Exclusive: Michael W. Smith Talks Re-Imagining His Biggest Hits On ‘Worship Forever’

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Iconic multi-platinum, singer and songwriter Michael W. Smith has re-envisioned his #1 highest-selling album of all time, Worship, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the album’s release on September 11, 2001. Out today, Worship Forever has re-imagined the album from start to finish, this time, with a full symphony orchestra. Worship Forever was recorded in front of a live audience in Nashville, TN and includes special appearances by Amy Grant, Matt Redman and Tauren Wells. In celebration of the album’s release, TBN will be airing the entire musical event and documentary footage tonight (9/10) three times back-to-back at 7:00/8:30/10:00pm CST. In this TCB Exclusive, Smith opens up about the idea to re-imagine the Worship album, the inspiration behind recording with a full symphony orchestra and stand out moments from the live recording session.

Congratulations on the release of Worship Forever! When did you first have the idea to re-imagine the Worship collection?
Thank you! I actually came up with the idea in the fall of 2020. I obviously kept thinking that 2021 would be the 20-year mark for 9/11. But I also thought as well about the ‘Worship’ record, that first one that was released on that day. It was a special record and I believe it was a healing record for our country. 

What was your vision behind using a full symphony orchestra? Was it solely to achieve a different sound or was there a more personal connection for you?
I’m a big cinematic music guy, have been since ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ came out and I first was introduced to the music of John Williams. I’ve been writing scores for movies and doing instrumental records for the last two decades. One day I just kept thinking about reimagining that ‘Worship’ record with a full symphony orchestra. I didn’t know if it would work, but I remember going into the studio in late 2020 and coming up with three arrangements. And guess what… I was not disappointed, I kept thinking, I believe this is going to work.

You recorded the album in front of a live audience this summer. Is there a moment that stands out to you most from that day?
That’s a tough one because there were so many highlights. To mention a few, something broke loose during “Let It Rain”, “Agnus Dei” was regal and Amy Grant sang with me on that one….and then the surprise moment was when the drum line came marching in from the back to begin “Awesome God.”

How has Worship impacted you and your career since its original release almost 20 years ago? Did you anticipate this impact when you were first creating the project?
It ended up being the biggest selling record of my career. I didn’t see that one coming. I think the big thing is that you become so less concerned about being successful, you just want to be in the moment and you just want to be a conduit for what God wants to do for people around the world. Leading a room full of people… whether that’s 100… 1,000 or 20,000, when they respond wholeheartedly, it’s very overwhelming. It is so hard to put it into words but, it’s beautiful on every level.

What lesson(s) have you learned, or re-learned, throughout this process or creating and releasing Worship Forever?
Anything is possible. If you get thrown a curveball or something doesn’t seem to be working out with an arrangement, you don’t freak out, you stay focused….and be patient. It always seems to come together. There was never a moment of uncertainty. I guess maybe after all these years, you just trust your heart. 

Alongside the album release, you will be airing a TV special. How did this opportunity present itself?
When I mentioned this to Matt Crouch at TBN. He was adamantly wanting to be involved and asked if they could produce this night for a TV special. I wholeheartedly said yes, and what an amazing job they did. They perfectly captured what happened that night at Allen Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

Who, or what, are some of your current biggest inspirations, spiritually and musically?
John Williams is my musical hero. His scores to all the amazing movies that he has done over the years are spectacular. Spiritually, this thing we call creativity …it’s such a God thing. When it falls out of the sky… the songs… these arrangements, it’s a bit supernatural on some level. And finally I will say, my mom and dad have been my biggest inspiration and supporters all these years. My dad went to heaven in 2015. And my mom went to heaven two days before I recorded ‘Worship Forever.’ It’s somewhat of a miracle that I even got through that night, but I knew what my mom would want me to do. She so believed in me. And I do believe my mom and dad had front row seats to that night.

What are you most expectant for in the remainder of 2021?
We have two big tours coming up… the fall tour and the Christmas tour. People are so hungry to tour and to hear live music… especially after a tough season that we have been through. What is it about music that heals people’s hearts? I still believe it’s the most powerful universal language in the world. Melodies, rhyme, words all put together… what a mystery… and how beautiful to hear the stories of people whose lives were completely changed for the good by one song that was more than likely less than 4 minutes long. Astounding!

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