With her youngest child, two-year-old Sarah, riding on her hip and a huge German shepherd trailing on her heels, Amy Grant greets visitors at her Tennessee farm with a big smile and lots of southern hospitality. Moving inside the lovely white two-story house, she helps four-year-old Millie with a coloring book project before she begins mixing her favorite fruit juices to create the perfect blend for her guests. Watching Amy in action with her family, it's obvious this is more than a page from Better Homes & Gardens. It's a house of love. And suddenly the title of her new Myrrh CD seems less like a song title and more like the perfect description of her life.
Though the title of her album may describe her domestic and spiritual bliss, Amy's life is much more complex these days than her laid-back demeanor suggests. In addition to the family and friends that stream in and out of her home, there are also journalists from as far away as Japan, Germany and Great Britain who have traveled halfway around the globe for interviews with the woman who has sold nearly 18 million records worldwide, won five grammy awards, 17 Dove awards - including "Artist of the Year" four times - and has performed everywhere from the White House to The Grand Ole Opry to Monday Night Football. She has been to Camp David at the request of President Bush. She has hosted VH1's "Top 21 Countdown," and she was recently an integral part of Vince Gill's highly rated Christmas television special.
It's obvious Amy Grant has taken Christian music and the Christian message to a wider audience and broader platform than any other artist in the contemporary Christian genre. She's opened doors for others to enter by demonstrating the far-reaching appeal of great music with a positive message. That appeal has come from her accessibility and her artistry. Amy has always had a special gift for writing and performing songs that reflect her rich life experiences as a Christian, a wife, a friend and a mother. On her newest CD, House of Love, Amy explores the rich tapestry of emotion that weaves her life together, and shares it in a collection of songs that resonate with energy and passion while revealing her perceptive insights on life, love and grace.
"I feel really settled right now. My family is in full swing. I've got some really simple parameters around my life. Basically, I'm married and have three children, and that spells out how I spend my days," she says of her mar�riage to singer/songwriter Gary Chapman and their children. I know hard times are going to come - being from a big family you have potential multiplied tragedy, but also multiplied happiness. But these are just really sweet times for me and my whole family. My parents are alive. Gary's parents are alive, and all the siblings and kids; everybody is doing great. We feel very blessed." Family has always been an important part of Amy's life. The youngest of four daughters, she was born in Augusta, Georgia, but grew up in Nashville in a strong Christian home that instilled faith and family values. It was also a family that nurtured their youngest daughter's creative gifts.
By the time she was 16, Amy had released her first album and was well on her way to becoming one of the dominant voices of the contemporary Christian music movement She had a vulnerability in her voice that turned her heartfelt songs of faith and hope into prayers everyone wanted to make their own. Amy's accessibility forged a bond with her audience. That audience has continued to be a part of her musical journey as the talented teen has matured into a wife, mother and, with the release of her last project, a pop music phenomenon.
Amy's previous album, Heart in Motion, has been certified quadruple platinum, signifying sales of over four million copies. The project spent 52 weeks on Billboard's Top 200 album chart, spawning four Top 5 hits including "Baby, Baby," which topped both the Billboard and R&R charts simultaneously. One of the most highly lauded musical releases of 1991, Heart in Motion garnered four Grammy nominations, including Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Pop Performance by a Female and Album of the Year. The success of Heart in Motion took Amy's career to an even higher level and generated tremendous exposure including appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Later with Bob Costas, The Grammy Awards, Arsenio Hall, The Prince's Trust Concert, The Tonight Show, The American Music Awards, Christmas in Washington, and numerous other shows and special events.
Though Heart in Motion would seem a difficult act to follow, Amy succeeds in creating a worthy successor with House of Love. It contains the same catchy melodies and insightful lyrics that made Heart in Motion so affecting, but also has a more organic, guitar-driven sound that harkens back to her successful Lead Me On project.
