I recently had the honor of speaking with Reggie Smith, of the Gaither Vocal Band; and our conversation was so powerful, I’m still not over it! His words excited, challenged, and encouraged my heart, as I know they will for each and every reader. We talked precious moments of life, the new music, comparison culture, comfort zones, The Lion King, and an incredible first year with the Vocal Band.
Rachel Lynn: Reggie, you just recently completed your first year with the Gaither Vocal Band. Tell me about the experience you’ve had this last year!
Reggie Smith: You know what, we have had such a great time. I’m telling you, it’s been so fun and exhilarating—and a great, great group of men. We’re brothers, you know? We truly are. And, I think Mr. Gaither’s got his ball team. He’s our coach! We all love to watch a lot of ESPN and basketball and stuff, so we just see this as all of us playing ball together. And just having a great blast, great time—the most fun! And everybody’s got each other’s backs. But it has been a fast and furious year.
Of course, making our record together was also a special experience. We Have This Moment is the title of it. And when we sing that title song each night, it’s really one of the most powerful moments of the night. Bill does it solo, we’re just backing him up—but it is just so impactful.
RL: Do you have a favorite song that you get to sing with the GVB?
RS: We all love, “Hallelujah Band.” It’s fun, upbeat, and our band is just unbelievable. We do it every night, about the third or fourth song in, and it’s just a great moment. As I mentioned, “We Have This Moment,” toward the end of the concert is also one of our favorites. We would all say that.
Another one, is one that I did on the CD called, “Hymn Of Praise.” It’s an Old English hymn from the 1800’s, that Gloria Gaither rewrote the lyric to. It’s just phenomenal. It’s just—it’s a prayer. And it’s such a sweet moment. And we have so much fun singing it.
RL: I think for just about every kid growing up in gospel music, the two pinnacle dreams were either: 1) “I’m going to be the next member of the Gaither Vocal Band,” or 2) “I’m going to have a successful career singing with a wonderful spouse.” And, somehow, you have managed both. Tell me about the incredible journey of getting to sing with your wife, in addition to the GVB.
RS: That’s TRUE! I hadn’t thought about that! You know, Ladye Love is such a gifted communicator. She really is. Obviously this year, the Gaither Vocal Band has taken over our schedule, but Ladye Love and I still go out and do certain things. And it has become so sweet now, when we do get to go out and do the dates that we have together. I love singing with her. She’s just—she’s really good! I put on my twitter, “I get to sing with the greatest female singer on the planet.”
She said, “Get that off there!” But, that’s how I feel!
Managing being on the road, being husband and wife, managing your relationship, working (it’s very intense on the work), and then being a daddy to our sixteen-year-old; it’s a lot to juggle. You try to do it well, without damaging your child or your relationship, so our prayer is just, “Lord, we know we are not gifted enough to take care of ourselves… We need you to totally take care of us!”
But it’s been great, and we have been very blessed. It took us the entire year, but we have finally gotten into the rhythm [of the intense schedule], and it is good. We are having a great time together.
RL: Is it true that both yours and Ladye Love’s vocals are on The Lion King Soundtrack?
RS: Yes, it is. Years ago, I was living in Orlando, and there were six of us that sang in a small group, and we sang all the Disney things. And at that time, most of the vocal recording for Disney—Disneyland, Disney World, Disney Paris, etc—we were doing work on the music for all these places. It was an incredible opportunity. Just, cool stuff. (singing) “Hakuna Matata!”
RL: You both are such versatile vocalists, successfully spanning several different genres over your career. Were there times that you had to be pushed out of your comfort zone?
RS: As session singers, we learned to wear so many different hats. Because, every day is a different day. You’re not always singing on a Southern Gospel record. One day it might be a country record, the next day it might be TobyMac. So, when it comes to that, of course there are times you might feel a little less comfortable than others, but, for the most part, we love that challenge. And, getting to sing with these legends—Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Porter Wagner, and all then on to great R&B singers—it’s, it’s quite versatile. I love it all.
RL: What advice would you give to people, especially vocalists, who tend to limit themselves, or put their growth in a box?
RS: So, obviously, we, especially as gospel singers, have this saying of, “try to stay within your anointing,” (laughing). Staying a bit closer to what we might be a bit better at. But, I do think everybody should try to always grow, because I think that makes it a bit better for everybody, and yourself too.
