For nearly four decades his songs have actually topped the charts and touched the lives of millions about the world. The winner of three Grammys, 45 Dove Awards, and also an American Music Award, Michael W. Smith is among the most accomplished artists in modern Christian music. Still, he find the idea the dozens of significant artists from every genres would certainly come with each other for a tribute present at Nashville"s Bridgestone Arena tonight , both surprising and humbling.

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“I’m a little overwhelmed through the entirety thing,” that says. “I nothing know, friend think that tributes girlfriend think that if girlfriend did have a career that lasted really, yes, really long, you’d perform it as soon as you’re 80 or 90 year old. Yet I’m very, really grateful, and also again, a little bit overwhelmed.”

The tribute show will memory his career and also highlight his 35 No. 1 hits, favor his signature track “Friends,” “Place in this World,” “This is her Time” and also so countless more.

Smith prospered up in Kenova, West Virginia and also showed indications of a gift for music at really young age. The learned come play piano together a child and also was only 5 years old once he composed his an initial song. His parents were strong Christians and early top top he started sharing his faith through his music.

“My belief is the most important thing in my life. I had actually a enormous encounter v God as soon as I to be 10 and also then i just flourished up v this gift that music.”

He studied other artists and also became one Elton john fan, especially in those beforehand years.

“I believed he wrote good songs and also played the piano and since i was a piano player, I’d love to compose pop music and talk around my faith. So, I started writing all these songs.”

Smith graduated high school, then went on come Marshall University, yet dropped out after a semester to relocate to Nashville to seek music. It verified to it is in more complicated than that thought. He started running with the not correct crowd and ended up getting involved with drugs.

“I thought I might play v fire and not obtain burned,” that says, reflecting back. “I made a lot of of poor choices and you know, i was raised in different way than that. Mine mom and dad were amazing. Castle instilled so much confidence in me and they believed in me, but I just started hanging out v the not correct people. And also if you’re hanging out v the dorn people, you’re going come make part not-so-good choices.”

He nearly died native a near drug overdose.

“I look back on it and also it’s an extremely surreal even talking around it because I don’t even know who that man was. I obtained sucked under and also I felt like I remained in a huge pit through no ladder to get out.”

He came to be depressed, had a nervous breakdown, and also credits his parental with conserving him.

“I yes, really do think the prayers that my parental rescued me. I think that. I had actually a rescue ~ above the kitchen floor in November 1979, and I haven’t to be the same since.”

Smith says among the greatest lessons he learned and one he’s tried come share v others through few of his songs is come never shed hope.

“There’s always a means out. And also the sad thing is there’s a many of world who get to a place where they don’t think there’s any hope. And also that’s a lie. Give thanks to God ns didn’t offer up. I virtually did, yet I didn’t, and also things really turned around for me. Gift at the right ar at the right time, meeting Amy Grant, composing songs, i never can have orchestrated any type of of that.”

Smith started performing with a Christian team called greater Ground, then got his first songwriting contract. Soon afterward he to be hired together a key-board player for Amy Grant. Her supervisors saw promise in Smith and also by 1983, he exit his first album dubbed The Michael W. Smith Project. That featured what would end up being his signature song “Friends.”

He continued to tour v Grant, but this time together her opened act. In the years that complied with he released much more albums and also soon some of his songs were hitting the popular music charts reaching a broader audience. That was gratifying for Smith who hoped to reach much more young people struggling with various issues.

Smith to trust music is a powerful language and also a message in a track can regularly resonate v someone who could not hear it everywhere else. But songwriting no easy.

“First and also foremost, that a gift. Even if it is you’re a poet or girlfriend write books or whatever, i’m a songwriter. And also writing a good song is very, very challenging and periodically it takes gift tenacious. You’ve gained to stay with it.”

The challenge, the says, is finding a new means to to speak something that’s already been said. And also while it deserve to be difficult, that admits there space times a song simply flows best through him.

“Honestly, many of my favourite songs the I’ve ever before written simply sort of spewed the end of me and all of a sudden, i think, I’ve acquired this. I’ll never ever forget when I wrote “Place in this World,” which was a crossover struggle on the Gospel charts and pop radio. It just came the end of nowhere.”

His inspiration comes from things walking on in his life, with his family, his community, and often native stories around people who space hurting.

“I wrote this song called “This Is your Time” around this girl from Columbine High School. She had a gun pointed at her head, was asked if she thought in God or not, and we recognize what her answer was due to the fact that she’s not through us anymore. So, I wrote a song about her courage and her faith due to the fact that that story relocated me.”

Through the years, Smith has actually received numerous letters from civilization who’ve been touched by his music. And many have written to thank him for changing or also saving your lives.

“It would blow your mind, how damaged people’s stays were and also how the one song readjusted their life. It totally changed the trajectory of where they to be going. Because that some reason what the song said at that minute of your despair, simply pulled them out of the pit, suicide or offering up or whatever. Ns can’t think of noþeles more lucrative and those are the points that save me going, there is no a doubt.”

Throughout his career, Smith has actually made ‘giving back’ a priority.

“To whom much is given, lot is required,” that says.

For the past 30 years he’s worked with Compassion International, a boy sponsorship regimen for kids in third world countries. He released Rocketown, a faith-based outreach center in downtown Nashville to sell a for sure haven because that young people. And also he worked very closely with Bono and also President George W. Shrub to fight AIDS in Africa.

“That goes back to Bono and me talking about the AIDS epidemic and saying, ‘You understand what? ns think we deserve to help.’ us talked to president Bush, that is a girlfriend of mine, and to his day ns think it’ll it is in his best legacy. There room literally tens of thousands of civilization that room on this drug we gained funded with Congress.”

Smith, who has actually a close, an individual relationship come the shrub family, to be asked to song “Friends” at the funeral of chairman George Herbert Walker shrub late last year.

As he enters his 36th year in music, Smith mirrors no indicators of slowly down. Critical year the released 2 albums, the pop inspired A Million Lights and a live worship recording called Surrounded, within a mainly of every other. And this year he’s really busy touring. He top to southern Africa in June, Europe in July, will proceed touring in the U.S. This fall, and later join Amy provide for a Christmas tour.

His creativity stretches far behind writing and also recording. Smith has actually written the score for four movies and sometimes acts. He played the duty of a pastor in last year’s film “Beautifully Broken.” He"s likewise written a number of books and also with 15 grandchildren, recently wrote his first children"s publication accompanied by one album dubbed Lullaby. And also he has a couple of other projects in the works.

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“I’ve constantly got other cooking. I’ve been composing a symphony for the past 5 years, that’s on my radar again, to view if ns can complete it. And also I desire to do one more instrumental record at part point. “

As his friends and also fellow artists gather to mark his an extensive career, Smith says he’s thankful for what he’s achieved so far, and looks forward to the future.