Interview with Amy Grant
By: Markos Papadatos
On April 17, gospel music sensation Amy Grant chatted via telephone with Markos Papadatos about her latest studio album “How Mercy Looks From Here,” which is her first CD in ten years.
It is expected to be released on May 14, via her record label, Sparrow Records and it was produced by Marshall Altman, who has worked with an array of artists such as Natasha Beddingfield, Matt Nathanson, Brooke Frasier and Audrey Assad. “I appreciated Marshall’s interest in the creative process rather than focusing on how to make it successful. It was always about what was right in front of us and following that creative idea and letting the outcome take care of itself. I really loved that and I really related to that. I hope I get to work with him again. It was really fun,” she acknowledged.
The album’s lead-off single “Don’t Try So Hard” is a collaboration with veteran singer-songwriter James Taylor. “I wrote ‘Don’t Try So Hard’ with Ben Glover and he has had success in both the country and gospel music world. It basically addresses all of our ‘need to perform.’ Our Western culture is so performance based and that clearly is not how faith works. We try to make it work that way since everything else in our life is performance based. Thankfully, that is not the way that the world of God operates. When Marshall and I were listening to that song and we were both discussing that it needed a very minimalistic approach to the background vocals, I just heard James Taylor’s voice on that song. Choosing a background vocalist is like casting a supporting role in a motion picture, since every voice is really unique and generates different emotions. With James Taylor, his voice is so familiar to many of us and it’s like a part of your family. I felt that having James sing that message would be really impactful,” she said.
On the album’s song selection process, Amy remarked, “I am not a prolific songwriter, but I have consistently written over the last ten years. The great thing about ten years going by between full studio releases is that I started with the songs and I played them for the people that were creatively in charge of the record and I got great critical feedback about specifics of each song. Then, I started soliciting material from other songwriters. Nashville is such a songwriting town and people are very generous.”
Amy added, “At this point, I am thrilled with every one of the songs on there since they each come from real life stories or conversations, so I cannot pick a favorite.”
For this project, she recruited such talents as James Taylor, Carole King, Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Eric Paslay, as well as Will Hoge. “I am a fan of every one of these artists so I was thrilled and I celebrated every one of these invitations. Music is collaborative and it’s a collaboration with both the songwriters and the musicians to create the tracks,” she stated. “I hope my best songs are still ahead. As a songwriter, that is really what you are always hoping for: that the strongest songs are yet to be written.”
In April of 2011, Amy’s mother passed away, however, one of the last things that she told her was to “sing something that matters” and that was Amy’s mantra for her newest album “How Mercy Looks From Here.” “My mother has been an inspiration for me every time that I have walked on a stage, so in the wake of her passing, I am filled with gratitude and inspiration since she was an amazing part of my life,” she shared.
Throughout her illustrious career in music, Amy has garnered six Grammy awards, as well as 26 Dove Awards and she has sold over 30 million albums worldwide. “What I look back on and feel the most accomplishment is that in the midst of a very demanding touring and recording schedule, I have four children. In my earlier years, it was really about going overseas. I remember doing a pregnancy test with my third child on a flight to Australia and it was positive. I was excited about that since I knew that a career could come and go, but to have a family and to be able to invest in that and to be a mother is really gratifying,” she said.
A longtime resident of Nashville, Amy and her husband, fellow country star Vince Gill, are both tireless philanthropists that lend their voices to causes that are dear to their hearts. “These are tough times and I enjoy using creativity to help generate income for all kinds of needs. I have been a supporter of Habitat for Humanity, Compassion International, the American Red Cross and big over-arching causes, but every day I come across people that need help. I always think ‘what if I was that person?’ I would want somebody to not pass me by,” she said.
For Amy Grant, her definition of the word success is “reaching a goal.” “The interesting thing is success is moment specific. I remember feeling overwhelmed by motherhood when I was younger and working so hard, my oldest sister who has five children said: ‘Amy, if you lay your head on your pillow at night and your children have clothes on and you kiss them goodnight and they have foods in their stomachs, that’s success. It involves taking the time to identify what it is that you are trying to accomplish and then sticking with it,” she concluded.
For more information on Amy Grant and her new music, visit her official website.
Photo Credit: Jim Wright