Amy Grant is feeling a bit retrospective.
Or, more accurately, her music is retrospective, thanks to her 20th anniversary "Lead Me On" celebration tour. The tour coincides with a special anniversary rerelease of the 1988 "Lead Me On" album, which remains one of the most popular and influential Christian records to date.
The 20-city tour reunites Grant with most of the band members from her sold-out "Lead Me On" tour from two decades ago. The new CD includes the original album and a bonus disc with new, acoustic recordings of three tracks, as well as four previously unreleased live performances from the original 1989 tour.
The singer/songwriter has sold some 30 million albums and won six Grammy Awards over the years while moving among the musical worlds of Christian, pop and country.
Grant spoke with The Bee last week on lunch break while rehearsing for the start of the new tour. In between bites of homemade taco soup, Grant spoke about the tour, her crossover career and finding time on tour for her famous husband.
Q: Why did you want celebrate "Lead Me On" in this way?
A: EMI Records asked me and asked if I had any kind of bonus material to include. But I hadn't thought about it for over a decade. When we made the original recording, we paid to have two nights multi-track recorded. And then I had just put them in the vault. I had never even heard them.
So earlier this year, we located the tapes, which was a minor miracle. The equipment was outdated, so we had to bake the tapes in a 200-degree oven overnight to get the moisture out. But when the engineer heard the music, he said, "I didn't know you back then, but this is one of the best live bands I've heard in my life."
Q: The tour reunites you with original band members. How is it working with them again?
A: It's been unbelievable. We had three weeks of rehearsal. It has been so easy. We sang through them (the old songs) one time and went OK. I guess it was like an old football team that won the state championship and got back together. It was such a joy to see all of these people.
Q: What can people expect to hear on this tour?
A: Basically, nothing recorded after 1988 will appear, which is interesting. I've made music for 30 years. ... So as far as picking songs goes, it's so easy to just have 10 years of material to deal with. I'm doing songs I haven't performed live in 25 years.
Then, if all goes well and everyone stays to the end and we get an encore, my plan is to go out and sing songs that I have yet to record. What is interesting about the whole concept of this tour is that when you look back to remind yourself of who you are and where you came from, hopefully it inspires you to look ahead.
To blow the dust off these old songs has been loads of fun. I joked with my husband that in my own way, I'm having my Dara Torres moment. Twenty years later, I'm trying to scream out these songs.
Q: You've been very successful as a crossover artist. Why do you think you were able to connect with those varied audiences?
A: I'm not sure. I think the consistent element of my music is that I write most of it, at least the lyrics. That has allowed me to go between genres with a certain amount of integrity. It's the same person talking about different things. The highest compliment I can receive is someone saying, "When I heard that song, you said what I feel."
Crowds come and go; a lot of talented performers can't sell tickets. I've played my share of shows where we didn't sell enough seats and when we went home we said, "OK, there was a big hole there." That's just the bell curve of what is popular. But songwriting doesn't require a big budget and you can share it anywhere anytime.
We were rehearsing right by the river in Nashville and a friend of mine invited me to go to a meeting for the homeless under the Jefferson Bridge. They serve a hot meal and have music and have a mission of hope. So I left work and went.
I went from planning this big-guns musical production seen in theaters and nice places to singing with my guitar under the Jefferson Street Bridge for homeless people. And, you know what, it was just as exciting ... We had a little pulled-together band. That is the glorious thing about music is that it brings people together. It highlights everything that we have in common.
Q: You'll be in Modesto the same night your husband is just down the road in Turlock. Did you coordinate that?
A: Well, it's not coordinated because we probably won't actually see each other. We have to tear down and get on the bus. We call ourselves the two ships passing in the night. The last two weekends ago, we were both in Iowa. I told the crowd it was so weird because my husband was 110 miles away. Someone shouted out a truck stop we could meet at.