L. Spenser Smith talks about his upbringing, musical tastes and pressing the reset button, post-corona.
In this season of uncertainty, saints & sinners alike are seeking refuge from the pandemic in a variety of ways. Some squander hours on Netflix, others have become prolific posters on social media and yet others have become dedicated to personal development. Everyone’s been forced to find their way through the new reality that’s rocking the nation.
Author, evangelist and recording Artist L. Spenser Smith proposes an alternative solution for The Times. Get ‘hooked’ on God. Allow these uncharted times to take you into a deeper, more deliberate relationship with the One who holds the future.
Christopher Heron: What sport or hobby did you have growing up?
L. Spenser Smith: I wasn’t into sports. My brothers played sports. I was always into music, as early as I can remember. I was always singing. I remember my first song was Lord, Help Me To Hold Out at my babysitters home. That’s the earliest I can remember. I’ve been singing ever since. But singing and music has always been my thing.
Christopher Heron: What is your favorite soul food dish?
L. Spenser Smith: Sweet potato pie. My grandmother, God bless her soul, had potatoes from Heaven. I love to cook, and I’ve been trying for years to figure out what oil she put in her sweet potato pie. There are also collard greens, and who doesn’t like fried chicken and macaroni & cheese? But sweet potato pie would be my southern dish.
Christopher Heron: I’m sure I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to ask this question…what does the letter L in your name stand for?
L. Spenser Smith: When I tell you the answer, you’re going to have to go to into the witness protection program [laughs]. It’s Leonard. It is Leonard Spenser Smith. The L started in my junior year of high school. My high school choir director said, “I need to give you a professional name.” And she said, “We’ll do L. Spenser Smith.” Now you know. You’re one of the first people to know what the L stands for.
Christopher Heron: You’re an accomplished author, recording artist, and evangelist. Which job description is the biggest surprise to you when you think back to where God has brought you from, as a southern boy from Alabama?
L. Spenser Smith: The biggest surprise would probably be author. And I say that because I come from a family of singers and musicians and a family of preachers. I’m a 4th generation preacher. That was no surprise but author is something else. One day I woke up and said, “I want to chronicle some things that’s on my heart.” I have my third book coming out this fall. Writing is something that’s so cathartic. It really helps me release things that I can’t say from the pulpit and perhaps can’t articulate lyrically in a song.
Christopher Heron: As an artist, are you most proud as a writer, vocalist, or producer?
L. Spenser Smith: It would be as a writer. I love to see the story come alive with my pen. A lot of things that I write, I don’t necessarily write for me. As a songwriter, I love the fluidity, the language of songwriting, I love how you can put pressure on your words, the ink and the pen. I just love it. I do love production as well, in terms of birthing a song, and a complete message. But out of the three it would be songwriting.
Christopher Heron: You’re very faithful to your songwriting style. It’s very artistic and it covers a multitude of styles. Is that deliberate?
L. Spenser Smith: Yes. It is very intentional. It’s me staying true to my lane. And that’s not to cast aspersion upon anyone, but I think what I do is give my heart a full expression that cannot be summed up in a few words. I come from the songwriting camp of Marvin Winans, Andrae Crouch, Donald Lawrence, and Stevie Wonder. Those are the artists I really hone my songwriting skills from, just listening to how they develop lyrics and use language to express the intent of their hearts.
I think sometimes Praise & Worship music climaxes too soon for me because of the application. Praise & Worship is normally done in a setting where worship leaders are getting everybody to sing along, so it can be a corporate moment. I want the person to sit and listen to the development of the lyrics and story.
Christopher Heron: Is there a song on Hooked that expresses your wide range of musicality?
L. Spenser Smith: Range is intentional too. If the love relationship between God and man had a soundtrack, it would be Hooked. It took me a while to curate songs for this album. I think if I had to choose one song, it would be The Cross Alone. It’s theology, it’s drama, it’s love, it’s Gospel, it’s about all of those elements. That’s one of the standouts on this new record.
Christopher Heron: Are you happy when a song that’s near and dear to your heart, like The Cross Alone, has traction on Gospel radio?
L. Spenser Smith: I’m extremely happy when young people say, “You know what, I learned a lot about what the cross is.” And then you have my mom who’s 78 who say, “I’m just glad you stayed faithful and true to the hymns.” All of that makes me feel so very good to know that God has placed me in my own lane and because I’m true to my lane, it’s being wildly accepted.
Christopher Heron: With what’s happening today, as a minister of the Gospel, what’s your perspective on how Christians need to respond?
L. Spenser Smith: To my congregation, I said three things. One, we’re going to be prayerful, we’re going to be careful, but we’re not going to be fearful. Prayerful because it’s a pandemic. Everything that happens in the Earth has its origin in the spirit, in the unseen and invisible. So, we know that we communicate in that realm with God through prayer.
Secondly, being careful because as a pastor and father it’s my responsibility to make sure that my natural & spiritual families stays safe. This is our opportunity to use wisdom to stay safe, stay inside, stay healthy and stay sanitized. We follow the orders given through our city government. We utilize faith and wisdom which is not a contradiction. I believe that everything that I cannot do, God is going to take care of. As I walk in wisdom, I believe in faith that God is going to handle what I cannot handle, so there’s no contradiction.
Finally, I don’t believe that God sent this virus but I believe that God is going to use this experience to reset, restore, rest, and re-center our focus back on what’s essential. My wife is an entrepreneur. My kids were in school and work. But when everything started, I called everyone home. I had forgotten that the greatest gift God has given me is my wife and children.
People are stuck at home. I’m safe at home. And I’m telling my fans, every pastor, every leader, every church member, I want to challenge everyone to use this time as rest, use this time to reset and refocus because after the Corona virus, we have a lot to do for the Kingdom of God and I’m excited about it.