In Advance of This Week's Hard Rock Live Concert, Amy Grant Reflects on Her Career's Highlights

click to enlarge In Advance of This Week's Hard Rock Live Concert, Amy Grant Reflects on Her Career's Highlights
Cheryl Anteau
A “fantastic getaway.” That’s how Amy Grant describes the circumstances that bring her back to the Cleveland area for her latest performance, this time at the Hard Rock Rocksino at 8 p.m. on Friday.

And with good reason — 2019 is a year filled with a lot of transition, as she tells us during a phone call from her Tennessee area home.

“My daughter is getting married in 11 weeks, and then I have a daughter graduating from high school and we’re shipping her off to college,” she says. “And then I have another daughter getting married six weeks after that.”

It’s a lot to deal with, she admits.

“For somebody that tends to be a little scattered anyway, it’s crazy,” she laughs. “So I am loving going out and doing some shows, just having fun with great musicians because it feels like a vacation.”

Fans can expect an evening of their favorites, including a heavy smattering of tracks from 1991’s Heart in Motion, which was a blockbuster success, eventually selling over five million copies, carried by the strength of singles like “That’s What Love Is For,” “Every Heartbeat,” “I Will Remember You” and “Baby, Baby.”

Partially inspired by her daughter Millie, who was six weeks old at the time, “Baby, Baby” provided Grant with her second No. 1 hit and first as a solo artist. Several years earlier, Grant had first cracked the Top 40 with “Find A Way,” pushing her 1985 album Unguarded into the Top 40 as well, a big step forward for the singer-songwriter, who had first become a huge success in the world of Christian music.

She says that it was a big step to take artistically.

“That’s the record that gave me the entry to A&M Records, but I had to make the record first, and I was signed to a gospel record label that had a mission statement and Dan Johnson, the VP of that record company had come to the studio,” she recalls. “I was in my early 20s, but I remember being very emotional and just going, ‘You have given me such an opportunity, but I’ve got to broaden my songs.’ Because that’s life. Life is full of questions and full of celebration. You know, even a person of faith, it’s not the only thing you talk about. But it was very emotional because I had agreed to do a specific thing, and I was asking to do something in addition to that. And he said, ‘Do it.’ So yeah, I mean, I look back now and go, ‘Oh, no big deal.’ But at the time, I didn’t take it lightly. I cried.”

She says that she never felt the burden of unrealistic expectations for something to be successful, while also noting that with success, “they would put you in the harness and crack the whip,” something that she ultimately understood.

“David Anderle, who has passed away now, was the head of A&R for A&M Records. It wasn’t like [he said], ‘It’s going to be a success.’ He said, ‘Work hard, and you have the guarantee that you’ve worked hard.’ But then when something was successful and racked up sales, then they have put a lot of eggs in your basket, so I did work. I had to work a lot, and I had to be away from my children a lot because I understood during those years that I was a big part of their financial bottom line, and they had invested in me.”

Everything is a “trade-off,” she notes, making room for a circus analogy to illustrate her point.

“It’s like the flaming hoop at a circus, the tiger flies through it and then he lands and then keeps going,” she says. “You know, you don’t just stop in the middle of the flaming hoop. So I kind of look at every high and low that way. It’s just the flaming hoop that you’re passing through and then you’re onto the next thing.”

For Grant, her next thing will potentially be an album of songs honoring the music that she grew up with. Discussions are still in play, so she is hesitant to reveal too much about the project but says that she had started looking at songs for the potential album with an aim to record it in between the two weddings this year, if things come together.

For the moment, it seems that her daughters will help to keep her plenty busy for the bulk of the year when she’s not playing shows. But it’s no surprise to learn that she’s got even more on tap beyond that.

“The thing that makes my heart race every day when I wake up is the ways that we’re starting to use this old farm that I bought back in 1994, just ways that I share it,” she says. “The last four summers, I’ve hosted two weeks of a faith-based children’s day camp that’s all about reconciliation. That takes a month, with all of the setup and trying to get people to volunteer. My close friends will say, ‘Do not make eye contact with Amy during April or May because she will beg you to come work at camp!’ Twice a year, spring and fall, we host at the farm, a songwriting and music therapy program for high risk veterans, in conjunction with the VA here in Nashville, and that has been so rewarding.”

Grant’s career has been rewarding in many other different ways, as she reflects during our conversation. While she’s not a person who keeps a scrapbook, there are plenty of highlights that come to mind, including the time that she shared the stage with Stevie Wonder at a tribute to Superman actor Christopher Reeve.

“A lot of people were involved in that, everybody from Mary Chapin Carpenter to Stevie Wonder. We found ourselves in a circle on the stage as part of the evening, doing the song ‘That’s What Friends Are For,’” she remembers. “I learned the greatest lesson. I was sitting right beside Stevie, and it was time for the harmonica solo, and he launched into this thing that turned into a tangled nightmare, and then he took the harp down from his mouth and kind of rocked back and forth, and he said, ‘Well, let me start that one over one more time!’”

It was an important reminder for Grant.

“The reason you go hear music is the risk of it,” she says. “The person needs to be taking a risk of some sort. If they’re dialing it in, don’t go. I’m a melody singer, I don’t have a big bag of acrobatics, vocal licks, but even still, sometimes, I mean, even in the simple way that I do songs, there are times that I’ll aim for one kind of delivery, and it will just feel like, ‘Well, a swing and a miss!’ But you know, sometimes you just don’t launch off the right foot at the right time. That’s okay.”
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