Michael W. Smith is celebrating his long career in Christian music with his “35 Years of Friends” tour, which he will play at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, 19421 Greenwell Springs Road.

Tickets are $25.20 to $75 and can be purchased at AwakeningEvents.com.

The name of the tour comes from his signature song, "Friends," which was on his first album, The Michael W. Smith Project, released in 1983. 

We recently spoke with Smith about the tour and what's going on in his life.

35 years of "Friends," did you ever expect it to last this long?

Probably not. I was always confident that the wind is at your back. But I don’t think any artist can imagine themselves still doing it 35 years down the road, so I pinch myself every morning.

What can we expect at the concert?

We are going down memory lane. We are pulling stuff out of the hat I haven’t done in a long long time. … I think it’s going to be a lot of the nostalgic pop stuff for the first half and then probably more of the later stuff I’ve done in the second half. Obviously, the worship stuff I’ve done …  will be in the back half. I’m still putting it together. It’s a bit of a challenge when you are picking from about 280 songs.

What made "Friends" so special to listeners?

I don’t know. … I listen to it and I don’t go "Wow that’s an amazing song." But there’s certain songs that just connect with people There’s something about that song people gravitated to. I think the message is timeless — a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends — that’s a pretty cool line, thanks to my wife who wrote that.

I think friendship is important, and we’re supposed to walk in community together. And you walk together in the bad times and the good times. … This song has been sung at a lot of funerals, a lot of graduations, and it just doesn’t seem to die. I didn’t think I was going to have to sing it the rest of my life. But I don’t get tired of singing it when you look out in the audience and you watch what it does to people.

Any other frequent requests?

The later stuff. Everybody loves "Fight My Battles" and stuff from the "Surrounded" record. But there’s a lot of people who want to hear "Place in This World." They want to hear "Go West Young Man." They want to hear "I’ll be Here for You." They want to hear "Cross of Gold" from the "Change the World" record. We’re going to give the audience a taste of a little bit of everything.

I always remember the “Face in the World” video.

Who can forget that with Mark Lowry? That was quite fun filming that video, but my kids were young then. They saw it, and they started crying cause they thought their daddy had been killed.

What are some of the highlights of the past 35 years?

The best part of a career is what it brings, what it allows you to do: Being in the White House with presidents, being with orphans in Africa, finding yourself singing all around the world, doing the first youth night for Billy Graham in Cleveland Ohio in 1994 — me and DC Talk. And that’s just a few.

What’s ahead in the near future and beyond?

The Friends tour obviously this fall. I’m going to turn around and do a Christmas tour with Amy Grant, which I’m excited about. I’m sort of reinventing myself again. I’m in the studio trying to push myself to not play it safe. I’m writing some music that doesn’t sound like me at all. But I love that. … No retirement, no rap, probably no classical. Although I am writing a symphony. I’ve been writing a symphony for five or six years. It’s somewhat classical but Smitty pop classical. I’m real excited about trying to finish that and debut it with the National Symphony.

What are other things are going on in your life?

I’m being G-Daddy to a bunch of grandkids, 15, which is insane. Can’t believe I even say that cause it makes you feel old, but I actually feel quite young. I’m thrilled to still be involved with Compassion International, the child sponsorship program that does amazing work all around the world. I have a ministry, a youth facility in downtown Nashville called Rocketown. That makes my heart beat fast in a good way.

The philanthropy I get to do because of the success, that’s the stuff I enjoy.

I’ve been in a couple of movies this year, some small parts I really love. I just finished up a movie with Joey Lawrence (from TV in the 1980s and '90s). I loved working with him. It’s a true story about a guy who was imprisoned much of his life and had an encounter with Jesus and now has a prison ministry. … But I’m not moving to Hollywood. I’m staying in Nashville. I don’t want to be a movie star.

Sing with the Gettys

At 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, join Keith and Kristyn Getty along with Irish and bluegrass musicians for their "Sing!" concert at First Baptist Church, 529 Convention St., Baton Rouge. Tickets are $20 to $35 at church’s Facebook page.

Facets of Faith runs every other Saturday in Living. Reach Leila Pitchford-English at lenglish@theadvocate.com.