Amy Grant: Chart Beat Meet & Greet (Video)

The format icon performs two new tracks live as she extends her record for the most No. 1s on Christian Albums

As Amy Grant's "How Mercy Looks From Here" debuts at No. 1 on Billboard's Christian Albums chart, the genre star extends her record for the most leaders – 16 – in the chart's history.

On the Billboard 200, the set starts at No. 12, with 26,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan, marking her highest-charting album since 1997's "Behind the Eyes" (No. 8).

It's a welcoming return for Grant, who'd last released a full-length studio album 10 years ago ("Simple Things").

"A conversation I had with my mother a couple of months before she died helped set the direction for this record," says Grant, whose mother passed away in April 2011. "Mom had a lifelong curiosity that kept her young at heart even when her mind was failing.

"One night, when I stopped by to visit her on my way to my bus to drive to a concert, she was surprised to discover that I was a singer. 'Oh you sing?' she asked. I said, 'Yes ma'am. I sing,' I was explaining what I sang and she asked if she could get on the bus and go with me.

"She was frail and clearly wearing out and I said, 'Not this time.' She said, 'Well if I can't go, do me a favor. When you get on stage, sing something that matters'."

An example of such purposeful work is the new album's lead single, "Don't Try So Hard," featuring James Taylor. The ballad ranks at No. 28 on Christian Songs this week. "I've loved his voice forever," Grant beams of Taylor. "I said, 'I hear James Taylor on these lines and I'd love to ask him if he'd sing on this.' He worked from home and he really spent some time stylizing it. He sent me a really sweet email afterwards saying that he'd spent the last several days with my voice in his head and hoped I was pleased."

Beyond its immediate chart success, Grant feels that the new album already represented a triumphant reflection of her life. "At some point you realize that some things really matter and some things don't. Living matters. Celebrating life matters. Seeing the value in hard times matters. Relationships and people matter. Faith matters.

"I feel like that's where my head has been while writing and recording this project. I feel this is a very positive record. I hope it's life-affirming."

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