Michael W. Smith (born October 7, 1957) is a Grammy Award-winning American singer-songwriter, musician, recording artist, composer, and actor. He is one of the best-selling and most influential artists in Contemporary Christian Music, and he has achieved considerable success in the mainstream music industry as well. Smith is a three-time Grammy Award winner, and he has earned 34 Dove Awards. Over the course of his 24-year career, he has sold more than 13 million albums and he has recorded 29 number-one hit songs, fourteen gold albums, and five platinum albums. Smith is an American Music Award recipient; he was also named one of People magazine's "Most Beautiful People".
Michael Whitaker Smith was born to Paul and Barbara Smith in Kenova, West Virginia. His father was an oil refinery worker and his mother was a caterer. He inherited his love of baseball from his father, who had played in the minor leagues. As a child, he developed a love of music through his church. He learned piano at an early age and sang in his church choir. At the age of 10, he had "an intense spiritual experience" that led to his becoming a devout Christian. "I wore this big cross around my neck," he would recall, "It was very real to me." He became involved in Bible study and found a group of older friends who shared his religious faith.
After his older Christian friends moved away to college, Smith began to struggle with feelings of loneliness and alienation. After graduating from high school, he gravitated toward alcohol and drugs. He attended Marshall University for a few semesters while developing his songwriting skills. He also played with various local bands around Huntington, West Virginia. During that time, his friend Shane Keister, who worked as a session musician in Nashville, encouraged him to move to the Country Music capital and pursue a career in music.