For Southern Gospel Music's Crossway's Paul Smith, Life Is a Beautiful Thing
Crossway is one of Southern Gospel Music’s most dynamic groups with a sound that encompasses a variety of styles from the traditional to country. The group, originally a quartet,currently consists of Paul Smith, Matt McFarland and Scott Rogers.
The move from a Southern Gospel quartet to a trio also saw Crossway’s music change from a traditional quartet sound to include the more country-oriented sound found on their latest album "A Beautiful Thing". “We kind of gradually changed”, reflects Crossway’s Paul Smith. “We used to be pretty traditonal years ago. We always put a progressive edge on things but were pretty much a traditional Gospel quartet. Starting with the “This I Know” album we started with
a little bit of a country sound and it worked – people liked it. So we just went a little further with the next album and it’s going well.”
Along with the new sound, Crossway also has a new look. Gone are the suit and ties and in their place are casual shirts, jeans and longer hair. Paul Smith states emphatically that this is in no way rebellious. “We do a lot of churches and what we’ve noticed is that most churches are getting more casual, especially on Sunday nights.” Paul explains. “We had people telling us ‘Take your coats off, relax’ so we just started dressing down a little bit and it seemed like it broke down a little bit of the barrier especially among the younger folks. So we just went with it. Now Sunday morning you’ll see us dressed up unless a church has requested us not to. We dress the way we did growing up and Sunday morning was dressy.”
With this new change in sound and look Crossway is attracting a younger audience without alienating their long time fans. “We do music for the whole spectrum of ages.” Paul explains the group’s success. “We do a lot of churches and in church you’ve got 2 – 80 year olds so we try really hard to mix everything in there. We do some new stuff, we do hymns, some acapella. Usually by the time the concerts over everyone has little bit of what they love.”
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A Talk With Crossway’s Paul Smith
Paul Smith is one of the founding members of Crossway. I had the chance to talk with him in August of 2007 on the release of “Took It All Away” from their “Beautiful Thing” album. Paul is a wonderful person to talk to, very open and prone to contagious outbursts of laughter. In addition to talking about Crossway
music which you can find on the “Beautiful Thing” page, Paul spoke of personal matters.
Paul experienced personal tragedy with the unexpected loss of his father and friend in an auto accident. When asked to share how he dealt with this loss, Paul paused and reflected, “All you can do is try to stay as close to God as you can. Initially, for me, there was this time when I was really, really mad at God for letting it happen because I felt like He could have stopped it and He didn’t. Why didn’t He? You just go through all of that..why?, why? Why????
“But the best thing to do is – I even think its okay to get mad about God but you just need to keep talking to Him and stay close to Him and He will change the way you feel. He’ll change overtime, He’’ make it easier. Then you look back and you realize He had His arms around me from the beginning, He was there taking care of me through that and that changes tomorrow.
“We are so lucky to have Him there caring for us through anything that happens like that. I can’t imagine how anyone that is not a Christian could even think about dealing with it. As Christians we also know that in the scheme of eternity we are not here very long and it won’t be long until I see him again and that’s so encouraging.”
Paul Smith Finds Peace In JesusPaul went on to talk about how he found Jesus. “When I was nine years old I walked the aisle at my home church. It was kind of the thing to do. I don’t think that I really knew what I was really doing but I went up there and went through the motions.
“But (you know I told you) I am the kind of guy that if I can find anything to worry about I’ll worry about it. So I remember
the day after I walked down the aisle I was worried that I didn’t do something right – like I didn’t pray the right prayer or say the right words, that I wasn’t really saved and what if I wasn’t and I was really worried about it.”
Paul laughs, “and it’s funny, but it’s not funny, because I was really worried about it. It would really bother me off and on all the way until I was 18 years old. I actually got kind of depressed about it. You know you go to church and they talk about everybody - you should be sure that you know – and well, I wasn’t sure.
“Finally I went to the pastor and talked to him about it. We were talking through it and it wasn’t anything he said, it was- just like God actually spoke to me. Of course it wasn’t audible but it was better than actually hearing anything. It was like I all the sudden understood..”, Paul paused searching for the words, “It was like He spoke an understanding and I remember realizing that a big part of becoming a Christian, the main core of becoming a Christian is when you ask Jesus into your heart and you trust Him with your life. I left the trust out and when I trusted Him when I was 18 I knew I was saved and I knew that He was there for me. That’s when I actually got into music.”
As we wrapped up our talk, I asked Paul if he could say something encouraging. He smiled and without hesitation said, “That one song on the (Beautiful Thing) CD – “I’m On My Way To Heaven” – if that’s not encouraging I don’t know what is. You know all the things that happen, all the stuff we see, you know we’re on our way to heaven and we’ll see Jesus someday and everything will be fine. No more worries, no more troubles…That’s pretty encouraging!”
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