Love has shaped Amy Grant’s career.
Whether for her music, her family or her higher power, love is what the 54-year-old performer has leaned on for her greatest inspiration – not to mention hits. That theme shines through in her mainstream crossover hits, including “Baby Baby” and “That’s What Love Is For,” to her Christian chart-toppers like “Saved by Love” and “Sing Your Praise to the Lord.”
Grant’s first studio album in 10 years, “How Mercy Looks From Here,” came out in 2013 and in it she continues her faith in the power of love.
“I love writing about all kinds of things. I’ve made records for 35 years. … Because I grew up in a family surrounded by people of faith, I’ve always seen music as … the easiest way for people to bypass their preconceived notions of God, religion – all those things – and it’s deeply affected (me) spiritually,” Grant told NPR’s Weekend Edition when her last album came out. “And I think that’s the one thing that all people on Earth have in common, is our spiritual life. Somehow, just always having that potential to say, ‘Is it possible in the right song to say something that would make somebody pause and imagine where they fit in the epic plan of God?’”
Grant returns to the Gallo Center for the Arts on Feb. 27. She last played the Modesto performing arts center in 2008, when her country star husband, Vince Gill, was in the region the same night playing a separate venue.
Since their marriage in 2000, Grant and Gill have performed on and off together. Most recently, they played a series of Christmas shows with each other at Nashville, Tenn.’s famed Ryman Auditorium in December, which has become a holiday tradition for the couple. Grant told The Tennessean that she and Gill feel a special responsibility performing those Christmas shows.
“I know what it feels like to have the blues really bad at the holiday time, and I know what it feels like to also be filled with hope and anticipation because you long to have some special experience with your family or your friends,” she told the paper. “I know what it feels like being a woman and feeling like if something magical is going to happen, I’m going to have to add about 50 things to my to-do list to make it happen. And I know that with the care and the time that we put into these shows, I come to it (saying), ‘I want those same things you do, and if you will let me deliver this up to you on a silver platter, we’ve got it covered.’”
Her current tour, in support of her record and repertoire, was inspired by her family, as well. The album came after a period where Grant was caring for her two ailing parents, who were coping with dementia. The album is dedicated to her mother, who died in 2011. The record includes collaborations with her husband, as well as guest artists Sheryl Crow, Carole King, James Taylor, Eric Paslay and Will Hoge.
The mercy of the title, she told TV host Tavis Smiley, is really about everyday mercies.
“Yeah, I hear so many people’s stories. That’s the crazy thing about a lifetime of music, is most times when you meet a new person, you kind of have your game face on. But because I guess people have listened to my songs, they feel like they know me,” she said on his show. “So they will just come up and say, ‘I’ve never told anyone this before, but …’ and then just start the story of their lives. In all these stories, there’s a beautiful component to everything in life, even tragic things. One day, I just thought, ‘I get to be on the front row of all these people’s stories, and just always see the different view of how mercy looks from here.’ That’s how it came.”
The album was another immediate hit for the singer, landing at No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart and extending her record for the most No. 1 Christian albums in chart history to 16.
The release was also the singer’s 16th studio album. Her first came in 1977 when she was just 16 years old. Since then, Grant has become a powerhouse of the contemporary Christian music scene. Her foray into mainstream crossover pop music with the 1991 album “Heart In Motion” made her a household name. The album went quintuple-platinum, and over the course of her career, she has sold more than 30 million albums and won six Grammy Awards.
Throughout her career, Grant also has taken part in philanthropic work. In September, she released a song to benefit the American Cancer Society and breast cancer awareness. Eighty percent of the purchase price for her charity single, “Welcome Yourself,” went to the cause, and she appeared on NBC’s “Today” show to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month last year.
“What an honor to pick up the banner and do something,” Grant told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of her work on breast cancer awareness.
With that single and her latest album, Grant said, she is focusing on what matters most in life. Love, again, wins out, as she told Billboard magazine.
“At some point, you realize that some things really matter and some things don’t. Living matters. Celebrating life matters. Seeing the value in hard times matters. Relationships and people matter. Faith matters,” she told the magazine. “I feel like that’s where my head has been while writing and recording this project. I feel this is a very positive record. I hope it’s life-affirming.”