Michael W. Smith enters a new phase of humility, creativity and intimacy with his creator.
The Columbine High School massacre.
The September 11 terrorist attacks.
The Haiti earthquake.
These three events represent some of the most shocking and devastating tragedies of our time.
Lives lost senselessly, families broken needlessly and faith shattered upon the harsh cliffs of reality and grief…
In the wake of each of these calamities, Michael W. Smith has offered songs, drawing people together and shifting the perspective from, “Why, God?” to “How do we see You in this, God?
His music has been leading people to the throne room for decades. And in times of crisis, his compassionate heart has led people to the arms of Christ.
Following Columbine, “This Is Your Time” honored the price of faith and the heart of the faithful who paid it. After the Haiti earthquake, he brought the CCM industry together to record “Come Together Now Haiti,” offering resources and hope.
And on Sept. 11, 2001, his timeless album Worship was released, immediately providing a voice to those left speechless by the horrific tragedy of that day.
It’s no surprise then that, 13 years later, his music continues to offer healing and hope.
As he readied the release of his first studio worship album since 2008, a friend asked him to sing at his son’s funeral. The friend’s son had committed suicide.
“It’s one thing to lose a child,” Michael says quietly. “It was such a challenge to deliver the song and hold it together. I just closed my eyes and tried to get inside the song and deliver it in a beautiful way. I always want to be authentic and beautiful, but there’s a balance. If I let myself go, I’d be a basket-case and never get through it.”
The song, “Sovereign Over Us,” which would inspire the title of the album, Sovereign, reminds us all that regardless of circumstance, He is greater and higher and above all.
“We are here for a moment, and then we’re gone,” says Michael. “He’s sovereign and in control. He rules the universe. We know Him in part, but do we really know His ways? Sometimes I think I have a clue, but I probably don’t even come close to knowing how large He truly is.”
Michael’s candor is refreshing and largely informed every aspect of the project — from the creative perspective to the spiritual.
“There’s something really special about the motivation on this record,” Michael says. “The posture was pure. I think it’s very special. I feel like it’s a record for our time.”
From the opening strains of the album to the last refrain, it is unequivocally one of the most relevant albums he’s ever made. With a different production approach and an entirely new team, the album captures a moment of rejuvenation in Michael’s life and career.
“I’m with a new label, Capitol Records,” Michael says. “I needed a change, and we did this as a team. Everyone gave 110 percent from day one. They gave it the attention the record needed to have.”
The team was large, and the scope of the project was equally as grand.
“It was a long, beautiful journey,” says Michael. “We went through about 120 songs. If a song didn’t hit the bar, it didn’t make the cut.”
The songs that did land on the record are beautiful, vertical and, as Michael says, “very different. All the songs are pretty worshipful on some level, but they have a more anthemic, pop element to them. It’s different from any worship album I’ve ever done. Honestly, we didn’t have a solid concept for a theme other than wanting to find great songs. A lot of times, if you don’t set out with a theme, you can get something that’s pretty disparate. But this really holds together like it was all pre-conceived on a drawing board. It’s a God thing. His favor was upon the process.”
It was a process that very quickly expanded beyond Michael, involving many new writers and collaborators, including one very special writer.
“My son Ryan wrote most of the lyrics on ‘Sky Spills Over,’” says Michael proudly. “The whole lyric is fresh. I love it.
“If I had to pick one song over all as my favorite, it would be ‘Sovereign Over Us.’ This is a song for our time. There’s so much truth in the song. As the bridge says, Even what the enemy means for evil/ He means for good.”
Watch the live performance of “Sovereign Over Us” here…
Already, the music is resonating with audiences. The Sovereign tour kicked off in Pennsylvania with shows that have been, according to Michael, “amazing.”
“When we sing ‘Christ Be All Around Me,’ it’s such a huge moment. You almost can’t contain the energy in the passion that is happening.
“We just had our tenth grandchild,” he says with a laugh. “What in the world? How did that happen? We’re extremely thankful for that. When your kids are good, you’re good. That’s probably our biggest blessing right there.”
It’s a blessing Michael is intentionally taking the time to appreciate and enjoy, relishing the sovereignty of God in every facet of life.
“On a Gungor record, Michael Gungor speaks for about the first ten minutes. He reminds us that we’re a blade of grass, a vapor. We’re here for a moment and then we’re gone. God is the one who’s sovereign and in control,” Michael shares. “We live in a society where everything is at your fingertips, vying for your attention. We need to just be still. I don’t think we do that very well, but my hope and prayer is that this record will connect with people and help them get to that place.”
The world is chaotic. A tragedy is just a breath away.
When the Columbines and the September 11ths and the family tragedies take place, God has divinely appointed men and women much like Michael to help all of us remember that no matter what—despite the deepest pain and the greatest of uncertainty, fear, loss or anger — He is good. He is in control. He is sovereign.