Michael W. Smith (born October 7, 1957, to Paul and Barbara Smith in Kenova, West Virginia), often nicknamed "Smitty", is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and keyboardist.
Since his first solo project in 1983, Smith has become one of the most popular artists in the Contemporary Christian music world, while also finding considerable success in the mainstream. Smith has frequently topped both Christian radio and Billboard charts and is often listed as one of the top keyboardists in rock and roll in Keyboard Magazine. Smith has sold more than 13 million records and has had 29 #1 hit songs. By 2005, he had garnered 14 gold records and 5 platinum records, 40 Dove Awards, an American Music Award and 3 Grammy Awards. He was also named one of People magazine's most beautiful people.
By the time Smith graduated from high school, he had found himself with serious drug and alcohol abuse problems. He attended Marshall University for a brief period while developing his songwriting skills with various local bands around Huntington, West Virginia. Smith dropped out of college and moved to Nashville to pursue a professional music career. In November of 1979, he suffered an emotional and mental breakdown that awakened a recommitment to the Christian beliefs of his childhood. He cleaned up his substance abuse problem and began playing keyboards for the CCM group, Higher Ground.
In 1981, Smith was signed as a writer to Meadowgreen Music, where he racked up a number of highly successful gospel hits penned for artists like Sandi Patty, Kathy Troccoli, Bill Gaither, and Amy Grant. The following year, Smith began touring as a keyboardist for Grant on her Age to Age tour. He would eventually become Grant's opening act and recorded his first Grammy nominated solo album: The Michael W. Smith Project (which he also produced), in 1983, on the Reunion Records label; a label started by Grant's brother-in-law, Dan Harrell, along with Michael Blanton. This album contained the first recording of his hit Friends which he co-wrote with his wife Deborah.
By the time Smith's second pop album was released in 1984, he was headlining his own tours. In 1986, Smith released the critically acclaimed rock album The Big Picture, with well known record producer Johnny Potoker (Brian Eno, Genesis, Madonna, No Doubt, Talking Heads, etc).
After the release of his 1988 effort, I 2 (EYE), Smith once again teamed up with Amy Grant for her "Lead Me On World Tour". The following year, Smith recorded his first Christmas album.