Grammy winner Michael W. Smith discusses the importance of mentorship and leaving a legacy, and Mark enlists singer-songwriter Ginny Owens to share her story and sing a song. Don’t miss a single episode of Dinner Conversations – subscribe below!


TRANSCRIPT FROM THE SHOW

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Mark: How long have you known about Michael W. Smith?

Andrew: Wow, a long time. I actually grew up with Michael’s music, and I remember my brothers were huge fans. In fact, I remember one time my mother took my brothers as teenagers, I was still younger, to a Michael W. Smith concert, and my dad asked her how it was or something, and she said, “He’s got the best blue eyes.”

Mark: Is that all she got out of it?

Andrew: I think so, but you know what? Michael is a legend, not only just for his music and his songwriting but his kindness and his generosity. He has been such an influential person in my life, even more than music or songwriting, because he was my first employer. He gave me my first shot in the music business industry in Nashville years ago, and really if I think about the links that got me to you, through Michael.

Mark: Yeah, and there’s one seat left at the table, and it’s yours. Let’s join the conversation.


Andrew: Feel free to eat while on camera.

Michael: I’m finally getting to— Do y’all really eat?

Andrew: Yeah, we really do eat. This is real food. You eat.

Mark: It’s important. Dinner Conversation.

Andrew: So think about–

Michael: I’m finally getting to do this. I can’t believe it.

Mark: I’m thrilled you’re here. I love being on… You know, yours was the first cruise I’d ever been on, that wasn’t a Gaither cruise.

Michael: That was a big step for you.

Andrew: That was like secular.

Mark: First of all, I noticed there was–

Michael: We had a good time.

Mark: We had a blast. I had a blast. I hope you did. But let me just tell you, that was the first cruise I’d ever, ’cause I’d never done anything but Gaither’s ’cause I’d never had a reason to go on a cruise. And the first thing I noticed when I get on your cruise, there are young people on it.

Michael: Young people.

Mark: I couldn’t believe it.

Michael: You loved that, didn’t you?

Mark: Yes, I couldn’t believe it. And it was a wonderful time.

Michael: The young people loved you.

Mark: Yeah, I enjoyed them. Are you finding that your crowd is aging with you?

Michael: Yes, they are.

Mark: Yeah.

Andrew: How does that feel?

Michael: It’s a little surreal. You know the… I met even a bunch of them today signing this book. “I grew up on your music, and I heard “Place in this World” when I was in high school.” And now they’re married and they have kids and they’re bringing their kids to the concert. Well, it’s just kinda strange.

Mark: And when they’re full grown, and they say, “My mother nursed me to your music.” You know, that’s stunning at first, isn’t it?

Andrew: We were talking about with Rick, he said the first time he saw you when he was in college in ’83, I was born. You know, so.

Michael: Wow.

Mark: ’83 was yesterday. I graduated from college in ’80. I still remember it like it was yesterday. But you blink and you’re 60.

Michael: Right.

Andrew: When music, like I think about music, do you remember what first compelled you about music or when you were first drawn to music?

Michael: Church. Singing in church. And then discovering the Beatles.

Mark: Are you serious?

Michael: Oh my gosh, then going to Davidson’s record store in Huntington, West Virginia, which is 20 minutes away from Kenova, and getting to sing “I Saw Her Standing There.” And “Hey Jude” and “Let it Be.” And just thought, oh my gosh, this is amazing. It was that little 45 on the little record player.

Mark: What was it about that? ‘Cause my brother loved them, and I thought they couldn’t sing, and I was into Ella, I was into Frank, I was into, you know.

Andrew: Another era really?

Mark: I was way born late.

Michael: You were listening to different stuff.

Mark: Yeah, I wanted flatfooted singers, Vestle, Dottie. I mean, I liked people who could sing, and to me, the Beatles didn’t sound like they were singers, but boy now, listening to their songs, I can appreciate that part of it. But do you really think they were good singers?

Michael: I didn’t even think about it. It was the songs, it was the songs. It was the hooks, and they all were two and a half minute songs. A lot of ’em were, and you got, you were at the hook in less than 30 seconds.

Mark: Wow, I never, yeah.

Michael: Yeah, so.

Mark: That’s something–

Michael: Yeah, so and then as I grew up through the church and singing the hymns and then I discovered Maranatha and discovered “Love Song” and Phil Keaggy, and then I found out about Andraé Crouch, that changed my life, you know? And then Live at Carnegie Hall, and I had every Andraé record, so it was the Beatles, Elton John was, I still love the old Elton John records, those were great songs.

Andrew: Was that some because you were on the piano.

Michael: Piano player, yeah. He was playing piano, I was going wow. I remember getting Captain Fantastic, I think was the LP that I bought. But I had kept the Fantastic and Live at Carnegie Hall all playing sort of side by side. Yeah, so, but the discovering that first in my home town of gosh, of all places, finding this record in like a thrift store where they sold clothes and sold razors, and just the bizarre area of things, and then there was a record bin, and in that record bin was this record who had this big huge red Maranatha thing on it, and it said the Everlasting Living Jesus Music Concert.

All: The Everlasting Living Jesus–

Michael: Music Concert, and I turned it over, and I knew it was all about, these songs were about Jesus and they all had long hair and I went, and that’s what I wanna do.

Mark: Really, I don’t–

Michael: “Love Songs,” “Honey Tree.”

Mark: Oh my.

Michael: The Way was another band from the whole Jesus movement.

