Few artists, if any, have had a more powerful impact on the Christian music industry than Amy Grant. She burst on the scene as a fresh-faced teen who helped define the contemporary Christian genre before becoming a pop crossover success with such hits as “Baby Baby” and “Every Heartbeat.”
After 30 years with Word, the six-time Grammy Award winner signed with EMI Christian Music Group last year, which recently issued a 20th-anniversary edition of her landmark “Lead Me On” album. She’ll embark on a reunion tour this fall that features most of the band that accompanied her on the original “Lead Me On” trek. She’s also promoting “The Christmas Collection,” which hit the streets Sept. 30. And, she and husband Vince Gill will embark on a Christmas tour around the holidays.
Did you have any idea “Lead Me On” would have such lasting significance?
No. When you’re recording, you’re just hoping someone will listen to it then. I remember just thinking, “I’m not going to be one of those women that’s just way past her prime and if I’m still singing when I’m 40, somebody get a hook and come drag me offstage.” That’s how I felt in my 20s, but then you get to be in your 40s and go, “I’ve got so much more to say now.”
What was going on in your life at that time that is reflected on “Lead Me On”?
I was pregnant with [my first child] Matt and my grandmother had just died. I was wrestling with facing some more adult issues. [Ex-husband] Gary [Chapman] and I had been married five years, which is long enough to have gone through some rough patches. I had just realized that life can’t be tied up in a neat bow and I wanted to reflect on that. I think I had done a lot of pompom waving up until that point because of my real love for Jesus and my love of hearing songs that would build people’s faith up. I remember back then just going, “You know, life is really messy and there’s a lot of heartache.” I was more interested in exploring the harder things in life.
What’s the reunion tour going to look like?
Seven of the original 10 people from that tour are going back out with me to do 20 anniversary shows. So it’s going to be a fun walk down memory lane for all of us because we’ve all gone on to other lives and other jobs. I’m excited about being back with everybody. That’s what has been so amazing—people have wanted to come back and participate.
You’ve recorded three successful Christmas albums. What will this new project be like?
Signing with EMI, they have brought so much enthusiasm for my catalog. It was their idea to do a “best of” Christmas record and they just asked for two new songs, but I did two new songs and two old songs and they actually liked all four of them. For the other songs, I sat down one night and went through each of those three earlier Christmas records and I picked moments that were favorite moments for me. [I chose] “O Come All Ye Faithful” because it’s Phil Keaggy playing guitar. I’m singing. It’s really not a good performance; I’m very pitchy, but I love knowing that Phil is playing on this compilation.
What can you tell us about the new original songs?
I wrote “I Need a Silent Night” with Chris Eaton. He and I had not written together for eight years. The verses in that song talk about how crazy Christmas has become and the chorus is sort of our response to that—”It’s so commercialized, but I need a silent night.”
On “Baby It’s Christmas,” Vince was kind of messing around with those chords and it just sounded romantic. We wrote that over a cup of coffee one morning. I don’t think anybody really thinks about Christmas Eve as being the most romantic time, especially if you have children, because you are exhausted. But if you could have a very romantic Christmas Eve, what would it be like?
Are you writing songs for your next studio album yet?
I’ve got a dozen songs that I’m ready to record and I hope to be back in the studio and get at least a few of them recorded before I do this tour. There’s a song I wrote about Vince and there’s a song that a friend and I wrote when she found her birth mom. “Shovel in Hand” I wrote on the airplane flying out to the [Academy of Country Music Awards] in Las Vegas. I was meeting Vince, but I had come from the cemetery watching my son and his friends bury one of their classmates. It’s always songs inspired by people in my life.