ‘Here with Us’ too,” the father of five says proudly. “Then I was trying to find one more song, something simple that I thought maybe the grandkids could be involved in. I wrote this simple little song called ‘The One,’ and I pulled Whitney in on that one so she wrote the lyric. The grandkids are on ‘The One,’ so you’ll hear them singing.”
Smith also recruited acclaimed Nashville songwriter Tony Wood to co-write on Every Christmas. “Very seldom do I write the lyric. It’s always been very difficult for me. I’d say 95% of my songs are all music first,” Smith says. “It’s really fun to write with Tony and I’m so glad he’s part of this album. He sent me things that are just lyrics and I’ve written music to them. His rhyming of the lines and the way he positions things makes it very easy for somebody like me who is writing music to it. It just has worked and I love his lyric to ‘Sometime Every Christmas.’ I absolutely love it!”
“Sometime Every Christmas” is a beautiful nostalgic ballad that addresses the loneliness and longing that can creep into the holiday with the poignant refrain sometimes every Christmas I cry. “That reminds me so much of my family,” Smith says of the tender lyric. “There’s a line about sitting in my mother’s living room and seeing my dad’s empty chair. I can barely sing it without losing it because it was true, sitting in mom’s living room. My dad’s gone and now my mom’s gone. They are on the other side. If I was to dedicate this record to anybody it would be to my mom and dad.”
Michael W Smith Christmas traditions
Smith says his love for the holiday came from his parents. “They just instilled in me everything Christmas,” he smiles. “I still have every one of those LPs that my mom and dad bought. They are in my studio. They were just a big part of me falling in love with Christmas music so I’m sure they are smiling on the other side now, knowing that not just their son is a part of it and now knowing that their grandkids are a part of it, and their great grandkids are a part of it too.”
Smith has so many fond memories of the holiday season. “We got to open up a present on Christmas Eve. We had Oyster soup, which I never ate and never really understood that, but my mom fixed it every year,” he says with a laugh. “She also cooked a Christmas casserole which was huge that we really enjoyed. Now my kids are making the Christmas casserole with egg and sausage, some veggies in there, so my kids and grandkids are all cooking that every Christmas morning.”
He also has fond memories of his parents hosting fun-filled holiday gatherings. “Mom and dad were always entertaining and there was always tons of food and lots of joy,” he recalls. “My mom and dad knew how to have a great time. They had the greatest friends in the world and they played these silly games and laughed. It was just a beautiful community that they had. We learned a lot from that as well, just not only how they treated people, but they were so wholly esteemed in my little town of Kenova, WV and then they moved to Franklin, TN and guess what? They were wholly esteemed here too. I’ve got some big shoes to fill because they certainly taught me how to do it.”
A loving family holiday
With his parents now passed, Smith is the family patriarch and enjoys spending time with his five children and 17 grandkids. “Now that my mom and dad are in heaven, we meet at [my son] Ryan and Patty’s who built a house on our farm. So now that’s our new tradition is we have Christmas Eve at their house and on Christmas morning, they are all here,” he says of the home he shares with his wife Debbie.
“It’s just crazy,” Smith says with a laugh. “It’s the beautiful chaos. We love it. We all get in this little sitting room and what we used to do is we used to read the Christmas Story, well now we’re acting it out because we have actors and directors. So we act it out here in this little sitting area beside the kitchen. Then they scream and run into the great room and at that point is when it gets chaotic. Everybody is opening up their presents all at one time. It’s so much fun!”
What Michael W. Smith is doing next
As for the coming year, Smith plans to work on new music. “I feel something brewing inside of me. I just kind of feel it,” he sighs. “I’ve been doing this for so long and I know that thing inside of me that it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh something is getting ready to be birthed.’ Probably January I’ll know more if something is starting to come together.”
He says he hopes to at least release a single in the spring of next year. “That would be great and maybe do a fall album release, but we’ll just have to see,” Smith smiles. And we can’t wait to hear it!
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