Mark: And Bread, no, Bread is a secular group. Wait, who was the group that said— Who was that group played— No, there was, there was. There was a group that sounded like Bread.

Michael: It was probably The Way, or a Way. I think it was The Way, you know. But it was, yeah, and I don’t think Phil–

Mark: Isn’t that interesting. We were growing up in the same timezone, right? We’re born days apart.

Michael: Listening to different things.

Mark: To totally different things.

Andrew: And compelled by different things.

Mark: And you know what got my attention? Not to get it back on me, but I was 11 and I go to Jones Hall, Houston, Texas, and the Singing Rambos came out on stage. And I was that independent Baptist kinda dead music. And they came out pulling against the rhythm in those Dottie Rambo lyrics.

Michael: Right.

Mark: That’s when I said OK, that got my attention before Jesus did really. And so–

Michael: You probably couldn’t listen to rock music. Were you not allowed to listen to pop music?

Mark: I didn’t like it.

Michael: OK, that’s the reason.

Andrew: So it wasn’t because someone said you couldn’t?

Mark: No, I wasn’t. I mean, I didn’t, I thought the guitars were too loud. Let me hear the singers.

Michael: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: Do you think now, think about you that imagery of you thumbing through these vinyls in this bizarre, that I thumb through cassettes or CDs, and came across a Michael cassette or CD, and then that was something completely influential. I mean, do you think like those, those parents coming this morning to the event about the release of the children’s book and the children’s record had the same experience you had with the Maranatha record, with your records.

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: That that influence is that long and is influencing people in the industry. There’s so many touch points in our industry where you’re the touchpoint. Why someone’s a publicist, why someone’s a songwriter. And it all comes from–

Mark: And it’s weird, isn’t it?

Michael: It is a little strange, it’s odd.

Mark: Because you don’t think, you don’t even notice it.

Michael: I don’t wake up everyday and think about it.

Mark: No, you don’t.

Michael: But then you hear it like I did today and I went, God, You, how awesome You are.

Mark: It really is something.

Michael: Yeah, and you just go, I never knew. So it’s a… It doesn’t really go to my head. To me it’s more like thank You, God. You just use these songs I wrote, and it changed their life forever.

Mark: And isn’t it kinda good that we don’t know the most of it?

Michael: It is, it is, it’s probably a good thing.

Mark: Because I just–

Andrew: Just for humility’s sake.

Mark: Yeah.

Michael: Believing your own press, and getting puffed up and all that kinda stuff. We’ve all been guilty of just going wow.

Mark: There’s nothing worse.

Michael: How many records did I sell?

Andrew: My press isn’t good enough.

Michael: Yeah, so.

Andrew: OK, think about this then, this timeline. So, Rocketown Records, we talked about this, was my first job in the industry years ago when I was in college at Belmont. April Hefner was there. April Hefner was the editor of CCM Magazine way back when. I didn’t have any writing experience, no journalism. She looked at my emails and was like, I think you could write. She hooks me up with CCM Magazine to write. We meet, Features on Film, the same series we did for CCM Magazine, then this idea of Dinner Conversations literally, we are sitting here, the three of us, in a way because of you. You’re mentoring people without even–

Mark: Which is the best way to do it.

Andrew: Yeah, we didn’t sit down to have a discussion about this, you know?


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Mark: Ginny Owens, you were discovered I hear by Michael W. Smith, is that right?

Ginny: I was. Isn’t that so crazy?

Mark: Take me back to that day. What were you doing? What was your life like? How old were you? I wanna hear that story.

Ginny: Well, I was just out of college. I had been searching for a job as a music teacher, I actually had a music ed degree and a legal teaching license, which is very surprising to many people. But I found that administrators were really kind of freaked out by the idea of hiring a visually impaired person to teach. So as I was interviewing with school staff, I also just got a normal regular day job, and my job having to be in basically telemarketing to businesses to setup meetings for nonprofits, so it was a really terrible job for an introvert. But somewhere during that time I got asked to sing in church and ended up sharing some of my songs with a local audio engineer, who passed them on to some different folks, and one of those guys was a music publisher, and he said, “I really think you have something here with some of your lyrics that you’re writing.” And so he kinda took me to some of his writers to write, and before I knew, he was just sort of sharing my music with people around town. And so I knew I had a showcase for… Well, I showcased for several labels in town. And I knew I had a showcase coming up, I think it was on a Friday. And so on a Thursday, I showed up for work that morning. At the time, I worked for Vanderbilt University, and I remember just rolling out of bed, I had been late out the night before, rolling out of bed, and it was almost time to go to work, so I didn’t wash my hair. I was like, oh man, I hope I don’t have to see anybody important today. And I go to work and my publisher friend, who was also named Michael, Michael Puryear.

Mark: Oh yeah, I know Michael.

Ginny: You know Michael Puryear? Yeah, so Michael calls, and he says, “Hey, could you go over and sing for the folks at Rocketown tonight?” He didn’t tell me who they would be. And I was like, oh sure. So after work that day, he picked me up, and we go out to Franklin, and at the time, Rocketown was in a little house, just in downtown, in the heart of downtown Franklin, and so I go in the room and sit at the piano to sing. I meet Don Donahue, who is the president, and all of a sudden this guy walks in, and he’s like, “Hello, I’m Michael Smith.” And I was like, how did you not tell me he was gonna be here today? So I was just, I was so in awe. I didn’t even really have time to be nervous, and Michael Puryear told me later, he said, “I didn’t want you to know ’cause I didn’t want you to be nervous.” So Michael had heard several of my songs, and he asked me to play those for him. And I think I may have even told him that night that I didn’t wash my hair, maybe it was a few days later. I said, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know I was gonna meet you today.”

