“When you get on stage, sing something that matters.” – Gloria Grant
In the latter days of her life, Gloria Grant spoke these words to her daughter.
At the age of 80, the woman who gave life to Amy Grant and passed on rich lessons of hospitality, beautification and speaking truth about who you are, passed away, but left behind a legacy of intentionality that Amy is now sharing with the rest of the world through song.
“There are so many life truths I’ve learned from my mother that I’ve tried to put gracefully into songs,” shares Amy.
And since she first arrived on the music scene, guitar in hand, lyrics in heart, Amy has been doing just that — creating music… experiences that matter. But beyond the music, Amy has been living a life that matters...on mountains, through valleys, always with intentionality and expectation.
“I think it’s important to take stock of your life every so often,” Amy says. “Primary relationships, physical well-being, relationship with money, with our mate, with God…it’s important to look at those things every couple of years and say, ‘If there were no limitations, this is how I would like to be.’ Say them. Write them down in a way that’s anticipatory.
“What we say is so powerful,” she continues. “Years ago, I wrote down that I wanted to be a good cook, be more healthy, have a garden… I had to take the steps to say those things. No one else is going to take time to do that. You have to take time to speak yourself in a direction; it’s almost like reminding yourself of who you are.”
From this internal dialogue, Amy has discovered and affirmed layer upon layer of herself.
Mother, wife, daughter, friend, songwriter, hearth keeper…and at the heart of it all is music.
“Music is all I know how to do well,” she says with a laugh. “Everything else in my life is slightly duct taped together.”
As it turns out, the intersection of her life and music is an oasis where simple truth marries the honesty of a true creative. Set to melody, the union has infused a new vitality within Amy’s heart and life, but also has reached others in their despair, in their joy, on and off the weaving path we call life. This is what reverberates through the whole of How Mercy Looks From Here, her first studio album in ten years.
“The great thing about waiting so long to make the record is that you’ve actually lived life,” she says. “The oldest song on the record is ‘Shovel in Hand.’”
Written as a poem after the death of one of her son’s friends, the words are searing, as is the story behind them.
“Matt’s friend had a car wreck coming back home from college,” recalls Grant. “He was a sophomore in Alabama and it was Mother’s Day weekend. It was his 20th birthday. The crazy thing about that song in particular is because it was written in such a raw state. Even six years later, it’s such a quick way to access immediate grief… and that’s a part of life…”
The palpability of sorrow is rife through the song, as within others, but the album — much like Amy — is effused with a colorful palette of emotion. Even the heavier songs aren’t sad for the sake of being sad. They are honest for the sake of the beautiful contrast of hope against grief’s oppression.
“I feel like profoundly sad songs add value to the hopeful songs,” says Amy. “There’s nothing ‘Polyanna’ about faith and just because you’re a person of faith doesn’t mean that you don’t live with a lot of unanswered questions.”
And as life has gone on within and around her, Amy has entertained her fair share of questions. However, vacillating between joy and sorrow, want and abundance, Amy has grown increasingly aware of all of the others who are doing the same back-and-forth game of life and are fighting simply to maintain their balance.
“Riding that wide swinging pendulum is exhausting,” says Amy. “But it’s very real. And with time, you hear enough peoples’ stories to put your own pendulum in perspective. Hard times are part of life. I think for a person who lives a self-reliant life that, when things go well, you can feel somewhat proud of your journey. If things go poorly, you might get bitter. All of those things…anything you don’t plan can give you that really anxious feeling. But that’s when you have to take a deep breath and realize that this isn’t a mystery to God. I’m just going to experience a different perspective of His mercy, grace, leadership… I’ll be equipped in a unique and unfamiliar way by the Holy Spirit. It’s just gonna be what it’s gonna be. It’s an invitation to lay histrionics aside.”
As she has been invited, so too has she invited others to be part of her life, her family, her music. The guest artists on the record are a testament to not only the caliber of musicianship Amy possesses, but to her ability to gracefully enter any environment and make a lasting and endearing impression. Carole King, James Taylor, Sheryl Crowe, Eric Paslay and Will Hoge round out the unbelievable roster of collaborators. Each artist has encountered Amy in the past, either at fundraisers, events, through husband Vince Gill and others. And, from each artist, Amy has coaxed the truth of their talent and the rhythm of their hearts to harmonize with her own, creating musical moments that will no doubt remain highlights of her career and journey for years to come.
Much like her home, Amy has molded her music career into an organic, living collection of friends, stories and passion. Her willingness to be moved by God when it’s easy or painful, transparent when it’s safe and when it’s not and malleable when her instinct for order wants to resist is the very essence that has drawn people towards her from the beginning.
And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I think people like to be included,” says Amy. “I love to be a part of an environment that creates things that people want to be a part of. Everybody wants to be moved. It’s a great way for people to be compelled toward God.”
Relationships, family, friendships, faith, music, perspective. These are the things that matter.
These are the things Amy pursues on and off stage. These are the things she sings.
Her mom was right… Amy needs to sing things that matter.
And then, she opened her mouth and her heart and shared a song…a life that matters.