Michael W. Smith fans are in for a treat.
In an interview about the May 2014 release of his new album, Sovereign, with Pretoria-based Christian community radio station, Impact Radio, the three-time GRAMMY® winner announced that his world tour in 2015 will include a stop in South Africa. Sovereign is Smith’s first studio worship album since 2008 and his first album with new label partner, Sparrow Records, and Capitol Christian Music Group.
Speaking to interviewer, Ruth O Reilly, Smith said: “For me the album was about getting out of my comfort zone, working with different people. It was one year in the making; we went through 120 songs to get 12.” When asked about how he has been able to remain at the top of his game for three decades, Smith replied, “I love life, I am passionate and feel like I am now hitting the sweet spot. I am in shape and I am doing what I am called to do.” According to the singer, retirement is not a biblical thing. “I am called to the nations and I am ready to go,” Smith added.
Smith also states in a press release issued by his music company that he used the album as an opportunity to step into a new creative chapter to craft a vibrant collection of vertically focused songs with a fresh sense of musical innovation. “I feel like it’s a good season. I’m pretty passionate. I have lots of energy and I’m probably enjoying making music more than I ever have in my entire life. I’m having fun and I’m excited about this record and this next chapter.”
The release goes on to say that when it came time to write and record songs for his new album, Smith decided to enlist the talents of several young songwriters and producers that he has not collaborated with previously. “There’s new blood, new territory, new people. I’m freer. I’m willing to take some risks.”
Among Smith’s new creative cohorts are Seth Moseley and Kyle Lee, who co-wrote the potent anthem, “Miracle.” Smith is quoted as saying that the song set the benchmark for the new album. “We went through 115 songs and ‘Miracle’ was the one for us that set the bar, and set it pretty high. Then when we were working on ‘Miracle,’ I asked Seth: ‘What do you have on your computer? What are you excited about?’ So he starts playing this track and I take this acoustic guitar off the wall and start playing ‘You Won’t Let Go.’ I wrote the melody on the acoustic guitar. That’s not the way I usually operate, so it’s just like living on the edge a little bit.”
“You Won’t Let Go,” the first single from Sovereign, is said to have become a staple in Smith’s live shows. The song’s powerful lyric resonates with believers as Smith sings: “No shadow comes without the light making a way / No raging storm can ever defy one word of faith / My heart remains sure in the wind, Sure in the waves / You are the anchor for my soul You won’t let go / You won’t let go / No matter what may come I know You won’t let go. You won’t let go.”
According to the release, in approaching this new chapter in his career, Smith had the desire to creatively push himself, and there’s a sense of musical adventure that permeates the songs on Sovereign. Moseley serves as one of the producers on the new album along with Chris Stevens, noted for his work with TobyMac, Carrie Underwood, Sanctus Real and Mandisa, among others.
“The One That Really Matters” features a guest vocal by one of Smith’s favorite young singers, Kari Jobe. “There’s something on her… I love her posture. You just feel like she’s really all in. You don’t feel like she’s trying to bring any attention to herself. She gets lost in these moments and you can’t help but just go, ‘Wow! I want to be like that. I want to get lost like that.’ She’s a great singer and the way she projects herself, it’s pretty special,” Smith states.
Prior to recording Sovereign, Smith is said to have toured the world extensively sharing the gospel in such remote areas as Bahrain, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Abu Dhabi. “It rocked my world and it inspired me big time,” Smith is quoted as saying. “I had some of the most memorable moments of my entire life on this world tour. In Bahrain, I had to be invited by the king to get in. They’ve never had a Christian concert ever, but there are a lot of churches there. Somehow a Hindu, a Catholic, a Muslim, a Protestant and a Jew all formed this committee and wanted me to come to Bahrain and do a concert of peace.”
In the release, as well as in the radio interview, Smith described the scene when he landed at 3:30am at the airport in Bahrain, saying, “It looked like, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ with some dangerous looking men standing around. Suddenly a man began singing ‘Alleluia’ from ‘Agnus Dei’. He kept singing and then we got flash mobbed by 80 people singing ‘Alleluia’.”
When asked how he does it – maintaining a career that involves sharing the gospel on foreign soil and maintaining a family? Smith’s response was, “You have got to have some rules or parameters from the start.” This is clearly sound advice from someone who has sold more than 15 million albums, scoring 28 No. 1 hits, earning three GRAMMYs and more than 40 Dove Awards.