Mark: Oh, that’s great.

Ginny: It was amazing.

Mark: And then from there what happened?

Ginny: Well, I ended up signing with Michael’s label, Rocketown Records just a few months later, and we ended up making the first album, and then Michael and he would take me and Chris Rice and several other artists out on the road with him, and so you know, a lot of my first traveling experiences were flying in a jet to a show with Michael. Not always a jet, but that was definitely… I had a fear of flying, but that was the most comfortable way of flying for sure–

Mark: A private jet.

Ginny: Yeah, yeah, that’ll work.

Mark: I wonder if his is bigger than Gaither’s.

Ginny: I don’t know that he has one anymore.

Mark: Gaither has the pinto of jets.

Ginny: Oh yeah, I bet Gaither’s is bigger, I’m pretty sure.

Mark: Now, so how has he mentored you? He’s been a strong mentor to you? 

Ginny: You know, he really was, especially in that season, but just throughout the years, Michael has just always spoken wisdom, and I remember very distinctly a time, not longer after that first meeting after I was signed, when he and I went out for lunch. In fact, we went out for lunch several times, and he would just tell me stories of where he’d been and what he had been through. And then one of the really cool things that we did at Rocketown is we would sit, especially at our live shows, we would sit and play on each others music, so we would all be out. Instead of a concert where someone comes out first and then the next person, we’d all be out there on stage together with instruments.

Mark: I love that.

Ginny: And we did some of that with Michael as well, so to learn from him in that setting where he’s playing his songs but also playing on ours and just sharing his heart with us, it was really wonderful to share in that way. And just ever since, any time I see him, we always have a real conversation about life and what’s going on, and he absolutely just has a heart for sharing with the next generation all that he’s learned. He’s a very, very wise man.

Mark: So have you been able to mentor others? And how’s that going?

Ginny: I have. You know, Michael really led by example in that for me, but I’ve taught at Belmont University.

Mark: Oh yes.

Ginny: As an adjunct professor in the songwriting department. But I also do a lot of songwriting coaching, and teaching, and mentoring, and you just, even around the country, as a I travel and I work with different younger worship leaders and folks who are sort of getting their feet under them as writers, and I really love just getting to pour into them, getting to encourage them and be a safe space for them ’cause I was so thankful for all of the wonderful folks like Michael who did that for me in the beginning. And the folks that I can still go to. Man, I still need mentorship, so it’s wonderful to be able to get that from others, to receive that from others, and then to give it as well.

Mark: Have you discovered some great writers out there?

Ginny: Oh, I have, oh my goodness. At Belmont, I’ve just, I was in awe of the talent–

Mark: Really?

Ginny: Of our kids, yeah. We had a pretty heavy, pretty strict audition process in place in the songwriting department, so the kids that got in were just phenomenal.

Mark: Wonderful.

Ginny: Phenomenal writers, so yeah, it’s been really fun to see them go ahead or go on to get incredible deals and write songs and, you know, become famous, yeah.

Mark: So you’re gonna sing us a song, I’m so excited to get to hear you sing in person, and it’s a Michael W. Smith song, which song is it?

Ginny: It is. It’s a song called “Friends.” Ever heard of that one?

Mark: Oh yeah, the classic.

Ginny: The classic. I mean, I feel like this song is so timeless. I don’t think I’ve… I feel like I’ve never not known this song. Although I know there was a time in my life when it didn’t exist, but it’s just, it’s an amazing song, and so I’m honored to get to, you know, kind of do my own version now.

Ginny Owens and Andrew Greer singing “Friends”

Packing up the dreams God planted

In the fertile soil of you

I can’t believe the hope He’s granted

Means a chapter in your life is through

But we’ll keep you close as always

It won’t even seem you’ve gone

‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways

Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever

If the Lord’s the Lord of them

And a friend will not say never

‘Cause the welcome will not end

Though it’s hard to let you go

In the Father’s hands we know

That a lifetime’s not too long

To live as friends

And with the faith and love God’s given

Springing from the hope we know

Oh we will pray the joy that you live in

Is a strength that now you show

And we’ll keep you close as always

And it won’t even seem you’ve gone

‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways

Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever

If the Lord’s the Lord of them

And a friend will not say never

‘Cause the welcome will not end

Though it’s hard to let you go

In the Father’s hands we know

That a lifetime’s not too long

To live as friends

No a lifetime’s not too long

To live as friends


Mark: I love that we can get on Facebook or a podcast or record, all of these are just tools, reach the world, and it’s really getting to where we almost don’t have to leave the house. Which is good for us as we’re getting older, ’cause really if it’s about reaching people, rather than touring and you know, when you get to the place when you finally have enough money, Michael— You know, seriously, that’s what I’m thinking of at 60. Are you thinking like that at all? Or are you thinking, I mean, you look good for 60, I will say that, and you probably are technically a 40-year-old physically probably ’cause, you know, all the… But I mean, you think about it, you’ve got 20 years left maybe, or 30. I think about this, and not in a bad way. I’m looking forward to the next chapter. I’m looking forward to dying. It’s the only thing I really haven’t done. I’m really looking forward to all these futuristic things that are gonna happen, but how do you prepare for it, or do you? I mean, do you ever even think about it?

