Michael, it’s a pleasure to have you on Marriagetrac. You and your music have blessed me, and I know I speak for our viewers when I say “thank you” for taking time to be with us today.

You are very welcome. It’s good to be here.

You’ve been an icon in the music industry for so long, and I’ve been a fan for a long time, but it was still cool to hear Ryan Seacrest introduce Bridge Over Troubled Water on American Idol, and he referenced your recording.


We’re you watching American Idol that night?

I was actually in Texas to be on the Jon Rivers show. I was staying at his house that night and I was getting ready to go outside and see all these exotic animals he has there on the ranch — and I heard it. I thought, that can’t be right. I’m hearing things. To hear my name on American Idol is definitely a bit of a shock and a shot in the arm.

Especially with a classic song like that…

Yea. Well, they must have got wind of it, and they did the song on the show that night. I thought it was great.

What was it that made you record a classic tune like that on your latest album (Healing Rain)

I always wanted to do a cover. I’ve always wanted to do a Beatles cover, an Elton John cover — all these songs I wanted to cover for so many years. If there’s one that sounds like me, I think it would be this song, Bridge Over Troubled Water. I’ve been an encourager my entire life, I love pouring my life into people’s lives and stand the gap for them. I think this song speaks to how I articulate myself.

I don’t suppose you’ve heard from Paul Simon?

[laughs] No, I did a show with Art Garfunckel a few months back and I think he’s aware of it, but obviously I’m not trying to step on their toes at all. If anything, I tried to make it feel like how they might cut it in 2004 or 2005. I hope they like it.

Well, it’s a great arrangement.

I appreciate that. Thank you.

I understand you and Debbie have been married over 23 years, is that right?

Yes. It will be 24 this fall.

Congratulations. That is quite an achievement. From your experience, what have you found to be some critical elements to sustaining a marriage for so long?

Communication, communication, communication — I can’t stress that enough. Obviously, other things too, but communication has been key for us. We made a commitment for the long haul: through thick and thin, good and bad. As a visionary pastor at our church and having opportunities to counsel couples from time to time, much of that (issues) has to do with communication. People get upset, there’s a breakdown, and no one wants to talk. A week or two passes and it’s hard to pull it back if you’re not willing to communicate. That has been the key for us.

You and Debbie have five children…

Yes sir! I love every minute of it! [laughs]

Isn’t being a dad the most awesome thing?

It’s amazing. It’s a great gift.

It looked at first like Debbie wasn’t able to have children. How did the prospect of not being able to conceive affect your relational intimacy?

It was frustrating, and sad, the possibility of not having kids. We were always optimistic that there were many kids who needed to be adopted, so that option was open. Debbie’s mom and dad were divorced when she was eight and I think because of that — rebellion and stress — she simply quit eating. I’ve seen pictures of when she was a high school senior and she weighed 78 pounds; it didn’t look good. Maybe that was her way of crying out. For years her whole body was messed up and the doctors said, “you probably won’t have kids”.

I’ll never forget talking to our pastor; we were planning tests at Vanderbilt to try some new medical procedures, and I remember my pastor saying, “I’m fine with all that, but I think we need to give God a shot at this thing.”

We all showed up at an elders meeting where Debbie and I were anointed with oil. It was a prayer time I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We walked out of there shaking. I thought, “Man, what was that?”

Well, three months later she was pregnant. And they just kept coming — two, three, four five [laughs]. I’ll never forget after the fifth I called the church and said would you please take us off your prayer list [laughs].

They all turned out so great. My oldest is 21 and my youngest is 13 and they’ve become God-followers. Deb and I sit back and pinch ourselves! Thank you God. That is just the greatest gift I could ever have. You could take all the Grammies and take back the millions of records — If I can’t see my kids grow up to be God-fearing young adults, forget the career. And I’ve got both. I’m in awe of it. It’s amazing.

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