GRAMMY® winner Michael W. Smith knew something special had happened following his performance with Carrie Underwood on the CMA Country Christmas special. "What a moment - it made my hair stand up a little bit!" he said to PEOPLE Magazine backstage at the taping of the show in Nashville. The performance, along with a showering of media praise, led to nearly a 150% increase in album sales this week for his new Christmas project -- Michael W. Smith & Friends: The Spirit of Christmas.
Smith's live performances with Carrie Underwood and Little Big Town helped solidify a Top 4 position on the Billboard Holiday Albums chart. The Spirit of Christmas will remain there this week in the peak of Christmas shopping season amongst Michael Buble, Idina Menzel and Pentatonix. The Christmas project -- which also features Vince Gill, Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride, Amy Grant, Jennifer Nettles, Bono and Michael McDonald -- broke into the Top 10 Overall Albums on iTunes, helping secure a No. 16 spot on the Billboard 200 and a No. 1 spot on the Billboard Christian/Gospel Albums charts this week.
Fueling the positive momentum, media outlets have lauded affirmation on the highly collaborative project, co-produced by Smith, CMA Awards Executive Producer Robert Deaton and orchestral maestro David Hamilton.
"This lavishly arranged, guest-filled album begins as if in a world of rebroadcast TV specials and Bing Crosby movies, but eventually finds its way back to the manger."
- USA Today
"...richly expansive sound with the help of an uncommonly diverse roster of guest stars. The Spirit of Christmas is a deeply reverent statement as well as a festive music offering."
"Mr. Smith gamely attempts his best Dean Martin, backed by the London Session Orchestra, but he sounds far more at ease reuniting with an old duet partner, Amy Grant, on an original titled 'Almost There.'"
- The New York Times
"The standout here is 'All Is Well' that features Smith and Carrie Underwood giving two of the strongest performances of their respective careers. Warm your spirit with this new Christmas classic."
- The Huffington Post
"The Spirit of Christmas follows the tradition of excellence established by Smith's three previous holiday albums."
- Country Weekly
Additionally, Smith partnered with PEOPLE Magazine for a free download of his collaboration with Little Big Town on "Silent Night." Despite his hectic schedule in preparation for "The Spirit of Christmas Tour," Smith was able to connect with PEOPLE Magazine, PEOPLE Country, Billboard, FOX News Radio, Hannity Radio, CMT Radio, ABC Radio, Kathie Lee & Company and more to share about The Spirit of Christmas.
Smith's annual Christmas tour is underway and thrilling audiences in 15 markets across the U.S. and Canada. Also this month, Smith will co-headline three special events in Dallas, Minneapolis and Atlanta with longtime friend Amy Grant.