I wrote a song a while back, called, “I’m Not There Yet,” and it’s about the whole journey through this life. I found Christ at an early age, and I’m so thankful for that, but at the same time, life still happens. And I have an ongoing relationship with the Lord, as I do my wife, and my kid, and my friends. And we have to work on those relationships. So, when we find Christ, it’s not over. We’re all on a journey, just making our way home, you know? So you want to push, and grow along the way. Mr. Gaither has done it as well as anybody. Push those boundaries; keep the respect for everybody; tell the Truth; and keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing.
RL: Something we are seeing so frequently, especially in young people, is this sort of comparison-culture, where we look at someone who we think is more ‘known’ than we are, or maybe even a best friend, and we look at them and think, “I’ll never be them, so I’m not even going to try to go into [this] field, or pursue [this] calling or opportunity, because I’ll never be [this] person.”
You had to completely guard yourself from the temptations of that mindset, stepping into this position with the Vocal Band, which was previously filled by many iconic vocalists over the years. How do you stay locked in to your specific calling? What do you speak into the lives of people who might be plagued by those thoughts?
RS: That’s a great question, girl. In taking the Gaither Vocal Band job, I was obviously following one of the greatest singers this genre’s ever known (David Phelps)—I mean just a powerhouse… When I took this job, Mr. Gaither talked to me; and basically, I said, “Five of me can’t do what that one guy can do. Five of me can’t do that. But, if you want to do something different, I can do that. And I can be me… I can do me.”
And he said, “That’s what we’re gonna do.”
We can’t be somebody else. We can’t follow-up somebody else. We can’t do what’s already been done. But what we can do, is do something different. To say stepping into this job was easy, would be a lie. Was it stressful? Of course! But I guess I’m just old enough now to know that I just have to be me, and do what I do. And if that works, then that’s great; and if it doesn’t, then, hey, we just have to do what we do. Take, Johnny Cash, for example. He’s not known to be the greatest technical ‘singer’ in the world, but yet, maybe one of the greatest communicators ever to live. And guess what? He is a singer. He’s considered a singer. Sold almost more records than anybody on the planet. He was himself. He told his story.
I was always taught as young man, in football: there’s more than one way to get to that goal line. It might be a hand-off with the middle this time. Or it might be a pass out in flat, or it might be just flat-out throwing a bum up. Or it might be a trick play. But there is more than one way—not just one.
So with comparison, what I would say to someone out there who’s striving, saying, “I can’t do that, I can’t be [so-and-so]…” I would say, you’re right. You can’t be so-and-so. Because you’re not them. But you can be you. And you can bring your energy, and your heart, and your style. And you know what? That’s good enough.
RL: What is something that God has sown into you throughout all of these experiences over the last year?
RS: Pay attention. Listen. Listen more. Listen as a daddy, more. Listen as a husband more. Listen as a human being, a friend. Listen professionally.
Mr. Gaither is our coach. And this is not his first rodeo. And we know that these are precious moments for us, to be on that bus with him. We do not take it lightly. These are incredible, honored moments.
And, I just want to take a moment to encourage young artists, or young Christians, or just people who are searching—searching to better their lives, searching for Christ, searching for hope—just to be brave, and just step forward. Step into it. Step into Life. I know it’s scary, I know it’s easy to stay in the safe-zone, but just step into it. Lean into Christ, and He told us that He would never leave us or forsake us. He promised that, in Scripture! And if He promised it, then we can trust it. Ladye Love and I have had to learn to trust the unknown. And that means having the faith that the Lord will take care of the situation, and He will never leave us nor forsake us. So step into Life. Trust. And lean in to the moments.
RL: As you look toward the years, seasons, and moments to come, what is your prayer over them?
RS: First and foremost, I ask for protection for my family and friends. Truly, that is such a priority for me, and I think that’s what we all do. “Lord, protect our children, and our spouses, and our moms and dads, and our friends.”
And then secondly, “Lord, use us how you want to use us. Use the gifts, in the large and the small,”
“Be with our health, that we may be able to fulfill the opportunities you would have us to lean into; even though it might not be so comfortable for us, but we will lean into them, because health is still good, and we have the moments. These are the moments. God, help us to lean into these moments that we have, because we know we won’t always have these moments and these opportunities. Lord, help us to make the best of the moments we have now, and ahead of us. In every step, large and small, help us to be prepared, and do our part. Help us know that we’re leaning into the unknown, and you’ll take care of us.”