Beloved singer and songwriter, Michael W. Smith, travels around the world performing to sold-out crowds. Despite his busy schedule, we were able to catch up with him for an exclusive interview. He shared how travel impacts his music and faith, as well as his favorite memories exploring the world.
What’s the best travel experience you’ve had?
Flying on a private 767 to Greece with former President George Bush Sr. and his family on multiple family vacations. Greece is by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, and the company was pretty spectacular too.
In the past few years, one of the most “exotic” trips I can recall is participating in Andrea Bocelli’s “Celebrity Fight Night” in Italy. It’s a week of benefit concerts in some of the most beautiful and elaborate settings you can imagine. The travel was memorable. First, on a chartered 767 from the U.S. to Europe and then on private trains. The experience was beyond belief, but most importantly, the event raised a tremendous amount of money for very worthwhile charities.
Although it is not as glamorous as the first two, I love traveling by bus with my band. The busses themselves are great and have all the amenities I could need. But it’s the camaraderie and fun that happens on overnight drives from city to city that make it pretty special. From celebrating someone’s birthday to watching a movie or just hanging together, there’s no better way to travel as a musician.
What is one of your most memorable or funniest moments while traveling?
Probably when an airline’s (which I won’t mention) flight attendants went on strike, and the day we flew, they sent in their tech people from all across the country to fill in. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.
Another time, I was left behind—ON MY OWN TOUR. Fortunately, it was leaving Nashville. I drove to where we were supposed to meet and the bus was gone. They thought I was on board. I wasn’t. Plus, this was before cell phones. I had to roar down the interstate until I caught up with the bus and motioned for them to pull over.
What places are still on your travel bucket list?
Russia and China.
What’s the best reason to travel?
Well, I love going to places that I’ve never been to and I certainly love the job that I have: traveling and singing for people all around the world.
Are there certain seasons or times of year you most love to travel, or most want to be home? Why?
Summer is a good season to fly and be overseas. I enjoy traveling to places like South Africa, the Netherlands and Europe during those months. I certainly do not want to be away during Christmas. That is family time, with all the kids and grandkids. I never want to miss that. However, of all the places in the world, I would say my favorite place to be in the summer is our place in Beavercreek, Colorado. It is simply spectacular!
What does travel do for you that you can’t get anywhere else?
Experiencing culture in different parts of the world, I enjoy learning about others’ ways of life and seeing the similarities and differences from ours.
How has travel impacted your faith and your worldview?
It certainly makes me think out of the box and how everything doesn’t revolve around Western culture. I have learned a lot, especially being in Eastern Bloc countries.
How has traveling inspired worship?
Well, when you get to travel to a place like Latvia or Romania—just to mention a few––the way they respond to worship is simply off the charts. It never gets old.
Do you experience God uniquely in different places?
I honestly experience God in so many places. Especially when I’m in nature or outside of major cities. Ireland and Scotland come to mind for some reason.
How does touring and travel impact your connection to your audience?
You’re singing to a different audience every night, and you never know what to expect. I have traveled all over the world for years and years, and every night is different and special. There is nothing better than when the audience is all in and responds.
A few years back, I invited my fans to come to Nashville and see why I love Middle Tennessee so much. Several hundred fans came for an amazing weekend. We did a huge cookout at my farm, complete with a hot air balloon, games, music and, of course, Tennessee BBQ.
Do you and your team have any fun or “we can’t believe that happened” moments from a tour you want to share?
I remember when we were in South Africa, close to the sea. We were in the middle of singing my song “Healing Rain,” and during the chorus it rained. There were no clouds in the sky. When the song ended, it stopped raining. It is still astonishing when I think about it.
Your music changes lives. Is there an audience member’s story or interaction that stands out to you or has stuck with you through the years?
The one that always comes to mind is a girl who sent me a letter. She was in a desperate situation and was driving down the 5 freeway in Southern California on her way to commit suicide. She had the pop radio station on in her car and my song “Place in This World” came on the radio. She pulled off on the side of the road and had a complete meltdown, but God met her in her pain. She was completely changed. I am forever grateful for that story.
Have you ever been to a place that made you want to write a song?
Ireland. Oh, and of course Colorado.
Have you written songs inspired by specific places or people? We would love to hear a story or two.
I will never forget writing a song about a young girl named Cassie Bernall who lost her life in the Columbine High School massacre back in 1999. My song “This Is Your Time” was inspired by the events that unfolded that day. I still sing it in concerts to this day.
What are your favorite places to be when composing?
The mountains and my studio in Franklin, Tennessee. For whatever reason––maybe because of its location, which is on a historic site––I’m inspired when I’m there. Creativity seems to flow there. I love it. I also have a farm outside of Franklin that is very calm and peaceful. I’ve written a lot there too.
Where have some of your favorite/best concerts been? What do you think contributed to their awesomeness?
In the fall of 2018, I performed a concert at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a free concert, dedicated to praying over our city and asking for an Awakening in our faith. The arena was packed to the rafters and it was an incredibly moving night of music and prayer. I’ll never forget it. It was so powerful that we ended up releasing it as a record––which originally we did not plan to do.