Forever Friends (Pretty Much) With Michael W. Smith
I’ve been a huge Michael W. Smith fan since college, just like pretty much everyone I went to school with. My roommate and I may or may not have had a very large “Change Your World” poster on the wall of our dorm room. Smitty and I performed regular duets together (him on a well-worn cassette tape…me on my hairbrush microphone). Had I ever had the chance to meet him, I absolutely knew we would be friends forever. (You’re humming along right now, aren’t you? Please say yes.)
And I’ve obsessed about other musicians since then, of course, but never felt a connection as deep as the one with MWS. That’s the appeal, right? He just seems to have this way of reaching out to listeners that makes each song feel as if it was written just for them. And it’s more than musical talent; he genuinely loves people. Now, I can imagine what you’re already thinking: “Hang on. Now she’s talking as if they actually ARE friends forever. Is this person delusional?”
I’m not crazy, but I can say this: I’ve met Michael W. Smith. In fact, I spent a whole weekend with him at his family ranch outside Nashville. Yes, there’s a story.
It was the summer of 2011. Michael decided to do something that really caught my attention. He began hosting weekend events at his place in Franklin, TN, opening his home up not just to his friends and family, but to his fans. Picture it as a “from-fans-to-friends” weekend, the kind that’s packed full of memorable moments.
The minute I heard about this event, I hatched a plan and started saving money for this once-in-a-lifetime weekend. I put a “Smitty Jar” on my dresser, and slowly began adding change to it. I switched to PB&J sandwiches instead of going out for lunch. I began passing up those fancy lattes for plain coffee at work. And when I’d saved enough, I clicked that “Buy Now” button on the website.
Then, in June of that year, I found myself riding the tour bus to his farm. No lie: I was nervous. You would have thought I was in college again the way my heart fluttered and palms clammed up. I’ve listened to Michael’s music for over two decades, but this kind of personal, private experience was something I’d never dreamed would be an opportunity. As we rolled onto the grounds I saw his family barn loom ahead, and the down-home casualness of the whole thing put me at ease right away. I stepped off the bus, and it wasn’t long before it was feeling like a big family reunion, minus the casseroles. And with a lively Cajun band, a team of professional square dancers, and a hot-air balloon ride.
But my every expectation for the weekend was met as soon as Michael walked to the front to start his private concert. Hearing him sing in such a personal setting—well, it’s hard to explain how phenomenal this kind of experience is. Listening to a CD or even one of his big arena concerts just doesn’t compare to the intimacy and authenticity of the music. Yes, I may have gazed a little too long into those blue eyes. And it took a lot of discipline not to reach out to strum his guitar (I was THAT close).
I’ve seen Michael W. Smith in concert several times over the years, but this was no comparison. This was just so unique and…real. It’s hard to put it into words, other than saying that every single thing about the weekend felt like I was being invited to share a table, song, and tour with an old friend.
Other than the amazing music, the thing that continued to surprise me (quite pleasantly, I should add) was the way we were treated like stars. Here we were—at the home of a legendary musician—and we were being served. It was more than a concert, more than a tour, more than a chance to meet someone whose music had been an important part of my life and my faith. It was an entire package experience that I’ll never, ever forget.
I’d better stop here. It’s all I can do not to just completely unload every single detail from the weekend, but I know there’s another one coming up soon and I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you. When you go (notice I said when, not if), I hope we meet. Because I’m thinking about making that once-in-a-lifetime weekend into a twice-in-a-lifetime thing. Yes, it’s looking like peanut butter sandwiches are back on my menu.