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Michael W. Smith Partners with Son for New Project: Lullaby

Julie Blim - 700 Club Producer

For well more than thirty years, Michael W. Smith has been writing some of the best-known, best-loved songs in Christian music. Despite huge success and popularity, he’s known for being a down-to-earth, family man. I talked to Michael and his son, Tyler, at the Smith farm near Nashville about their family, careers, legacy, and their newest joint project -- an album, Lullaby, and a book, Night Night and Goodnight.   

Michael W. Smith: “We’re just trying to get kids to go to sleep. (Laughs) But you've gotta come up with something, I mean, Mike Nawrocki, was a big part of this project for us. And Mike was Larry the Cucumber, Veggie Tales.  I think there's something really sacred about that - those final few minutes before your kids go to sleep, that you're instilling something in them.”

Tyler Smith:  “I’m praying that's going to come into the homes of just unbelievers and um we're going to see a lot of people saved through it.”

As to his own career, “Smitty,” as he’s called, knows a bit about handling success. He’s sold 18 million albums, received countless Dove and Grammy awards, and even starred in a few films.

Scott Ross:  “The kind of high profile you have had for - how many years now?”

MWS: “I started touring with Amy Grant in '82. So 36, going on 37 years.”

SR:  “Okay, how have you been able to maintain the balance of husband and father and now grandfather, plus all the other projects you're involved in?  And you're still working like a crazy guy.”

MWS: “We - I mean I just remember Deb and I talking at the very beginning when the success started taking off, you know we cannot afford to be a casualty. And we are going to make some ground rules and we're going to take sabbaticals and we're going to make family first. Period. And we're not going to let anything jeopardize that. And we said that was Rule 1, and we've stayed with that rule.”

SR: “And Tyler, you are a recipient of that priority.”

TS: “Yeah, absolutely.   I think part of – part of what helped was uh he would take us with him on the road and he would take us – you know, I have a lot of memories of uh being on tour with him and … “

MWS: “Especially in the summer.”

MWS:  “They loved being on the bus, jumping on –

SR: “They loved being on the bus?”

MWS: “Jumpin’ in the bunk.”

TS: “We did love it.”  (Laughs)

MWS: “Flippin’ and trippin’ and they just thought the bus was the greatest thing.”

SR: “Part of the traps that you've been able to avoid throughout the years. That must have been – the money, sex, power are the three biggies. And take out so many artists. As you say ‘casualty.’"

MWS: “I've survived success. (SR: “Well, that's good.” ) Thank God. You know, and I think as you get older you begin to realize what's really important and you realize it's not about you, and you really realize there's that God-shaped hole that only He can fill and you know, if you sell a million records then, for a lot of people, then you have to sell five million the next, and if you don't sell five million you have to sell ten million.

MWS:  It's a – just a never-ending cycle of just of striving that can bring an early death to your life - do you know what I'm saying? Hopefully you keep fallin’ in love with Jesus, you know, and you start to hear more clearly and you start to see more clearly and then all of a sudden, you know, Tyler's having kids and my other kids are having kids, and it's ‘G-Daddy’ time and so it's all the family thing. That's really the highlight of my life, honestly.”

SR: “How many grandchildren now?”

MWS: “Fourteen and another one on the way. “

SR to TS:  “Do you write?” (TS: “I do.”) “Are you following in his footsteps in that way?”

TS: “You know, I say I’m walking in his footsteps, I’m partially walking in his footsteps. I think I have one foot in the music industry and one foot in the film industry. So I’m writing a lot of music for film right now actually, is kinda the primary focus for me currently.”

MWS:  “He's scoring two movies right now – so – he's not going to tell you that, but I will, so …”

SR to TS: “In your generation of people, do they understand, what the church is versus who Jesus is? And there's a clear distinction.”

TS:  “There is, there is absolutely. I think that's a lot of what has turned off a lot of people in my generation is - it's always a problem with the church, or someone in the church, or somebody who, you know, treated them badly. Uh, but they've missed – they've missed Jesus in all of that, you know? And they haven't met him, so –“

MWS: “He’s been misrepresented on so many levels. That's what bugs the heck out of me.”

One of Michael’s role models and close friends was Billy Graham, whose death has sharpened Michael’s focus on his own legacy.

MWS: “It was hard for me. It was hard and beautiful at the same time. You know, I cried for a week, I just couldn’t … just … matter of fact, I keep cryin’ from time to time. I miss him because he really was a great friend and I spent a lot of time with him in his home over the years, you know? I think something was passed on to me. I think there's maybe more of an urgency for me in terms of what I'm doing every night … being more intentional …

TS: “I definitely agree that a mantle has been passed, (SR: “Oh, It has?”) and I see it on my dad, absolutely. I believe uh he doesn't even quite know what it – what he's about to step into, in my opinion, that God's got something huge. And we need – that's exactly what we need right now is another – maybe not another Billy Graham but um, what he had, I think is what we need, so …”

SR: “It’s called anointing I think.” (TS   “That’s right.”)

MWS: “Well, if some of that is passed on, I just– I hold it lightly. ‘Cause it's an honor. I'll do whatever I’m called to do to finish this race.”

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