Michael: Well, I think you have to think about it on some level in terms of you gotta make sure your wife’s taken care of, the kids are taken care of, that sort of estate kind of stuff. Man, I think my best work is yet to come.

Mark: Yeah.

Michael: And so, maybe I would feel different if they weren’t buying the music anymore, if nobody was coming to the shows.

Andrew: Yeah, and it sounds like you don’t really wanna be at home just on Facebook, you really like being out.

Michael: I like playing live. I like meeting people.

Andrew: Yeah.

Michael: And I feel called, that’s the big thing. It’s more than a job, it’s a calling. And, I just sense in my spirit, especially on this new tour, this Surrounded by a Million Lights World Tour, I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of anything more exciting in my life. I’ve been doing this for 36 years.

Mark: How is this different?

Michael: I feel like the wind is at my back more than ever. And not in popularity kind of thing, more of the songs and the authority, and I say that, I hold that really loosely, and watching God just do things through me to people every night and watching people discover the Father heart of God and who Jesus really is, you know? So they asked me in the Q&A the other day, going if you have one thing to do, if you could just have one, if you had one wish, from now on in the future, just one thing to do, what would it be? And I said, I would love to have the whole world’s attention for 60 seconds, and tell ’em who the real Jesus is.

Mark: Who is the real Jesus?

Michael: ‘Cause I think He’s been misrepresented.

Mark: Yeah, I do too.

Michael: On so many levels.

Mark: Tell me, tell me like how?

Michael: He’s a good Father.

Mark: Yes, He is. OK, and what else?

Michael: Oh gosh, I could go on and on and on. You know, I talk about my dad every night in concert, you know, because I tell everybody that my dad showed me a lot, I feel like, of what God was like. My dad had his faults, I never saw him mess up, but he was for me. He was for me. He was my baseball coach, and then music, then he’s my PR agent, telling everybody how great I am all the time. I’m going, dad, stop that. He said, “Why not? You’re the best.” He said that my whole life. And so you’re having somebody just edify you and edify you. I think God’s like that.

Mark: And don’t you think that helps you see God like that?

Michael: It does, and it makes me not worry. And it makes me not fret. I don’t sit around and just, ’cause I know who I am. I wake up everyday. But you’ve got people in the church, probably people that have been hurt, who struggle with grace, they still struggle. You talk about Father, like I know every night when I talk about my dad, I know there’s people out there who didn’t have good dads.

Mark: Right, right.

Michael: That didn’t have a good mom, and so you just say, you know what, God will Father you. God can mother you. My mom was abandoned when she was eight-years-old by my real grandmother. She told ’em to get out of the car when she was eight and her younger sisters, Dee and Pat, six and five, and Bill, four, and my real grandma drove off and never came back.

Mark: No way.

Michael: Never, just awful.

Mark: Never saw her?

Michael: She saw her one other time at Pat’s funeral.

Mark: Wow.

Michael: My mom just somehow turned a corner when she was a teenager, she just, I think she had a real encounter with Jesus and she thought, if I have a family one day, I’m not ever gonna let that happen to my kids. My mom’s the bomb. She’s just so amazing. So she turned the corner. She found a way out of being a victim all your life.

Mark: She broke the curse.

Michael: She broke the curse, broke the generational thing.

Andrew: I’ve heard it said like, you can’t truly extend grace until we’ve learned to receive it.

Michael: I agree.

Andrew: Is that not maybe our cultural dilemma today is–

Michael: Yes.

Andrew: We haven’t learned to receive it from others? Or maybe some people have never been extended it.

Michael: True.

Andrew: I don’t know. I mean, so how do you come, you talk about how Jesus has been so misrepresented, how through music, how do you feel like you’re given the opportunity to represent better? Yes, He’s a good Father, and to say that, but do you feel like music gives you an avenue to express some of the true characteristics of who Jesus is?

Michael: I do as a recording artist, to be able to sing for people I’ll never meet, you know? I try to sing about truth and try to sing about, I talk about the love of God in a lot of my songs. My last song on a Million Lights is called “Who You Are.” It’s all inspired by all these kids committing suicide and the bullying going on and just this real direct thing, hey, this is who you are. You think you don’t have a shot, you don’t think you have a place in this world, no pun intended, no face in this world. But this is who you are, this is who God’s called you to be, there’s a, you are destined for greatness. So I’ll talk about those things. On a personal level with people, that’s killing with kindness.

Mark: Yeah.

Michael: Just be kind to people.

Mark: Yeah, be nice.

Michael: Be nice, they go, what’s up with that guy?

Mark: I think having a father like yours and my parents, unconditional love was easy for me to understand ’cause I knew I couldn’t bring home one note too many. You know?

Michael: I love that.

Mark: I could not, there weren’t enough, they couldn’t cut down enough trees to make enough paper to write enough notes to make my mother quit loving me, and I knew that, it never crossed my mind. So I think because of that, I can rest, I can believe God likes me. First of all, He said so.

Michael: Right.

Mark: Second of all, how rude of me not to agree with Him. But I think that’s the same for you, but what do you say to someone who’s watching who didn’t get that? Well, you just said it, didn’t you? You said just believe it, right? He will Father you, He will mother you, whatever you need.

Michael: Yeah, I tell everybody every night going, you know what, if you don’t have faith, I’ve got enough faith for you. You know the whole, I love the story about the–

Mark: The guy through the roof.

