SYDNEY – The lead vocalist in Hillsong’s United’s “Oceans” probably doesn’t fit any preconceptions you have of her.
Taya Smith’s voice is heard on radio stations around the world and people sing the band’s songs every Sunday in church, but she remains as humble today as she was when she started. Oh yeah, and she also rides a skateboard.
“I have one in my car right now,” Smith told the Christian News Journal.
The 2016 documentary film Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, now out on DVD, chronicles the band’s incredible growth but also gives a behind-the-scenes look at the members’ private lives – including Smith’s love for skateboarding.
“The only reason I took it up is because I got in trouble when I was in school for always being late,” Smith said. “I started skating just to get to school in time, and I kind of kept it up. When I moved to Sydney about six and a half years ago, I didn’t drive yet. And it took so long walking from place to place, and so I kept skateboarding.”
She even skateboarded when she worked in a retail store.
“It was kind of an upper class store, so I was wearing a beautiful silk dress or silk skirt and I was skating with skate shoes, and then I put on my high heels. People were probably like, ‘What is this? There’s this tall, lanky girl who is wearing the weirdest combo of clothing and she’s on a skateboard and she’s got this weird, fluffy curly hair.’”
There are other surprises in the documentary, such as the band’s tendency to jam and record after midnight.
“Those are just the hours when the guys are super creative, and they’ve done this for over 10 years where they’ve had the same habit,” Smith said. “At first I was like, ‘We’re singing at 3 a.m.? What?’ But I do feel like those are the perfect hours that, creatively, all the juices are flowing. When you’re in studio mode, you just make it work. It ends up being fun. 3 a.m. is like the M&M hour, which is great but terrible for me because I have no self-control.”
More than 50 million people sing Hillsong’s music each Sunday, according to studio data, and the band has sold more than 17 million albums. Still, Smith said it’s not hard to remain humble.
“I’m just part of a local church here in Australia. I’m just sitting here in one of the offices here at the church,” she said during the phone interview before listing her responsibilities at church: “We’re going to be leading prayer meetings. We’re going to be leading worship on the weekend. We’re very normal, ordinary people.”
— by Michael Foust
Michael Foust has covered the film industry for more than a decade. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelFoust