Sometimes the most meaningful art can come from life's most tumultuous storms, which Gregory Paul Smith can cite through a season of internal wrestling, outward struggle and eventual resolution. Even though the singer/songwriter found an elixir in a pen and pad (along with countless prayers) he's been moved much more by the tangible impact his honesty and vulnerability has on listeners all across America.
"In concert, I talk about how God can take situations that are unbelievably challenging, lead us to the point of brokenness and then turn it all into a very strong positive," says the Kansas bred tunesmith. "It's amazing how much people can identify with that idea and I can actually see it in their eyes as I'm performing.
No matter how difficult your experience, God can bring about a joy and peace that's unimaginable. I wouldn't have thought I could get through the trials and dark times I experienced, but He's seen me through."
While the burgeoning troubadour admits experiencing multiple emotions like doubt, despair and even a sinking self-esteem, that questioning has all been erased by the embrace of God's unconditional love on the subsequent musical outpouring I Can Live Again. However, his confidence and ear pleasing experience only came after a total surrender of the fragile situation.
"I accepted the Lord at 14, but spent a lot of time making my own decisions," he explains. "When those choices failed, I began to get very angry with God and I spiraled into a phase of inner turmoil and utter despair. But I remember very clearly falling on my knees one day at home, shouting out to God and praying for Him to take away my feelings of worthlessness. And through a period of several days, it was seriously supernatural how He began to lift me out of my misery and bring a silver lining into all of this."
Never a stranger to artistic expression with previous time spent as a Junior College All American Jazz Trombonist, a stint fronting Christian rockers the Mars Hill Band and even a period singing with the southern gospel quartet Calvary Echoes, Smith returned to the outlet he knew best. After restoring himself with the Lord, those musical desires came back at full force and he began exploring various production options. After sending out some demo packages with his long time friend, business partner and executive producer Heth Bechler, the folks at the lauded Creative Soul came calling and a trip to Nashville to meet with one of the label's top behind the boards talents was right around the corner.
The main portion of Smith's pilgrimage to Music City revolved around setting up shop in the studio with producer Eric Copeland (Kristyn Leigh, Brett Rush, Tom Dolan) along with a cast of A-list session players. His band included bass player Matt Pierson (Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith), drummer John Hammond (Russ Taff), guitarist Tom Hemby (The Imperials) and highly sought after keyboardist Jason Webb.
"For about the first ten minutes, it was a little intimidating, but once the process got going, it became very comfortable," Smith uncovers. "We were all on the same page in so many instances and everyone was such a pro with the best attitudes you could imagine."
The fruitful sessions were influenced by a wide swath of influences, from old school contemporary Christian favorites The Imperials and Steve Green, to the current class' Jeremy Camp and Casting Crowns, plus perennial favorites like Steven Curtis Chapman, Eagles, Bryan Adams and the David Crowder Band.
As for the message, the title cut is replete with the aforementioned concepts, citing Smith's own ordeals, along with David's redemptive path throughout the Psalms. "Broken" contains equally weighty subject matter, but adapts a fairly light hearted, breezy demeanor as it speaks of complete concession. Additional mending comes through an uplifting cover of the classic praise reflection "Solid Rock," which again cements the idea of relinquishing control from life's stresses and laying them on an altar of spiritual abundance. There's also been significant response from "Beyond Tomorrow," a track about living each moment to the fullest without fretting about the next.
"Everybody has their own problems that they can reference and apply to this song," Smith cites of the latter. "With me, it got to the point where I couldn't continue on my own and I began to experience what Christ has to offer. In doing so, I quit worrying about what I can't control. Instead of living one day or even one hour at a time, I literally live out every moment at a time as I try my best to serve Him."
With that in mind, Smith isn't all that concerned with laying out a master plan or charting a strategic course of promotion action for I Can Live Again. Even with touring as an inevitable choice that will continue into the new year at a feverish pace, the troubadour makes it clear he's not interested in amassing recognition, but rather making a personal connection with everyone he encounters along the way.
"I have a real heart to present where I've been and all that God is currently doing in me, but also to listen to people's problems and be a listener long after the concert is over," he adds. "It doesn't matter if it's a coffee shop, youth rally, pastor's conference or just any old show. I want to meet people where they're at and serve their needs in any way that I can."