Andrew: Yeah.

Michael: It wasn’t the faith of that guy. Yeah, oh yeah, it was the faith of his friends.

Mark: Interesting.

Andrew: I keep going back to like mentorship, but that’s kinda like the ultimate mentorship, isn’t it? To have faith for someone.

Mark: I love that. I’ve never thought of that before. That’s real good. But eventually, I love you, I have enough for you. I tell people, just choose to believe it, you know? I think that may be kinda the same thing. Have you found people, have you ever had anybody come up and say, “OK, I’ll take you up on that.”

Michael: Yeah.

Mark: Really, isn’t that cool?


Available now! Season One of Dinner Conversations on DVD

Mark: To learn more about Dinner Conversations, visit dinner-conversations.com.

Andrew: And while you’re there, check out our Season One DVD with all of our past episodes and some bonus stuff, as well as check out these cool show mugs.

Mark: Yeah, so when we have our next conversation, you can have coffee with us. Let’s get back to the conversation.


Andrew: Talk about G-Daddy.

Mark: Oh yeah.

Michael: Great.

Andrew: So that’s what your grandkids call you?

Michael: Yeah.

Mark: How did that start? How did you get that name?

Michael: I got G-Daddy, there’s something hot in that thing.

Andrew: Yeah, we put some jalapeños.

Mark: Do you not like peppers?

Michael: I love it, man, some jalapeños.

Mark: You like it?

Andrew: Sorry, I meant to tell you.

Mark: Isn’t it good?

Michael: It’s good.

Mark: This is all organic. This is all orgasmic. I mean, organic.

Michael: The G-Daddy thing happened when Ryan was a little over a year old, trying to call my dad granddaddy ’cause it was gonna be granddaddy. And he couldn’t say granddaddy, and he kept saying G-Daddy. G-Daddy, and I went, that’s what I wanna be called one day, when all my kids, if we have, that’s what I wanna be called. And so, I didn’t know if it’d stick. I mean, it’s kind of–

Mark: Sure, I like it.

Michael: I didn’t wanna be grandpa.

Andrew: Right, yeah.

Michael: I wanted to be something–

Mark: G-Daddy.

Michael: Exactly

Mark: Yeah, ’cause it’s something that might break into a rap.

Andrew: So what is grandfathering like? Or G-daddying like?

Michael: It’s awesome, it’s awesome. When they come over, I call it the beautiful chaos. It’s just–

Mark: How many are there?

Michael: 14.

Andrew: Can you believe that?

Michael: And you know, like we’ve had ’em all over like the last, on and off, but for the most part the last 10 days. We’ve had a house full of kids ‘cause the ones that are out of town came in, there’s birthdays, and they’re all staying at our house. We’re the hotel.

Andrew: Right.

Michael: And it’s been fun, but wow, man, it’s like, I’m ready to get on the bus tonight.

Mark: Are you?

Michael: It’s like the four day line, just get some sleep, you know? And it’s great though, but you know, you go to bed, and you go, oh my gosh, what just happened?

Mark: You love to see ’em come and you love to see ’em go.

Michael: But it’s fun, but I skew more just loving every minute of it.

Mark: OK, which one you like the most?

Andrew: There’s only 14. So how’s that different? So how has for you grandparenting been different than parenting?

Mark: You can give ’em back.

Michael: Yeah, you can give ’em back. You can get to have all the fun–

Andrew: Is it simpler?

Michael: It is definitely.

Mark: ‘Cause you’re not really responsible, right? I mean.

Michael: No, but you know what, I would say, I don’t wanna compare myself to other grandparents. I will say this, we are very hands on in a good way. That’s not offensive to the kids. I mean, we’re just, I’m on the floor rolling around like a crazy kid, you know? And Deb’s like, she’s, you know, she’s babysitting, feeding the one in the highchair, and I’m outside throwing the ball or playing corn hole.

Mark: It takes a village, doesn’t it?

Michael: Yeah, and so we’re just, we’re all doing stuff when we’re together, which is great.

Mark: What memories.

Andrew: I mean there’s a lot of grandparents who are like, we had our day.

Michael: Yeah.

Mark: Well, starting early helps, don’t you think? I mean, aren’t you glad you had your kids when you were–

Michael: Yeah, yeah.

Mark: I mean, if you were 80 with a three-year-old grandkid.

Michael: That might be a little different.

Mark: Well, let’s talk about this.

Michael: Yeah.

Mark: This is a CD and a book. You have gone to writing children’s books.

Andrew: This is the first of a series, right?

Michael: Yes.

Mark: And it’s the first in the series. Now I’m sure grandkids brought this on, right?

Michael: Mainly grandkids. I thought about it when we had kids, but you’re in the middle of a, sort of a crazy career, and you know you’re gonna, I knew I was gonna do it one day, I just knew it. And then we kept talking about it, kept talking about it, and then I ended up going into the studio and writing a lullaby song, and I thought that’s never going on a pop record, that’s a lullaby song. That is a song that’s gonna put that kid to sleep, I just knew it. And then it’s sleep tight, you gonna sleep tight. And so then that’s when I went to my team and I said, you know, I think this is the right time. So we, it’s a long story, but assembling the team, and–

Mark: Have you tried it out on kids yet?

Michael: Oh, my grandkids love it. Now, hey, I’m G-Daddy, but I think they like–

Mark: What age group would love this?

