A lot has changed on the contemporary Christian musical landscape over the last 30 years but one thing that endures are great songs and the memories that come with them.
Six-time Grammy winner Amy Grant, a pioneer in contemporary Christian music, has just re-released her watershed album Heart in Motion, a recording that introduced her to a wider audience in 1991. Along the way, the songs “Baby Baby”, “That’s What Love is For”, and “Every Heartbeat” fueled album sales in excess of five million.
To celebrate this career milestone, Grant will return to live audiences this fall with a 39 date concert tour that got under way on August 5th. Older, wiser, and fully recovered from open-heart surgery in 2020, she is thankful for the opportunity to perform her music for a new generation of listeners.
I recently spoke to the thoughtful and reflective Grant about the album that defined a turning point in her legendary career, the health scare that led to a highly invasive surgical procedure, and the importance of her mentoring the next generation of up and coming musicians.
When you set out 30 plus years ago to write and record this album, did you have any idea that it was going to be such a watershed record career-wise for you?
Absolutely not. That was such a fun, creative time. It was the first time I’d ever worked with three producers instead of one. So even the making of the record just happened (in a unique way). I was bouncing back and forth between these three studios. We had all known each other for a long time. It was great creative energy and creative comradery. I was working with two record companies and I just had a great team of people around me. It was just like all the orbits aligned. It was just so beautiful. With the re-release, we’ve gone back and had conversations and recorded new conversations with different people (who were involved). A lot of us look back and that was kind of the first big pop thing to come out of Nashville and it just changed all of our lives.
In many ways, the re-release of this must be a fun walk down memory lane. It’s as if you’ve opened up a treasure chest that is this album. Could you comment?
It is. Yes. Just visiting with the writers and the producers (has been a walk down memory lane). And honestly, of course, I’m so glad to be 60 and not 30 again. That was a lot of hard work. I remember packing for another leg of the tour, because when you are suddenly instrumental in somebody’s bottom line financially, they throw all their eggs in that basket. I was just packing my bag to leave yet again. And I remember calling my management team as I think I was having a meltdown. I didn’t realize that I was barely pregnant. That was the big issue. I remember I was packing to get on a flight to go to Australia. I was beside myself. I was having to leave my two young children. I called one of my managers and I was just barely holding myself together. I was bawling my eyes out saying I can’t do this. There’s so much as being asked of me.
As I look back, I realized I had never worked so hard in my whole life. It was wonderful and it was hard. It was all of those things. There were times where I felt like I’m drinking out of a fire hose and shot out of a cannon at the same time. I would walk off the stage of a packed out arena and get on the bus. And the nanny I had for 33 years, would hand me my daughter with a full diaper, just holding her by the arm pits and say, “I saved this for you for after the show.” (laughs hard).
This record sort of marked a shift into a wider audience from the contemporary Christian world that you’d been in, a place where you had been releasing albums in for a decade. Was that a conscious decision that you made or did this just sort of happen organically at the time?
It was slowly happening before that with an album called Unguarded. The beauty of music is that it brings people together. You just think about the people that gather for a music event, or the people that gather for a sporting event. They’re not asking each other how to vote. They’re not asking any personal questions. They’re just shoulder to shoulder singing, full voice, the song they love, or cheering with full voice, the team they love. And to me, I’ve always seen music as having the amazing capacity to create a welcome table. I was never trying to have my face on every magazine cover. It was just like; we’re just serving a big feast here.
Let’s invite more people and come if you want. So yeah, I did stay on that trajectory. It just felt like an honest expression of how I experienced music. I love music of all kinds. In putting a show together, putting an evening of music together, it became so much more interesting the broader my recorded music catalog was. That was intentional. You don’t know if something’s going to be popular, but I was intentional with what I was putting out because I just felt like it was more interesting.
Speaking of putting an evening of music together, to celebrate the 30th anniversary release of Heart in Motion, you’re going out on a 40 city tour this fall. That’s a lot of concert dates. Are you excited by the thought of doing this tour or are you feeling a little bit of, how did I get myself into this?
Oh, no. I’m so excited! Now, some of the songs are pitched a little lower. (laughs) I don’t think there’s anybody that’s ever lived out of a suitcase because of their job that has not in some quiet place, fantasized about never packing a suitcase again. But when COVID took it all away, the thought of never having the chance to pack a suitcase, go somewhere, and create a unique evening of music, that made me so sad. And so, I’m coming back at this just happy that I get to go to work. I’m so glad. I came through heart surgery about a year ago. The doctor, after it was all over said, “You probably would have been dead at 62.” And I said thank you for not saying that to me before I went into surgery!
He just said, “When this goes south, it’ll be catastrophic.” And I said, I don’t like that word. And he said, “We need to get in and fix it.” It was a birth defect. So, there’s so many reasons like this that make me want to tour again. This whole Heart in Motion project was half a lifetime ago. (Thirty years ago) I was making that record. But I’m a year out from a heart surgery that has given me a lot more years than I would’ve had. And then, on July 4th, my daughter, Nelly, who was the inspiration for the song, “Baby Baby”, announced to our family that she is expecting a baby. I’ve got five kids, but just the fact that it was her and she was expecting a baby girl was tremendous.
Do you think about, or do you have an active approach to mentoring the next generation of up and coming musicians? It seems that your voice would carry a lot of weight with artists on the rise.
That’s a great question. I find myself involved in creative circles where there are young women who are songwriters and recording artists. Maybe they are getting something out of it, maybe they are not, but I just love being part of the conversation. I find I have so much to learn from the young women doing what I did 30 years ago. And maybe they have something to learn from me. That’s true of every circle that you go into. I do love those conversations that are not recorded, where you kind of go, what’s spoken in this room stays in this room. What’s the worst decision you ever made? Don’t do that. And there is a beautiful comradery for people that have had a similar life experience. I felt that way when I married Vince (Gill). What are the chances that I would meet somebody in the second half of my life that even if we don’t talk about it, the spoken and unspoken blessings and hardships of life are understood; that is a gift.
After people have listened to the 30th anniversary edition of Heart in Motion, or maybe someone who’s come out and seen you on your upcoming concert tour, what’s the one thing you’d like people to take away from that experience? What’s your greatest hope for this project?
I hope that people hear these songs and do what I do. I’m reminded of the good parts of an early version of myself. It just fills my reservoir. If somebody comes to a show or listens to my music I would like them to be about the good things in their life and to have a compassionate curiosity about what’s next.
My mom said about me when I was a kid that I was always present in the moment. I feel like music just invites everybody to be present in the moment. Every good thing is in the present. When you get overwhelmed by life it’s like I think I am looking too far down the road. I don’t think I’m looking at the whole elephant that I have to eat or the mountain I’ve got to climb but if you can just keep yourself in the present, no matter what it is you are going through, in the beauty or trauma of the moment, there is everything we need miraculously. I hope people feel invited to the moment and to share in it.
To Purchase Amy Grant’s Heart in Motion: 30th Anniversary Edition: