Christian superstar Amy Grant rarely listens to her own music, but it’s getting harder to avoid these days.
With four decades worth of songs, some of them were bound to make it onto at least a few grocery store playlists, which, the musician admits, has led to the occasional humorous moment.
“I have gone ‘Ooh man, I love the sound of that drum’ or ‘That’s cool, that’s cool’ as I’m trying to find my favorite coffee,” Grant said last week during an interview ahead of her concert at the Academy of Music Theatre this Sunday. “And then I’ll think, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s one of my songs.’”
Nicknamed the Queen of Christian Pop, Grant has been a staple in the music world since she first broke into the industry at 16. Her career — which has produced hits in both contemporary Christian music and pop, including the Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping “Baby, Baby” — has led to six Grammy Awards, 22 Dove Awards and three multi-platinum albums; 1982’s “Age to Age” became the first Christian album to go platinum.
“She’s immensely talented, and she’s been able to balance a career and a personal life, just be a role model for so many people professionally and personally,” said Lockn’ co-founder Dave Frey, whose company City Auditorium LLC is bringing Grant to Lynchburg. “... She’s always let the music do the talking, so to speak.”
Before her concert, Grant talked about not labeling herself as a Christian artist, feeling the creative urge and staying relevant in the business.
So you have another nickname in the music business. What does a moniker like “The Queen of Christmas Music” mean to you?
“I guess it makes me laugh. I think without knowing I was doing it, and without intentionally doing it, I just created a body of work that probably will provide me a job longer than anything else I have done. ... I’ve just studied that season from every possible angle.”
Despite not using the label of Christian artist, is it still important to you to communicate a message of faith in your music?
“It is. To me, it’s important to bring people together, to celebrate life, to share hope, to tell our story. And what we believe absolutely shapes the way we see ourselves and the world around us.”
Where are you, musically speaking, these days?
“Needing to make new music [laughs]. ... I’m starting to drive down the road. Song lyrics [are] coming into my head, [and I’m] going ‘I need to write that down. I need to write that down.’ Creativity, for me, requires extended focus when it comes to music. I don’t write a song in 20 minutes. I think about it, think about it, then I have to really dedicate time to it. And so, I’m touring like one weekend a month, and when I hit the road it’s like yes, this is what brings me great joy. It provides an, I don’t know, a rudder for my own purpose. Not to be onstage, but to live a life of creative communication is so important to me.”
In what way has your music impacted your own life?
“There’s a Bible verse that whatsoever is good and pure — and filled with positive adjectives — think on these things. It’s probably been in the last 20 years that neuroplasticity [the ability of the brain to adapt throughout a person’s life] has been on the forefront of every medical, scientific research project, because what we do think, what happens to us and how we process it, what we let our thoughts drift across and dive into, continually does actually shape our sense of well-being.
“... I’ve had the gift of the thought in a beautiful song, even something simple like ‘Thy Word’ or ‘Father’s Eyes’ or ‘Baby, Baby’ — just celebratory [songs]. I had to practice that song, I had to sing that song over and over and over again. What that’s done to my brain is actually a measurable pattern. It’s created a pattern of thinking because of the discipline of executing those thoughts over and over and over again. I could have chosen anything to do with my life and somehow ... landed in a job that actually built, inside my skull, a beautiful landscape.”
Artists come and go all the time. What is your secret to maintaining a successful career in the ever-changing music industry?
“Just love what you do, and whoever can find it will keep showing up. I have met all kinds of people, but I have just always tried to treat my audience with respect. I’m grateful they show up so that I get to keep doing what I do. And some of them keep showing up. I walk out onstage now and go ‘Oh my gosh, it’s been 40 years, how can there be this many people here?’ I mean really, really are here. And it feels great.”
Emma Schkloven covers arts and entertainment for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5489, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @byEmmaSchkloven.