Michael W. Smith Brings the Spirit to “CMA Country Christmas”

Michael W. Smith Brings the Spirit to “CMA Country Christmas”
Michael W. Smith  Photo: Robby Klein

Michael W. Smith
Photo credit: Robby Klein

Christian music superstar Michael W. Smith has a strong association with Christmas. After all, he’s recorded three top-selling holiday albums: Christmas (1989), Christmastime (1998) and It’s a Wonderful Christmas (2007). He has performed Christmas concerts at the White House and undertaken holiday-season tours.

This year, Smith adds another Yuletide tradition to his résumé as a performer on “CMA Country Christmas,” which broadcasts Dec. 2 on the ABC Television Network.

“I’m very, very excited to be a part of this,” said Smith, a longtime Nashville resident who has three Grammys, 38 Dove Awards, one Double Platinum, five Platinum and 14 Gold albums to his credit. “I love it when there’s an opportunity to cut across genres. That’s what I’ve always liked about ‘CMT Crossroads.’”

Smith dueted with “CMA Country Christmas” host Jennifer Nettles on “Christmas Day,” a song he recorded previously with “American Idol” alum Mandisa. “I was so up for doing whatever Jennifer wanted to do, but I threw out the ‘Christmas Day’ idea,” Smith said. “I was willing to just jump in and be a part of whatever Jennifer wanted to do, but the producers heard the song and she heard the song, and they came back and said, ‘Hey, we think it’s a great idea! Let’s do it!’

The seeds for Smith’s “CMA Country Christmas” appearance were sown when he and his wife Debbie ran into Robert Deaton, Producer of “CMA Country Christmas” as well as “The CMA Awards” and “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” specials, at a fundraiser for the Studio Tenn Theatre Company. Later, recalled Greg Ham at the MWS Group, which manages Smith, “Robert called me and said, ‘What do you think about Smitty being on ‘CMA Country Christmas’ and doing a duet with Jennifer Nettles?’ I said, ‘Man, I love that!’ Robert said, ‘We were just talking the other night and I thought, “Smith is Christmas! Those are some of my favorite Christmas records that he’s done,”’ and he said it made sense because the audiences are similar.”

That similarity appealed strongly to Ham, in terms of raising awareness of “CMA Country Special” among Christian music followers. “We’re in the middle of four or five efforts right now,” he said. “We’re going to do our best to drive viewers to the show on ABC. We’re hitting databases as far as email campaigns across several artists’ platforms; we’re getting in where our stuff would normally transact or communicate in the Christian community.”

But for Smith, the differences also are intriguing, particularly in his duet Nettles. “It’s different to have two people singing together who are from two completely different styles of music,” he admitted. “That’s interesting to me. Hopefully, everybody that watches will feel the same way.”