Amy Grant Shares Personal Journey on New Album
Sitting in a sun-splashed room of the Nashville home she shares with husband Vince Gill, Amy Grant doesn't look much different than the fresh-faced teen who helped put contemporary Christian music on the map in the late '70s before exploding as a Grammy-winning pop star in the '80s with such hits as 'Baby, Baby' and 'Every Heartbeat.'
These days, she's a multi-tasking wife, mother, philanthropist and recording artist with a new album releasing this week. 'Somewhere Down the Road' is a collection of songs about life's journey that includes six new tunes, two previously unreleased tracks, a new version 1982's 'Arm of Love,' and three classic Amy songs -- 'Somewhere Down the Road,' 'Every Road' and 'Imagine,' which provided the album's direction.
"Everything else just nestles in around those songs and hopefully makes a project that feels like a journey," she says, as family dogs Chester and Skittles settle at her feet. She's explaining how Skittles wound up with blue polish on her nails (thanks to a creative dog groomer) when Vince pokes his head in to say hello before wandering back through the house.
Amy smiles a big, warm smile then casually returns to the subject of music. "I need music like I need water," she says. "To me it's all about the song. Songs are what make me excited. You hear a great song and you want to record it or get a great idea and you want to write it."
Fans have been anxious to hear new music from Amy. She released 'The Christmas Collection' in 2008 with four new holiday songs, and in 2005 released 'Rock of Ages: Hymns & Faith,' her second album of church standards, but her last album of new songs was 2003's 'Simple Things.' Amy's current contract with EMI Christian Music Group is "a catalog deal," which involved issuing collections of previous hits with a couple of new songs included.
Amy says 'Somewhere Down the Road' morphed into much more as she kept adding new songs. The finished project represents several firsts for the singer/songwriter, including the first time one of her paintings has been used on an album cover. "It was just a little path through some trees and I had [inscribed] 'Every road that's traveled, teaches something new.' It just fit to me," she tells The Boot. "It's at least 10-years-old. I'm sure I did it on the road. I take paint on the road with me. I'm not any good, but it doesn't even matter, especially if you're just painting something out of your head. Who is going to know if it doesn't look like the picture?"
The new collection also features a duet with her 17-year-old daughter Sarah, who was named after legendary Grand Ole Opry star Minnie Pearl, whose real name was Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon. "What I love is I getting to sing with Sarah and having found and participated on a song that I feel like has such a great message. It's something that we're both proud to sing," she says of 'Overnight.' "It's talking about if things happened overnight, you wouldn't appreciate the process.
"It's not about arriving at the destination, it is the journey," she continues. "Vince and I will sometimes be in the mood to reminisce and he'll say, 'It's funny when you look back on the really ritzy times in the journey of a music career. Some of the strongest memories are packing up the van and driving all night to the next gig. It's not the Prevost [bus] with the hired driver and everyone having their own bunk. It's really the times that you're hoping will end quickly that make you [realize] the grind is what made the rest of it really special.'"
Working on this album also marks the first time Amy has recorded in their new home studio. "It's been about a two-year process for Vince to finish the studio that has really been his dream," she says. "It's fun working at home. I have spent probably years of time waiting in studio lounges -- waiting on a mix, waiting on my time to sing, waiting on, waiting on, waiting on. That's just the nature of life."
Having the luxury of recording at home gives Amy the opportunity to mix creativity and domestic chores. "When you do it from home, you throw in a load of laundry, you take a 10-minute break and go stir the pot on the stove," she says of multi-tasking as a recording artist, wife and mom.
In March, Vince and Amy celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary. The couple has five children. Matt, Millie and Sarah are from Amy's first marriage to Gary Chapman. Vince and first wife, Janis, have a daughter, Jenny, whom Amy lovingly refers to as her "I do daughter." And together they have Corrina, who celebrated her ninth birthday this month.
Several songs on Amy's new record deal with the complexities of life, love and family. Amy admits the previously unreleased track 'Come Into My World' was written during a difficult place. "'Come Into My World' is the rawest, most vulnerable [song] and it just required a lot of distance from that time in my life," she says of releasing the song she penned 15 years ago. "I wrote that in the years prior to going through a divorce, but it was before anybody knew there was trouble. I felt like I was living this absolute total facade and so the song is really a downer ... I hadn't actually heard it in over a decade, and I was moved by it and thought 'wow, I remember how that felt.' Thank goodness I don't feel that way now, but that is a very real feeling for a lot of people at different times in life."
The album's first single, 'Better Than a Hallelujah,' is currently climbing the charts. It's a song Amy's manager brought to her attention, and though she didn't write it, she connected with the lyric immediately. "'Better Than a Hallelujah' is such poignant honesty. It's captivating on first listen," Amy says. "I loved the honesty of it, the vulnerability. That song found me right where I was and that was incredibly powerful."
Amy has some difficult times in the past year. In October, her close friend, violinist/author/recording artist Ruth McGinnis, died from ovarian cancer. She's also been dealing with her aging parents' health issues.
Though you'd never know it from her youthful face and girl-next-door charm, Amy will celebrate a landmark birthday in November when she turns 50. "This week, I had a big hard cry on Vince's shoulder and the whole cry was, 'I don't want to get old,'" she confesses. "I bawled my eyes out. I thought that's really how I feel; partly it's because eventually you wind up in a Depends and you might not know your name and you can't jump up anymore. That scares me."
Nevertheless she's coming to terms with aging. "I'm just accepting. I don't have a cry over it every week," she says. "I don't know if I've ever had a hard cry because I've never been the age that I am now. It's been an interesting time."
Throughout her life and career, Amy has always has music as a vehicle to channel her most interesting times. She does so again on 'Somewhere Down the Road.' "To me, the real thrill is in making the music and then I just trust it to find it's own audience," she says, "and at times it's big and at times it's small, but that's beyond my control. Everything that I could control and be a part of, I've already done. Beyond that, I'll go out and tour and just enjoy the stuff that I've worked really hard on. I'm touring with a great band right now and doing it as much as I can justify being away from home, and then the world just keeps turning."