Ghanaian-born Emmanuel Smith has been making waves in the UK Gospel scene for the past eight , having shared the stage with the likes of Stellar Award-winning Jason Nelson, US-based Todd Galberth, to name just a few. As a contestant on the ITV hit show ‘The Voice UK’, the Lewisham-bred psalmist was catapulted to the attention of a mainstream audience, performing on the coveted main stage at Big Church Day Out and Festival of Life UK held at the ExCel London.
A self-professed mummy’s boy, Emmanuel credits his mother for instilling the love of God in him at a tender age, and ensuring he remains grounded. He is passionate about engaging culture and bridging the mainstream-gospel divide without compromising the message of Christ. Akosua DF recently caught up with Emmanuel Smith for an exclusive chat.
Akosua DF (ADF): Let’s start right from yourgenesis. Can you tell us about your childhood and how you started singing?
Emmanuel Smith (ES): I have literally been singing since I was a kid. I remember being a Sunday school praise and worship leader at the age of 10. My grandad was a music director; my mum and aunties were in the choir as well, so I have always been surrounded by music. I must confess that it started off as a hobby… ‘til God took control.
ADF: Earlier in the year, you graced our TV screens on the ITV hit show, ‘The Voice UK’. How did that opportunity arise?
ES: Honestly, it was literally the grace of God. I auditioned in 2015 and 2017, and got No’s each time. I almost talked myself out of auditioning for the 2019 show. After searching my heart, to determine whether my motive for auditioning was right, I left it in God’s hands, praying that His will be done. During that period I got an email from the Voice team, asking me to audition. I prayed to God for a sign that it was His will, and He was gracious in granting a few, so I went ahead.
ADF: As a renowned worship leader, venturing into mainstream was bound to attract some cynicism and harsh criticism. Were you taken aback by the backlash?
ES: If I can be honest, it was really hurtful. I actually began to doubt whether I had truly heard from God before auditioning. Despite the love and support I received, being human I seemed to imbibe the negative feedback more.
I had to take the matter to God in prayer, and the Holy Spirit spoke to me through Luke 11:33. He affirmed my calling as light meant to shine in the midst of darkness to the righteous and unrighteous. Interestingly, the tide turned after I sang Travis Greene’s ‘Made A Way’. I think that performance was a game-changer for those who had been critical of me. They finally realised that I was intent on representing God. My mandate is the Great Commission, so I have to go out into the world with the Gospel of Jesus, and that’s actually every Christian’s assignment.
ADF: You got all the way to the semi-finals on the show, and were then eliminated. What thoughts flooded your mind as the results were being read out, and it became obvious that you were heading home?
ES: I vividly recall that night. I missed a line in my rap, so felt I had messed up. Though I wanted to get to the finals, I mentally expected the worst so I wasn’t surprised to be sent home. A week later I had flashbacks, and all the disappointment began flooding in… All the ‘What if’ questions came to mind. Counting my blessings (getting to the semi-finals, and having an opportunity to sing gospel on mainstream TV) was what got me through that season.
ADF: I notice that both your singles have an ‘RnB’ vibe to them. There is almost a dichotomy between ‘Emmanuel Smith, the recording artist’ and ‘Emmanuel Smith, the live artist’, as most of your live performances are worship sets. Are you trying to be more commercially appealing with your records?
ES: Hmmm… let’s just say I am still discovering myself artistically. I want to be versatile and not boxed in. I think it’s better to experiment with different musical styles early in your career, so that you don’t shock your core fan base when you finally unleash yourself musically. Who knows, I could come out with a garage gospel anthem! No, I’m just kidding.
ADF: 2019 has been a HUGE year for you, starting off with The Voice UK, Big Church Day Out, then ministering before an audience of over 20,000 at Festival of Life UK, plus a string of local and international dates. You, however, made a very big announcement in the middle of July.
ES: Honestly, I couldn’t have planned my year (any better). It’s been surreal. Each year I give God a blank sheet to take charge. Yes, I can officially announce that I am headlining my own concert at Indigo at the O2 on 3rd November. Tickets are currently on sale. I also have an EP coming out over the next few months, so it’s a busy season but I am grateful to God.
ADF: Amazing!!! Definitely very exciting times for you. What can people expect from the concert? There seems to be the assumption that it will be a worship night.
ES: Yeah, people are expecting a worship night. All I will say is that the expectations of God and man shall be met. I don’t want to give away too much; I’m expecting a mixed crowd of Christians and unbelievers, but ultimately God will be lifted up.
Tickets for Emmanuel Smith Live in Concert are available on Reevo Tickets: