Michael P. Smith Songwriting Workshops. Archived page

Michael P. Smith passed away on August 3, 2020, peacefully at home.

This page, written by Jamie O’Reilly, is archived to continue to bring attention to his amazing gifts as songwriter and musician.

The Smith family will be handling his estate and Internet presence here-on-in. Contact information will appear in due course.

Please read about our work in these pages, and give a listen to the songs!

Songs. Done. Write.
Michael Smith’s Songwriting Workshops
For the Adventurous Mind

Michael Smith, the internationally celebrated songwriter and performer offered Songwriting Workshops in addition to-and in conjunction with-musical concerts.  He taught songwriting at conferences and hundreds of venues over his five-decade career including the Kerrville Folk Festival, Old Town School of Folk Music, Evanston S.P.A.C.E. and Lamb’s Songwriter’s Retreat. This self-taught musician is a Tony and Jefferson award-winning composer and contributes original scores to the finest theaters in US.  Michael adapted his presentations for small groups, on-going classes and for conference-size gatherings.  Speaking engagements on the topic were available as well.

“Michael Smith is a songwriting icon with a lifetime of wisdom that he freely shares with his audiences.  He inspires and empowers us all to nurture our inner truths and sing our own songs.”

Judy Insley
workshop attendee

Come. Listen. Be Inspired

Workshop Presenters (sample list) Lost Moth Gallery, Door County, WI, Off Square Folk, Woodstock, Il, Fox Valley Folk & Storytelling Festival, Geneva, Il. Madison Songwriters Guild, Wisconsin and Habitat House, Houston, TX

“Michael Smith, a truly remarkable songwriter, teaches his craft to a roomful of students at a songwriting works hop in The Studios at SPACE. After the class, he performed his gorgeous, intricate, and often hilarious songs to a sold out crowd. An incredible night with this gifted musician!”

photo by Kelly

Michael’s Tips on Songwriting

  • Read.
  • Listen.
  • When you love a song, realize it’s saying ‘Write a song like me!’
  • Learn to play songs you love.
  • Take them apart.
  • See how each piece fits.
  • Write what you want to hear.
  • Realize that it takes a lot of practice to do anything well.
  • No two songwriters are the same.
  • Trust your gut.

“Tell Michael don’t change a thing, we are blessed.”

Johnny Wilson
workshop attendee

Michael’s wonderful talk on Songwriting was featured on WFMT’s Sweet Folk Chicago.  It is now a limited release CD. Order here.

"Inside his taxi Time moves through the city
He finds a place to have a rum and coke
He smiles a lot but he's not one for pity
He makes old men live backwards for a joke
Across the room a girl dressed all in feathers
They meet and soon they're dancing close together
She's being clever says she could dance forever
And through the windowpane
The moon is on the wane"

“As an attendee I can tell you that I will never view the art and craft of songwriting in the same way again! Thank you for being you Michael and sharing your talent with us.

Joseph Stramaglia
Watch the youtube video of “Accokeek” from Michael’s CD Old Man Dancing

“It’s no secret that Michael Smith has been my number one songwriter by the mere fact that he’s been featured on Lamb’s Retreat songwriter staff more years than anyone else.”

John D. Lamb

“If you get a chance to take a songwriting workshop from a writer you admire, do it.” 

Andy Mather
“Keepin’ Tabs” Paint Creek Folk Society, MI


“Amazing keynote address, songwriting talk and performances at FARM. I was moved to tears, enlightened and reinvigorated.”

Scott Cook

“He’s a great teacher because he’s spent a lifetime being a great student of the challenging art of songwriting. I have attended dozens of workshops presented by many gifted songwriters and yet no other writer has more profoundly influenced my work than Michael Smith.”

Dan Hazlett

“The workshop spoke to that very mature part of me that honors the experiences in my life that I write songs around.  Encouraging and challenging us to immerse ourselves in the music we love and to be inspired by all that surrounds us was exhilarating!”

Beverly Meyer

“How wonderful it was to hear you speak at the Midwest Folk Alliance; both the keynote and the songwriting workshop. Really, hard to find words to covey the absolute pleasure and…I found a spark of renewal for myself.”

  David Tamulevich

“I chose my first “Lamb Retreat for Songwriters” because Michael Smith was on Staff. His workshops, like his performances, balance the carefully-thought-out with the ability to grab from the moment with audience at hand.  Eminently reasoned views and well-lived experiences – on lyric writing, guitar accompaniment, playing live, and living the artist’s life –  fill his sessions.  He once said “it’s always the same talk”, but, energized with musical illustrations, screeds, personal remembrances and sly humor – there’s always something new to hear.”

J. Oscar Bittinger

“The workshop was absolutely awesome. Michael’s warm presence, relaxed presentation and clearly-expansive insight and depth of experience was simply wonderful. Since the session, I’ve been considering my own compositions, as well as my approach to songwriting and live performance; filtering it through the perspective that Michael shared with us.”

Jack Kohler

“Michael is a great teacher who challenges you to do the hard work. He uses fun phrases that take some time to sink in… like: “Never name the well from which you will not drink”, “don’t make your songs impressive, make them sound good”, “what is the pay-off line in the song” , “you need to write a lot of crap… the first 16 pages is just clearing your throat”. “One of the biggest things I learned is to write and play for myself not to get praise from others.”   “You have to like what you are doing and it’s silly to expect others to get it, they won’t get it …they focus more on the vehicle.”  ” I need to be the one focusing on the music.”

Stuart Campbel

“I had been writing songs for close to 25 years and felt I had a firm grasp of the process when I attended my first Michael Smith songwriting workshop. To my amazement I found every assumption I had made about the craft challenged by what he had to say.  In the more than a decade and a half since, I have taken advantage of every chance that came my way to hear Michael speak about songwriting.  After all this time I have yet to come away from one of his workshops without a new and deeper understanding of my own work.  I have often heard Michael say something that seemed to go against every expectation I had, only to find months or years later that I had finally grown enough to understand his message, filled with a depth and wisdom that grows out of vast experience.”

Dan Hazlett

“Previously, I had not realized what a wide variety of music Michael Smith draws upon when creating his own songs.  That means that I should do that, too, and that I should analyze the specific things that are good in songs that I like.  Lots of good stuff in the workshop.”

John Rinn