Love - in all it's complexities, power and glory - is the central theme throughout House of Love. As a woman who's been married for 12 years, Amy draws on her own experiences in writing and recording songs that explore the intricacies of modern relationships. "Whatever it Takes" is a song of commitrnent between two people in a loving relationship. The title cut, "House of Love," is a duet between Amy and her pal Vince Gill (the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year), which uses an infectious groove to underscore the message that love prevails even in the darkest hour. "Say You'll Be Mine" is an upbeat ode to the joy found in falling in love.
In fact, though the album explores the different facets of love's highs and lows, the overall tone is decidedly upbeat. These are songs that come from a woman in a happy relationship, and it shows. "I think the longer Gary and I are married, the more we really find our stride in being companions and friends," she says. "Our marriage tends to be a barometer for our lives, and we really are just glad to be where we are. We're glad to be with each other."
Romantic love isn't the only theme explored on the new album. "The Power" is a rhythmic, driving, passionate celebration of all the feelings generated by the power of God. "Children of the World" is an anthem that speaks not only of God's love for little ones, but also of the adult generation's obligation to have faith and help make the world a better place for them to inherit. "Helping Hand" urges everyone to come to the aid of their fellow man in times of need.
"I feel from a spiritual standpoint that there's a real celebration of humanity, of the common bond of everybody," Amy says of this record. "We need each other. We're all valued by God. On a record by a Christian artist, sometimes it can be kind of 'us and them' - the saved and the unsaved. I don't have any desire to make music like that right now.... I think it takes a lot of thought and energy and contemplation to hear God, to believe what He says and to quietly live that in your own life."
Amy doesn't limit her encouragement and support of others strictly to her musical endeavors. She participates in Nashville's Leadership Music Program and meets with terminally ill children as part of the "Make-a-Wish" Foundation. She recently played right field in Nashville's City of Hope Celebrity Softball Challenge, and has shown her skills on the green by participating in celebrity golf tournaments to aid various causes. She has hosted benefits for the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the Nashville Symphony, and has recruited for these shows such luminaries as James Taylor, Robin Williams., Vince Gill and Michael W. Smith.
One of the organizations she enjoys working with most is Habitat for Humanity. "In 1989 I did a tour and spoke about Habitat for Humanity from the stage," she recalls. "Since then I've gotten so many letters from kids who were in college then that went and built houses around the world for Habitat. This past week I went and worked on a Habitat house with my six-year-old son Matt. Next year his entire school is going to build a house."
Amy's community service efforts haven't gone unrecognized. In 1992 she was named Young Tennessean of the Year by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, and this year she was honored by the Benedictine Order at St. John's University with the prestigious Pax Christi Award, the Peace of Christ Award. Amy is only the third woman and ninth layperson to receive this honor since its inception in 1963. After being awarded the Pax Christi, she received congratulatory letters from each of our country's surviving Presidents.
In her community service, her family life, and her music, Amy Grant displays commitment to caring about her fellowman and a heart always eager to lift up those around her. The greatest expression of those gifts can be found in her music. Yes, it is polished pop music, very '90s in its excellent production quality and professional approach, but at the heart of it is Amy's desire to communicate God's love.
"I feel so fortunate and so blessed to get to do music for a career," she relates. "It's very gratifying to be invited into other people's lives as the result of having done something that came very naturally to you. The girls at the school I spoke at the other night were coming up and telling me about their lives and things that had happened to them. They just opened up because my music had created a reason for us to communicate. That's very gratifying."
But perhaps the most gratifying thing for Amy Grant is how her personal and professional lives meld together. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and a recent photo taken in the studio on her farm while she was recording House of Love is a perfect example. "I'm standing on a rug singing, and Millie is lying on her stomach, coloring at my feet," Amy says squinting against the afternoon sun as it hits her grandmother's rocking chairs, now at home on Amy's front porch. "I loved having that photograph because you know, it's the real picture. That's what it's really like."