Michael W. Smith is one of those that has become a household name all around the country, but he is especially well-known in Nashville for his many accomplishments in the music realm, as well as his involvement in the community. We know Smith as an incredible musician, being a three-time Grammy Award winner, an American Music Award recipient, and earning 45 Dove Awards. He has also recorded thirty-one No. 1 Hit songs, fourteen gold albums, and five platinum albums, so if you think you haven’t heard his music yet, you’re probably wrong.
While we can’t ignore his legendary music achievements, they aren’t the only thing worth admiring about this local Nashvillian. Smith has played an active role in adding a place of refuge for youth throughout Nashville, founding Rocketown in 1994 as a faith-based outreach program in the heart of downtown. Since its opening, Rocketown has offered so much hope to the community and has become a staple for those moving to Nashville from all over who are looking for a community in faith.
We had a chance to ask this talented musician what he loves about our town, his favorite hiking spots, and where he’s going next!
The Nashville Edit: As a long-time resident of Franklin, what are some of your favorite places to frequent in town?
Michael W. Smith: I love to hike, and Harlinsdale Park is my favorite hiking place. As for restaurants, Franklin has plenty to choose from, and many are favorites of mine. I especially enjoy Wild Ginger and Merridees, and for a quick (and healthy) bite, Herban Market. Franklin Theatre for music or movies.
TNE: Where is your favorite place to eat in Nashville?
MS: The Palm and Jeff Ruby’s!
TNE: In your 35 years in the music industry, sum up what you’ve learned in one sentence.
MS: It’s not about me!
TNE: How does your faith play into your creative process?
MS: It’s the source and inspiration. My relationship with God is the most important aspect of my life, and my greatest moments with Him are when I lay my hands on the piano and express what my heart is feeling as I think about what He means to me.
TNE: How has Rocketown changed since you first founded it in 1994?
MS: It’s expanded to include far more than I originally dreamed! God gave me a vision for a safe place for the kids who were hanging around downtown Franklin, with little to do and often getting into trouble. What started as a weekend venue, with music and entertainment, has now become a place that meets needs… sports, an indoor skate park, a recording studio, tutoring, concerts, church and summer camp. What hasn’t changed is a great staff that loves kids. A big change is that it moved to Nashville in 2002 and reaches many inner-city kids, as well as kids from the suburbs.
TNE: Where do you see the future of Rocketown going?
MS: Hopefully growing and expanding to other cities. We’ve had people from different cities around the country come and observe and model their own clubs for kids on what they learn. I hope to see that continue. Every community could use a Rocketown!
TNE: Tell us a little bit about the creative process for your first ever children’s album, Lullaby.
MS: I have been writing lullabies for a long time… for my kids and now for my grandchildren. So, I knew that I eventually would record a children’s project.
TNE: Any upcoming tours we should know about?
MS: I have an upcoming world tour – South Africa and Europe, an extensive fall tour (The 35 Years of Friends Tour) and Christmas tour with my great friend, Amy Grant.
TNE: What about any upcoming projects?
MS: I’m working on an instrumental – just piano, for what I hope will be inspirational “background” music for prayer and meditation. I have also been working on a symphony for the last five years.
TNE: Tell us a little bit about your life in Nashville. What do you love about the booming city? What do you not like so much about it?
MS: I love the endless options we have for enriching our lives – great parks, museums, the church community – and of course, any and every kind of music! Not so great? I’ve noticed we’re not quite as patient as we used to be and… crazy traffic!
TNE: What advice do you have for emerging artists today?
MS: Be authentic! There is no one like you….so be who you are.
TNE: How is the faith-based industry different from the secular music industry? Are the trials and hurdles still the same?
MS: They are the same for the most part. You have to stay grounded. And you have to surround yourself with good people.
TNE: What does your family do for fun locally?
MS: We gather in our home often for meals – there are so many of us who live here, it seems there’s a birthday every week! We love the Main Street Festivals downtown Franklin to benefit The Heritage Foundation, eating at family-friendly restaurants, going to parks and hiking at our farm.
TNE: How does living in Franklin now compare to living there a decade or so ago?
MS: It’s definitely more crowded. Seems like so many are moving here. Exciting on some level, but I miss the slower pace. Our best-kept secret is now out!