Andrew: You did it just this morning for 600 kids, right?

Michael: You know what, everybody thinks it’s like, you know, six months to two-years-old. My four, five, six-year-old grandkids, even seven-year-old grandkids, love this.

Andrew: ‘Cause you have characters in it and there’s–

Michael: There’s characters in it and so–

Mark: And there’s a lot of songs on here. How many?

Andrew: Good bang for your buck.

Michael: There’s 20 cuts, but a lot of that’s dialogue, and my granddaughter, Harper, who just turned five, she was four when she did it, she is the character. So we’re trying to get, which her character’s Anna, which is the name of one of my girls, we’re trying to get Anna to sleep. And I’ve been reading her a book, and I said, “Well, I thought you were asleep.” And she says, “No.” She said, “I need the nighty night.” I went, “The nighty nights?” “You know, just turn on my night light.” And then all of a sudden all these sound effects you know, and all the sudden, and I’m going, what’s happening? And all of a sudden these characters, Eddie Bear, Sandy Lamby and Sleepy Puppy, come to life and start singing, We are the nighty nights.

Mark: Oh wow.

Michael: This crazy song. And then it’s just the wild–

Mark: And that’s what’s on here.

Michael: That’s the Lullaby Record.

Mark: OK, I wanna hear this.

Michael: And then the book was, thank God for Veggie Tales, and thank God for Mike Nawrocki. Mike was Larry the Cucumber. Mike really came up with these adorable characters and–

Mark: So did he draw all of this?

Michael: No, but he came up with much of the story for the book.

Mark: Oh okay.

Michael: So he’s just so talented and the person who obviously did the drawings, it’s all kinds of stuff that I don’t like to think about making pop records, but you have to think about what’s the colors? How soft are they? Can’t be too bold–

Andrew: Putting kids to sleep, right?

Mark: Oh, that’s right.

Michael: And then they get the kid to sleep, and so it’s just really been a good education for me to kinda understand that world.

Andrew: So it’s like continuing evolving. I mean, why is this important out of all of your projects that go on and that you’ve done, why now is this important?

Michael: I think I’m pouring into the next generation, you know? I think there’s something about bedtime, and I’ve known this from reading books to my kids and now reading books to the grandkids, something sacred about that final moment before they doze off, that you’re depositing something into them.

Mark: Absolutely.

Michael: That’s pure and beautiful, and Godly.


Michael W. Smith playing “Sleep Tight”

Michael: This is “Sleep Tight” from the Lullaby record.

Andrew: Do you have a little of the “Agnus Dei” just instrumental with you?

Michael: Close encounters.

Andrew: Kids, go to sleep.


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Mark: What is the theme of this, just get to sleep?

Michael: The whole thing, exactly. Who doesn’t want to get their kids to sleep?

Mark: Oh, I agree, I agree. But I just, each one have a theme?

Michael: Yeah.

Mark: Each one have a theme?

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: Is it teaching the kids something through it?

Michael: Yes, yeah, and then the third one, we might be, I’m sure we’ll do a Christmas one at some point.

Mark: Sure, yeah, will you do “Mary Did You Know?”

Michael: Yes, yes, that’s already on the set list.

Mark: Please, gosh, if I could just get you–

Michael: Has it not already been cut enough?

Mark: I know, I know. When you only got one, you gotta get everybody to get it. You got so many songs, well I get.

Michael: OK, we’re gonna put it on the list.

Mark: OK, so–

Andrew: Yeah, Sandy Lamb, Sandy Lamb.

Michael: And see what makes the cut.

Mark: You’ve done children’s books, you’ve done pop records. I bet you didn’t, did you see that coming? I mean, weren’t you doing Christian records and the pop thing happened, or what happened? Or were you going for the pop thing?

Michael: You know, I just wanted to make pop music and sing about Jesus, sing about my faith. “Place in This World” sort of happened, you know, somebody at Geffen Records, when Reunion Records was parting with Geffen Records, and I remember writing, when I wrote “Place in This World,” when I even wrote the music, I remember just thinking, I think this is a hit song. And I don’t say that like very often ’cause it sounds like it’s egotistical. I just felt like ’cause there was something special about the melody, and then when Wayne and Amy, Wayne Kirkpatrick and Amy, I brought them in to write the lyric, and it was inspired by–

Andrew: Amy who?

Michael: Amy Grant. And it was inspired by all these letters I got from kids just going, I just wanna take my own life, I just don’t, I don’t have anything to live for. And I think in one of those letters a girl said, “I’m just trying to find my place in this world.”

Andrew: Wow.

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: And that’s where the song came from.

Michael: So then when we played the record for Geffen, just like hey, just wanted ’em to know about the record, and then, it’s Claire Parr now who’s working for me, and she was the radio promotions girl at Geffen. We were at a restaurant in LA, all of the Geffen team, and we’re sitting there talking, and she looked at me. She goes, “You got a hit song in this record.” It was the Go West Young Man record. And I said, “I know.”

Mark: You did?

Michael: I can’t believe I said that. I said, “I didn’t mean to say that.” I said, “What is it?” She said, “Place in This World.” I said, “I think it is too.” I don’t know how to do all that, and she says, “I’m gonna fight for the song.” So she fought fought fought and almost lost her job.

Mark: Really?

Michael: Just because she was paying so much attention, and back then, it was trying to get the bullet. You got the bullet, you get the ad ’cause if you get the ad, you get the bump in the chart, and just–

Mark: Wow, there’s a lot of stuff to it, isn’t there?

