Michael Interviewed About 'GLORY' - his new album available November 22, 2011
Even as defining as his
platinum pop and worship albums have become, there is yet another
musical side to Michael W. Smith that is as passionate and creative.
Ask the multiple GRAMMY Award winner whose songs have changed so many
peoples’ lives to discuss his favorite film scores, and something
changes within him. Like a sports fan rattling off player stats, he
runs through a list of movies and the composers who made them come
alive; testifying to the innate spiritual power of wordless music
“I got hooked by watching
Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theater like twenty-eight times,” he
remembers. “I’d never heard a soundtrack like that—so epic. I became a
serious fan of John Williams, who also did Star Wars, Saving Private
Ryan, and Harry Potter. I could hum something from everything he’s
done. I also really like Hans Zimmer (The Lion King), James Newton
Howard (The Fugitive), and Ennio Morricone (The Mission).”
More than any other
mainstream Christian artist, Michael has certainly broadened his own
genre’s listening ear. Between 1999’s compelling This Is Your Time
record and 2001’s much needed Worship set (released on September 11), he
made the instrumental effort, Freedom, which has sold more than 500,000
copies. It’s also the project many fans want more of and ask about
most often: When are you going to make another one?
The answer is now. Glory,
Smith’s twenty-third career album, feeds the enthusiasm its predecessor
stirred and soundly exceeds expectations. A sweeping cinematic
statement rich in melodies, emotional range, and musical twists, it was
born at a piano in Tennessee then completed with a 71-piece symphony
orchestra in England at AIR Studios, where soundtracks for Pirates of
the Caribbean and The Chronicles of Narnia were also done.
In keeping with the very nature
of Glory, Smitty lets the new music speak for itself, by and large
remaining open to a listener’s personal interpretation of each grand
“People said Freedom had
something about it that made them feel good, that it was a spiritual
experience,” he says. “I don’t know if I could explain all that. I
just know I went down into a deeper place writing those songs, and it
has happened again with Glory.”
Smith believes words aren’t
always necessary to convey meaning. Sometimes expressions of praise are
better stated through other means.
“There’s a famous quote from
another great movie - Chariots of Fire –that I could never forget,
because it truly resonated in my heart,” he explains. “The film’s hero
Eric Liddell says of his relationship with God, ‘When I run I feel His
pleasure.’ And when I play the piano I feel God’s pleasure; it’s just
what I’m made to do. We all have gifts, and we all have our story, and
this is just my gift.”
And it’s a gift that Michael W. Smith enthusiasts will enjoy like
never before on Glory, a collection highlighting the beautiful depths of
the artist’s unspoken inner life. For music lovers who think beyond
genre, it’s also a fascinating window into his creative process.
Written and dramatically
arranged by Michael, then brought into symphonic majesty with
producer/conductor David Hamilton, Glory starts with a self-titled
overture that sets the album’s tone as coming from a spiritual
journeyman who is a heartfelt countryman and dedicated family man as
well. The opening solo piano part soon blossoms into a blend of
tinkling bells, strings, and brass that Smith says was influenced by
Williams’ E.T. score.
“The Patriot” follows, an Americana melody lifted by woodwinds and
flutes that stirs images of bravery and a victorious homecoming.
Similarly, “Heroes” was inspired by the sacrifices U.S. soldiers have
made throughout history and are still making today.
Further in, family and
friends influence Glory on several occasions. “Whitaker’s Wonder,”
named after Michael’s grandson, who is named after his grandfather’s
famous middle initial, is perfectly kidlike. Plucking away in a dreamy
style comparable to Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Smitty says he wrote
the piece in one fun swoop and credits Hamilton for the unexpected key
modulations and engaging time signature changes.
“Tribute / Agnus Dei” was written to
honor the sixtieth anniversary of President George and Barbara Bush who
first heard Michael perform for them at the White House. Along those
lines, he wrote “The Romance” for his wife, Debbie, and the soaring
“The Blessing” as a musical rendering of the blessed paths God
has faithfully led him down.
You can hear distinctly trying
moments of the Christian journey on “Glory Battle,” a
rhythmically driven tune depicting spiritual warfare with an intense
piano riff that Smith describes as “Gladiator meets Braveheart.” He
confesses to “a little sadness” in the melody of “Joy Follows
The mood is duly brighter on “Redemption,” an upbeat
classical selection that again employs what Smitty calls “a little John
Williams trick . . . isn’t that fun?” where a bold key change suddenly
elicits a strong emotional response in the listener. His musical
passion is likewise evident on the cascading “Atonement,” where he
shifts the feeling back down toward the end by breaking into an entirely
new piece of music—a technique Hamilton suggested that was often used
by the pianist Frederic Chopin.
“That’s the stuff I would have known a long time ago if I’d practiced more,” he laughs.
While the fact that Michael
imagined each note heard on Glory clearly highlights his sophisticated
talent as a serious musician, he isn’t planning on taking the place of
Williams or any other Hollywood film scoring legend anytime soon. His
first love was the pop song, figuring out The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” by ear
as a child. Soon enough he would stop formal piano lessons, join
bands, and move from West Virginia to Nashville, becoming a Christian
artist whose dozens of No. 1 hits and fifteen million albums sold would
impact a worldwide audience that could never be calculated.
“I’ve been given this amazing
platform to sing about the truth, and I have to stay that course,
especially in terms of doing concerts” he says. “Touring with Amy Grant
this past year, we would meet people who—and I say this with complete
humility—felt we were just part of the fabric of their lives growing
up. It’s very emotional to see them respond to certain songs. It’s
almost like: I was a part of that? It’s like a dream.”
Glory closes with one of those
certain songs, a breathtaking instrumental version of “Agnus Dei” that
simply explodes in glory to God.
“If I had to give you one word to describe this record, it would be
‘journey,’” Smith concludes. “Everyone is on a journey, and I love how
the journey ends on this album.”
GLORY is available online and in-stores everywhwere on TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 22nd.
Order your copy now: http://www.michaelwsmith.com/glory.html Back