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The Profile: Amy Grant

The Profile: Amy Grant

It’s a November afternoon, and the chill of arctic air has made its way into Middle Tennessee. In a West Nashville rehearsal studio, Amy Grant, Vince Gill and some of the best musicians in Nashville are putting the finishing touches on a new, 14-city Christmas tour. 

For many of us, Amy Grant has become our Christmas soundtrack. Her voice is fresh and sweet, adding warmth to a chilly winter day. When we hear Grant sing, troubles seem to melt away and all seems right with the world. Now, having already sold more than six million Christmas albums, she has selected favorites from her holiday albums and recorded four new songs to give us The Christmas Collection.

A Season of Success and Love
Grant first began recording Christmas music at the urging of composer-conductor Ron Huff. 

“I thought, ‘Well, I’ve never thought about singing this ‘torch’ style of music.’" she says. “But Ron was so encouraging and I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to record a Christmas record." The result, A Christmas Album, was released in 1983 and has been certified platinum. Home for Christmas, a 1992 follow-up, proved even more popular, going triple platinum. Then, in 1999, Grant released A Christmas to Remember, now certified gold.

“Had I not had that first invitation from Ron, on what was a very intimidating stage, I don’t think I would have ever stepped on this path," she says.

The Christmas season has not only been a time of career success for Amy Grant. In fact, it was at a Christmas concert that Grant and husband Vince Gill became friends. They had met around town at various music events, but it wasn’t until 1993 that they had a real conversation.

“That year," she says, “Vince asked me to be a part of a Christmas show he was doing in Tulsa. I told him I would if he would come back and be on my show to benefit the Nashville Symphony.” 

She did and he did.

“I had listened to Vince’s records, but I had never really heard him sing. And, when I did listen, I was so blown away by his talent. We had an immediate chemistry. I felt like I had known him my whole life. So, yeah, Christmas will always be special because of that.”
Making new memories

For A Christmas Collection, Grant chose to record new versions of two Christmas standards. Her take on “Jingle Bells” is a remake of Barbra Streisand’s famously sped-up arrangement, a version that Grant has been doing with the symphony for years. “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” is a song Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney sang in the movie White Christmas.

“I first heard that song when I did a CBS Christmas special back in 1999 with CeCe Winans," says Grant. “CeCe suggested doing the song together, and I loved it. So, Carl Marsh wrote a beautiful orchestration, and we added it to the record.”

Grant and Gill’s seven-year-old daughter Corrinna makes her recording debut on The Christmas Collection on “I Need a Silent Night," one of two original songs written for the album. Chris Eaton, who collaborated on "Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)" from Home for Christmas, co-wrote the track with Grant. The song, which encourages people to move toward peace and quiet during the holidays, features Corrinna reciting from the book of Luke. 

“We took her in the studio," Grant says, “and she was standing in front of a microphone, and I was kneeling. We were eye to eye. I would say a phrase, and Corrinna would imitate me.” 

The recording went back and forth, and then they edited Grant out.

“We were sitting in the control room listening to it, and when Corrinna heard it, she said I can do it better than that. She ran back into the studio, and we worked on intonation. There were so many times when she said ‘FEAR NOT.’  It is such an innocent delivery of that scripture. It kills me every time.”

The second newly written composition on The Christmas Collection is “Baby, its Christmas," a song Grant co-wrote with her husband. 

“Vince had been noodling around with a chord progression all spring and had not committed a lyric to it," Grant says. "I thought it would be a great, romantic sounding Christmas song. So, one early spring morning, I was having coffee and Vince was playing guitar. We kind of moved from the kitchen to the breakfast table and just had fun writing it.” 

“It’s all made up. What couple in the world could have romance on Christmas Eve? Probably not,” she adds with laughter.

But, Grant and Gill are romantic. As I watched them rehearse their Christmas show, their eyes would meet, twinkle and smile in a way that only two people in love can share. The couple does special things for each other. Take, for example, their first Christmas after Corrina was born. It was also the first Christmas Grant would spend without her other children Matt, Millie and Sarah – the three were celebrating the holiday with their dad, Gary Chapman. After a busy day delivering gifts, it was late in the afternoon when Grant drove the children to Chapman’s. When she got home with Corrina, she was emotionally exhausted.

“I walked in, and Vince had set up the small breakfast table with placemats and a glass of wine," she says. "The lights were low. He lit a couple of candles. He had gone to Caesar’s to get my favorite dish, pasta with marinara sauce. He said, ‘Give me that child.’ It was the sweetest thing and gave me the chance to process the night.”

There is a postscript to the story.

“Corrina was just staring at my pasta,” Grant says. “She was about nine months old and had never had anything other than baby food. I held a noodle up to her mouth and she sucked the whole thing in with such a glorious look on her face. We pulled dad’s old high chair up to the table, and she proceeded to have dinner with me. Corrinna had sauce from her lashes down. It was so funny. You couldn’t stay somber long.  It was a great night!”

Christmas with the family
Grant says that, like most families at Christmas, hers has some traditions, the one big one being the family portrait that she gets everybody to do on Christmas morning. There is no “primping or fixing up" as she likes having everybody in the picture disheveled and a little dazed…but in a good mood. 

"I love those pictures because they are just, you know, sleepy, early morning," she says.  "But I see year by year how everybody changes.”

This year, the tour will take them all the way up to Christmas day.

“So, Matt, Millie and Sarah will fly out, which they have done every year before when we tour. Everybody is together for the tail end of the tour,” she says. “It’s just fun to be on the bus together – playing cards and calling out to each other, ‘Good night….good night,’ just like the Walton’s.”

So, you may be wondering, what is Amy Grant’s favorite Christmas song?

“O Come All Ye Faithful," she says. “I love the togetherness of that song. I love the worship aspect. It’s so easy to pick out a harmony part. All the instruments can die away, and a crowd of not-so-good singers can carry it pretty well. It’s just a great song.”

Over 30 years in, Grant is still grateful for her career, a path that began as a teenage pursuit.

“I still have my high school hobby," she says. “I ask high schoolers ‘What is it that makes you lose track of time?  What hobby makes you forget to eat?  Don’t ever forget that because that is how you are wired. At some point in your life, you must pursue your God-given gift. I get on stage every night and think that at 48, I still get to do what I loved when I was 15!”

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