Andrew: And then you parodied it, does that make you–

Mark: Yeah, he was in it.

Andrew: Did that substantiate it?

Michael: Yes. Then it became even bigger when Mark did it.

Mark: Oh, you know it did.


Mark Lowry singing “Face in this World”

My hairline’s moving

But I am standing still

A chin like Leno’s

Nose big as a hill

A face that’s perfect

Is always in my dreams

Hope they can fix mine

Without too many seams

That’s why I’m looking for a surgeon

Who will work overtime to find my face in this world

My face in this world

Not a lot to work with

I need his knife to help me find my face in this world, my face in this world

A million changes, I want Smitty’s kind of chin

All the girls will love my Steven Curtis Chapman grin

Give me Carman’s eyebrows, but a bit more overgrown

I’ll be a vision, a face almost my own

That’s why

I’m looking for a surgeon

Who’ll work overtime to find my face in this world

My face in this world

Not a lot to work with

Gonna need his knife to help me find

My face in this world

My face in this world

I am looking for a surgeon

Who will work overtime to find my face in this world

My face in this world

Not a lot to work with

I need his knife to help me find

My face in this world 

My face in this world

Looking for a surgeon

Who will work overtime to find my face in this world

My face in this world

Not a lot to work with

But I need his knife to help me find

My face in this world

My face in this world


Michael: That video used to scare some of my younger kids.

Mark: That video did?

Michael: Because I die in the video.

Mark: Oh, that’s right.

Michael: I get run over by a car.

Mark: Oh no, which, when your kids were little, they would just–

Michael: Go dad?  I think it was Anna.

Andrew: We don’t like Uncle Mark.

Michael: “Dad, I don’t wanna watch that video ever again.”

Mark: Oh, that’s something, that’s funny.

Andrew: I have one more question for you.

Michael: Yes.

Andrew: When we think about, you talk about your dad, and talk about him every night as a way of really mentoring others in the Gospel. You talk about your dad’s love for you. Your dad’s been gone–

Michael: Two and a half years.

Andrew: Two and a half years. Is that still a point of grief for you?

Michael: You know. I’m… I mean, I think about him every day.

Andrew: You were close.

Michael: We were really, really close. I think I’m cried out. I mean, every once in a while I’ll just have a sort of, a moment driving in the car. I think I’m cried out, but I’m not saying the tears are not over, you know? I wrote a song for my dad on the Million Lights record.

Mark: You did.

Michael: Called “Footsteps.” And it’s a fun song. It’s not a ballad. You usually write songs for your girlfriend or boyfriend or your parents, and they’re all sad, and everybody cries, and this is kind of a Smitty meets Ed Sheeran kind of a pop thing. And I sing it every night and I love it, and I said, “This is for my dad.” And they love it, it’s so fun, you know? Because the whole songs about just, as long as I can see your footsteps, I’m alright. So he kinda really showed me how to do life, the way he loved my mom, the way he loved my sister and I, the way he loved my kids and my grandkids, and his reputation was impeccable. I mean, just everybody knew my dad, and everybody loved my dad. And working in the homeless shelter and everything, so that was my dad so it’s like big shoes to fill. But he taught me how to do life, he just showed me the way. There wasn’t a whole lot of like, and give me all this instruction. It’s just he lived the life, and I watched what he did, I went, I wanna be like him.

Mark: Now did he die suddenly or?

Michael: No, he had dementia.

Mark: Oh, same as mama, yeah. So you saw him, really, he died twice.

Michael: Yeah, he still remembered, he still knew who was I, which I was really surprised, he still–

Mark: That’s good.

Michael: He still knew who I was. And yeah, he, he crossed over to the other side, I was on a plane on the way back from Tokyo.

Mark: Oh really?

Michael: Yeah, it’s a long and crazy story, but whatever, I was there to sing, and I felt like I was supposed to stay for a day, and I said goodbye to my dad on the phone, yeah. I knew that, you know, when people are dying, getting ready to sort of cross over, they kinda wait for that last relative. And I remembered looking at my dad, I was Facetiming my dad and I could just tell he was, at that point he was starting to be a bit noncoherent, but I knew he could hear me. I was going, “Dad.” I said, “Don’t, don’t wait on me.” I said, “I release you.” And I said it five times, and I’m just a mess. I’m bawling.

Mark: You’re kidding.

Michael: I said it five times, “I release you. I release you, dad. I release you. You’ve been a great dad.” And I can’t believe I’m telling this and not crying. I usually do lose it. But, and then Deb and I got on the plane, and about three hours into the flight, he crossed over. So what a life man.

Mark: How old was he?

Michael: 82, almost 83.

Andrew: He is legacy.

Michael: He would be 83 in about three weeks.

Andrew: Think about it, still through music, still every night in concert, and his legacy living through you as G-Daddy.

Michael: Yeah, yeah.

Mark: Do you ever think about what he’s doing?

Michael: I’m just trying to, well, I’m sure he went and said hi to Billy Graham.

Mark: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Michael: I think about that stuff. Of all the people that I knew that my dad actually met Billy, I introduced him, ’cause I was really close to Billy. But you know, I’d introduced my dad to Billy a couple times up at his home a long time ago, but I think all these points when you’re seeing all these things that tie together. I know, I know my dad went and said hi to Mrs. Bush. I know he did, or she went and said, I just, I believe that, maybe you don’t believe that–

Mark: I do too. You know what my dad does sometimes when he prays? Over dinner, well, I’ll hear him, he’ll say, “Lord, pull my,” — his mom — he says, “Pull mom out of the crowd and put an arm around her and tell her I love her,” and he said, “Don’t you know she’s stunned when Jesus pulls her out of the crowd.” He believes it.

