Saturday, June 23, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Michael W. Smith talks about Texas shooting, Christmas music and Bono

On the morning after the mass shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Michael W. Smith had pain in his voice.

"Itís awful, itís just awful," said the Grammy-winning Christian music superstar. "Everybodyís going to have their opinion. Do we need gun control? Yes, we need gun control. Do we need to put a focus on mental illness? Yes, we do. Nobody seems to talk about the God factor, which I think should be addressed. Sometimes you just wonder, when you have a nation that continues to block God out of everything, you wonder if thereís any repercussions from that."

Was the shooting tied, on any level, to any sort of cultural war on faith? Smith had no idea. But he doesnít see it ending.

"I think itís going to continue to happen. I know the end of the story, I do know that. You can kill the body, but you canít kill the soul. There are people out there who donít even know me who would want to kill me. Itís just mind-boggling to me, but I think itís straight from the pit of hell. Itís the devil. And Iím trying to spread a message of love."

There is no time for that like the holidays. Smith and his old friend Amy Grant will do their best to do just that when their annual Christmas tour rolls into Amalie Arena on Sunday.

Smith and Grant are very old friends ó you can find their song Thy Word in actual church-pew hymnals ó who went on to become two of Christian popís biggest superstars. And this holiday tour, Smith said, remains one of their favorite shared experiences.

"We stand on stage, and I grab her hand, and we both almost say at the same time: ĎCan you believe we get to do this every night?í?" he said. "We just smile at each other, kind of giddy. You walk on that stage, and youíve got this huge symphony playing behind you, and you feel elevated."

Smith, 60, has released some 25 albums in his long and prolific career ó his next, A Million Lights, is due in February ó including four of Christmas hymns, covers and originals. He isnít sure how many Christmas songs heís written, but he and his cowriters approach each one with the same care as the rest of his work. He calls All Is Well, from 1989ís Christmas, "probably my favorite song Iíve ever written."

Falling into songwriting traps and cliches can be a tough task when writing holiday music, he said, but "I just challenge whoever Iím writing it with. We canít just say the same thing. Weíve got to figure out how to say it different."

That also goes for writing worship music, another genre where writing meaningful lyrics, rather than regurgitating the same sentiments over and over, can be difficult.

"I certainly donít think thereís anything wrong with singing whatís in scripture, like Glory to God in the highest or whatever," he said. "But whatever the other part of the lyric is, youíve got to try and find a different twist, and try to come up with something different, poetically, to make it feel like its own thing. Thatís always a challenge."

On his last holiday album, 2014ís The Spirit of Christmas, Smith and his producers got creative when recruiting another well-known collaborator: Bono. Smith goes back years with the U2 frontman, and he was initially unsure about inviting him to recite a traditional Irish poem on the track The Darkest Midnight. But it worked.

"He really got into it," Smith said. "Itís a cool moment. Itís a little dark, but thereís something cool about the darkness of him reading this poem, especially being the last thing before you go into the last song on the record, which is me and Michael McDonald singing Peace. The whole sequence works."

Here, you might be wondering how Smith, a religious conservative who has performed at the Republican National Convention, came to be friends with Bono in the first place. They share an interest in various humanitarian charities, from AIDS and African relief to the poverty ministry Compassion International.

"Our relationshipís more based on rallying the troops and trying to make the world a better place," Smith said. "Thatís been the biggest part of my work with Bono, is just to try to get the church active in standing up for justice and helping make the world better, and getting rid of a lot of these people who are just corrupt, who are just awful, and see if we can bring some light in the world."

In a nation so often divided, there are worse things to wish for this Christmas.

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

. if you go

Amy Grant and
Michael W. Smith

Jordan Smith also performs. 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $35.75 and up. (813) 301-2500. amaliearena.com.

