My Season With Kirk Franklin & His New Single “I Smile”

One part of my story that I don’t really talk much about but was undoubtedly a strong formative season for me is when I was given the opportunity to work with Kirk Franklin.

In 2004 I was working for EMI Music in Nashville when I received a call from Kirk in August of that year.  It took me by surprise and I remember calling him “sir” and “Mr. Franklin”. My friend and colleague of 6 years, Carla, had gone to work with him and had told him about me and my work. We spoke for awhile and told me he was starting his new company, Fo Yo Soul Entertainment, and said he would be honored if I would consider moving to Dallas to work with (never “for”, always “with”) him.

I was in shock.

I had been a long-time fan of Gospel music, and certainly of Kirk’s music. After reading about him in Billboard Magazine in 1993, I remember having to special order his first album, Kirk Franklin & The Family, at my local Musicland store in Joplin, Missouri because they didn’t carry it. I had absolutely no idea that one day I would have the opportunity to work with him.

So, back to 2004. I did pray about it, and think a lot about it, but there was no doubt in my mind that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I had to accept his offer and take this leap.  Though I had just settled in my heart that Nashville is where I wanted to be and call “home”, I accepted the job, stepped out of my fresh comfort zone and embraced change as I packed up all my stuff and moved to Dallas 3 days before Christmas in 2004.

I spent the next 3 years working closely with Kirk, serving in a wide variety of roles. I’m very thankful for every single moment and experience I had there. I have many incredible memories from that season of my life and someday I may write more about some of the great things I got to be a part of while working with him.

There are probably 2 things that will forever stand out to me about that season: 1) Kirk’s character and 2) the songs.

Toward the end of last year, after having walked through the most difficult year of my life, I called Kirk to thank him for his example of Godly character and to let him know that I didn’t even realize how much of an impact the way he lived his life had on me until this year. Sure, it was a killer job, but I didn’t realize the depth of the spiritual deposit or character development that was taking place during that season until just recently. It shaped me in more ways than I realized. Kirk is the real deal. He is a man of God and I am honored to call him my friend.

And then there’s the songs… Good Lord, the songs!

His 2005 album Hero is one of my favorites and I feel a very close personal connection to that particular body of work, having watched it being birthed via much prayer and honesty, melody concepts and lyric ideas all the way to seeing hundreds of thousands of people connect with the songs literally all over the world.

I’ll never forget the first time Kirk shared his idea for “Imagine Me” with us, just sitting at a piano at his house. I cried. The following year I stood on the side of the stage, under an open sky as Kirk performed in the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos, Nigeria and watched over 100,000 Nigerians sing “gone, gone, all gone!” at the top of their lungs at 4am. It still gives me chills when I think about it.

Speaking of songs, Kirk has a brand new single out, called “I Smile”, and I absolutely love it! It’s from his forthcoming album, “Hello, Fear”, which is a concept album about facing your fears with hope and courage.  Having seen first-hand the way Kirk wrestles with God over songs, in prayer and faith… I know the new album will be nothing short of amazing and will impact many people all over the world for the glory of God.

Listen to  “I Smile”
01 I Smile.mp3

I smile, even though I hurt
See, I smile
I know God is workin’, so I smile
Even though I’ve been here for awhile, I smile
Smile, It’s so hard to look up when you’ve been down
Sure would hate to see you give up now
You look so much better when you so smile
So, smile

Reminds me of this…

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4

Listening to “I Smile” brings back a lot of great memories for me, encourages me and yeah, it makes me… smile.  You can buy the “I Smile” single now, and “Hello, Fear” will be released March 22.

What do you think about Kirk’s new song “I Smile”?  What song makes you smile?

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Grant JenkinsMy Season With Kirk Franklin & His New Single “I Smile”

I really like it, thank you for sharing!!


Amazing chapter in your life for sure!! wow! Love that his character impacted you the most. Invalueable life impact there. How you described him as "the real deal, and man of God" encouarges me to want to be described that way, "woman after God's own hear" one day. Love this post!


I do like this new song and as ALWAYS I anticipate this new album! Kirk was one of the first and MOST present gospel/Christian influences in my youth - I can't even begin to thank him for the way he has impacted the industry and laid his life down. I had a season too where a group I wa a part of was directly being mentored by Kirk and he is so great! I just pray God continues to allow him to succeed in reaching lives and changing the culture from the inside out!


@anidolheart @rodnesha Eric Moore and Resonate - it's a group here in Austin TX that's still in the works - my season with them jsut came to an end, sadly. But yeah, great group - great ministry that I hope continues to grow!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Martin, Grant Jenkins. Grant Jenkins said: NEW POST: My Season With Kirk Franklin & His New Single "I Smile" http://su.pr/2rAeLZ […]

  2. […] on his blog An Idol Heart. Grant gives us a snapshot of what it was to work alongside Kirk and his post also provides insight not only into the man Kirk is but also the raw emotion behind the music […]

  3. […] I’ve been a fan of Kirk Franklin’s music since 1993. When I had to special-order his debut album, Kirk Franklin & The Family, at my local Musicland store because they didn’t stock it, I had absolutely no idea that 12 years later he would be my boss. […]