Michael: That’s awesome. I love it.

Mark: Well, I think about. You know, I haven’t really grieved, my mama had dementia for three years, and I thought well when she finally went, when daddy called and said, “Your mama died,” and we weren’t expecting it. Dementia doesn’t necessarily kill you. It just, you take, so she was only three years into it when the Lord let her come home with a heart attack. But when I heard she died, it’s like someone hit me in the stomach, you know? For an initial, and I caught myself crying mainly for my dad, ’cause 62 years they were married, and–

Michael: That’s a long time.

Mark: And he adored her, but then I thought, man, she’s kicking up gold dust. I’m looking at these people, let her grieve. We’ve got it backwards. If we could really get a, if what we believe is true, and I say that ‘cause I’m a Christian agnostic, I believe a lot, but I know nothing, you know? You know, I don’t have any proof, but I believe that they’re kicking up gold dust, I believe the bible’s true and all that, on that stuff. So why should we grieve, but we do.

Andrew: I think it’s kind of us longing for what we know, what we were created for.

Michael: I think that.

Andrew: I think it is missing that space, but it’s almost in my mind like, I wish I was in your shoes. I wish I got to go.

Mark: Yeah, I think of she’s off on a road trip and she’ll be back. That’s the way I’ve, I don’t know if it’s psychologically crazy but, and I think when she comes back, she’ll be on a white horse, but she is coming back.

Andrew: I think maybe the grief is for ourselves. It’s like–

Michael: I think it is.

Andrew: They get to be with God.

Michael: I mean, it’s like–

Mark: ‘Cause it’s so final here.

Michael: It’s final here, and I don’t get to see my dad here. I miss being with my dad, you know? I’m not ever gonna talk to my dad, have a face-to-face conversation, until either he comes back or I cross over.

Mark: So you will.

Michael: It’s the new norm. And so you have to sort of like get the new norm, where it’s now I’m taking care of my mom. Making sure my mom’s okay.

Mark: How is she?

Michael: She’s doing good.

Mark: Yeah, how’s her mental?

Michael: Doing okay. She forgets a few things, but so do I.

Mark: Have you walked into a room yet and wondered why am I in here? Like I go to get something, and then I forgot why I go.

Michael: Yeah, I’ve done that.

Mark: Have you?

Michael: Yeah, yeah, it’s more just forgetting people’s names sometimes, you know?

Mark: So okay, you’ve done books, you’ve done your CDs. Is there anything left to do? Wanna go skydiving? Is there anything else?

Michael: Not gonna skydive.

Andrew: We gotta wrap.

Mark: Oh.

Michael: We gotta wrap.

Andrew: You’re gonna dream until the day you die.

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: It’s just gonna be.

Mark: What’s that mean? Oh, oh anyway— It’s that millennial thing.

Michael: Is that what it is?


Andrew: Do you need some friends to sing that with you?

Ginny: Yes, will you come sing? Will you sing Amy’s part?

But we’ll keep you close as always

It won’t e–

Ginny: Uh oh, oh no. Oh my gosh, okay, just kidding.

Andrew: Take two.

Ginny: Take two.


Mark: Okay, here we go, is that all she got out of it?

Andrew: Yeah, I think so, you know?

Mark: Is that all she got out of it?

Andrew: Yeah.

Mark: Oh, what are we punch drunk? Is that what they call it?


Mark: Well, we sure hope you’ve enjoyed this episode with Michael W. Smith.

Andrew: An old friend.

Mark: Old friend.

Andrew: Yeah, friends are friends forever.

Mark: Yep.

Andrew: You can also find his new record, Awaken, through the Amazon affiliate links in our episode description.

Mark: And if you wanna binge watch the entire Season Two of Dinner Conversations, you can do that right now on Amazon Prime.

Andrew: So thanks for watching Dinner Conversations with–

Mark: Mark Lowry.

Andrew: And Andrew Greer.

Mark: Turning the light on.

Andrew: One question at a time.

Mark: Dinner Conversations is brought to you by Food For The Hungry, a relief and development organization serving those in need around the globe for more than 40 years.

Andrew: Help our friends at Food For The Hungry save thousands of refugee lives today by considering a generous gift.

Mark: A gift that will be matched 22 times.

Andrew: It’s incredible. Visit fh.org/dinner to give now.


Join Mark and Andrew as we support our Dinner Conversations Season Two title sponsor, Food for the Hungry (FH) – a relief and development organization serving those in need around the globe for more than 40 years. 

Partner with us as we partner with FH save thousands of Rohingyan refugee lives in Bangladesh today by considering a generous gift – a gift that will be matched 22-times! And remember, every dollar enters you into the Season Two Grand Prize Giveaway, which includes dinner with Mark and Andrew in Houston, plus more surprises. 

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Watch Our Other Episodes:

S02, E01: A Change of Mind featuring Danny Gokey and Dr. Caroline Leaf
S02, E02: The Last Goodbye featuring Amy Grant
S02, E03: The Humanity of Billy & Ruth Graham featuring Will Graham and Gigi Graham
S02, E04: Life After Divorce featuring Crystal Lewis