Comments
Boy George, coming to Tampa with Culture Club, talks fame, Pulse and the term ‘LGBTQ’

Boy George, coming to Tampa with Culture Club, talks fame, Pulse and the term ‘LGBTQ’

It’ll still be June when Boy George arrives in Florida this week to kick off a summer U.S. tour with Culture Club. But the LGBTQ icon says it won’t feel quite like a Pride parade. "I also bake cakes for straight people," he laughed. "Tha...
Published: 06/22/18
Luke Bryan talks love, acceptance and his growing depth before Tampa stop

Luke Bryan talks love, acceptance and his growing depth before Tampa stop

Itís been awhile since Luke Bryan crashed our party. The country music superstar who has racked up awards hasnít blessed us íround these parts in awhile. Bryan last played Tampa back in 2015. "We played many multiple nights at the (MidFlorida Credit ...
Published: 06/21/18
Ticket window: Comedy Get Down, Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Gladys Knight and more

Ticket window: Comedy Get Down, Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Gladys Knight and more

Tickets for the following events go on sale this week: • Comedy Get Down with Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin, D.L. Hughley and George Lopez, 7 p.m. Nov. 17 at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, Tampa, $25-$125, on sale at 10 a.m....
Published: 06/20/18
Big concerts this weekend: Luke Bryan, Hall and Oates, Weezer, Logic and more

Big concerts this weekend: Luke Bryan, Hall and Oates, Weezer, Logic and more

HIS KIND OF NIGHT: Luke BryanItís been three long years since Tampa has seen the well-groomed hide of Luke Bryan, the Hollywoodiest hunk in Nashville. But heís about to make up for lost time. On Saturday heíll headline his biggest-ever show here, a b...
Published: 06/20/18
Clearwater Jazz Holiday lineup: Doobie Brothers, George Thorogood, Sheila E. and more

Clearwater Jazz Holiday lineup: Doobie Brothers, George Thorogood, Sheila E. and more

Get ready to break out your finest purple during this year's Clearwater Jazz Holiday.A night celebrating Prince, led by proteges Sheila E. and Morris Day and the Time, will be among the highlights of this year's 39th annual Jazz Holiday, Oct. 18-21 i...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
SoundBytes: Alice in Chains, David Sedaris, Israel Houghton and more

SoundBytes: Alice in Chains, David Sedaris, Israel Houghton and more

— Alice in Chains are heading back out on the road, and they're coming to Orlando. They'll play the House of Blues on Oct. 27. Tickets are $49.50 and up. Click here.— Gospel great Israel Houghton is coming to the Straz Center on Oct. 12. ...
Published: 06/19/18
Review: On ĎEverything Is Love,í Beyonce and Jay-Z emerge from chaos defiant, triumphant

Review: On ĎEverything Is Love,í Beyonce and Jay-Z emerge from chaos defiant, triumphant

In 2016 Beyoncť dropped Lemonade, a culture-quaking song cycle about her troubled marriage to Jay-Z, and more broadly about the black female experience in America. It was her best and most meaningful work, and it was nominated for Album of the Year a...
Published: 06/19/18
XXXTentacion, controversial Florida rapper and singer, shot dead at 20

XXXTentacion, controversial Florida rapper and singer, shot dead at 20

The last words posted to XXXTentacion's Instagram Stories on Monday afternoon: "planning a charity event for this weekend Florida!"Whatever it was, it would have been huge. The 20-year-old singer-rapper was among the biggest — and most controve...
Published: 06/18/18
SoundBytes: Mat Kearney, Gladys Knight, Big Boi, Ski Mask the Slump God and more

SoundBytes: Mat Kearney, Gladys Knight, Big Boi, Ski Mask the Slump God and more

— Singer-songwriter Mat Kearney is returning to the Ritz Ybor on Sept. 27, with Atlas Genius opening. Tickets start at $26.50. Click here for details.— Also coming to the Ritz Ybor in September: South Florida rapper (and a new member of X...
Published: 06/18/18
George Lopez, Cedric the Entertainer, more bringing Comedy Get Down tour to Tampa

George Lopez, Cedric the Entertainer, more bringing Comedy Get Down tour to Tampa

Nothing like outdoor comedy on a mid-November night in Florida, right?Okay, so it's not a club or theater or even an arena, and it rarely hosts comedy shows of any kind. Still, the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre will bring a host of fans when t...
Published: 06/18/18