Grant, Gershwin, and King
Grant, Gershwin, and King
Sat, 05/18/2013 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Host Robert Hammond welcomes six-time Grammy Award winner Amy Grant to the program to discuss her new CD, How Mercy Looks from Here. Grant will talk about her musical hero, Carole King, who‚Äôs featured on the CD. King is receiving The 2013 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Created in 2007, The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is an award given to a composer or performer for their lifetime contributions to popular music. King is the first woman to receive the award. Past recipients include Paul Simon,
Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and
Burt Bacharach & Hal David.
There‚Äôs nothing like life experience to provide a deeper, richer emotional palette for a songwriter to draw from when crafting new music. For Amy Grant, it‚Äôs been 10 years since her last full studio album and it‚Äôs been a decade marked by soul-shaking milestones. As she‚Äôs always done, Grant has embraced both the triumphs and challenges, distilled them to their essence and poured the lessons learned into songs that ache with honesty and reverberate with gentle wisdom.
How Mercy Looks From Here is the soundtrack of a life well-lived. ‚ÄúA lot of major life changes happen for anybody in a handful of years, but these years in particular a lot of really important things happened,‚ÄĚ Grant says. ‚ÄúSo on this record, there‚Äôs zero filler. Every song has a real story behind it.‚ÄĚ
In telling those stories, Grant recruited an impressive array of friends and heroes, including James Taylor, Carole King, Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Eric Paslay, and Will Hoge. Working with producer Marshall Altman (Natasha Bedingfield, Matt Nathanson), Grant has delivered a vibrant collection of songs that are entertaining and substantive, and it wasn‚Äôt by accident. Inspired by a conversation with her ailing mother, Grant approached this album as a woman on a mission.
‚ÄúA conversation I had with my mother a couple of months before she died helped set the direction for this record,‚ÄĚ says Grant, whose mother passed away in April 2011. ‚ÄúMom had a lifelong curiosity that kept her young at heart even when her mind was failing. One night, when I stopped by to visit her on my way to my bus to drive to a concert, she was surprised to discover that I was a singer ‚ÄėOh you sing?‚Äô she asked. I said, ‚ÄėYes ma‚Äôam. I sing,‚Äô She asked, ‚ÄėWhat kind of songs do you sing?‚Äô I was explaining what I sang to her and she asked if she could get on the bus and go with me. She was frail and clearly wearing out and I said, ‚ÄėNot this time.‚Äô She said, ‚ÄėWell if I can‚Äôt go, do me a favor. When you get on stage, sing something that matters.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
That simple, profound bit of advice took root and became Grant‚Äôs mantra for this new record. ‚ÄúMy plan is to dedicate this record to my mom,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúAnd that‚Äôs how I describe it, it‚Äôs not all serious. It‚Äôs not all silly. It‚Äôs just things that matter.‚ÄĚ
Grant has built a long, successful career on music that matters. Ever since she burst on the scene as a fresh-faced teenager bringing contemporary Christian music to the forefront of American culture, the Nashville native gained a reputation for creating potent songs that examined life‚Äôs complexities with an open heart and keen eye. She became the first artist in Christian music to have a platinum record and went on to become a crossover sensation, her musical gifts transcending genre boundaries to make her a household name. She‚Äôs earned six Grammy Awards and numerous Gospel Music Association Dove Awards as well as three multi-platinum albums, six platinum albums and four gold albums. She‚Äôs achieved 10 Top 40 pop singles and placed 17 hits on the Top 40 Adult Contemporary chart as well as scoring numerous hits on the contemporary Christian charts. A longtime and active Nashville resident, Grant is as well-known for her philanthropy as her music. She and husband, Vince Gill, are tireless in their efforts to aid worthy causes.
On How Mercy Looks From Here, Grant delivers one of the most powerful albums of her distinguished career. The project opens with ‚ÄúIf I Could See,‚ÄĚ a spirited up tempo number with an engaging melody and uplifting lyric kicking off the album with a sense of purpose and feeling of musical adventure. It imparts the feeling that an important journey is set to begin and Grant then proceeds to take the listener on an eventful ride.
Some of the tunes burst forth with a sense of anticipation and optimism while others lean into life most challenging moments. The tender ballad, ‚ÄúShovel in Hand,‚ÄĚ began as a poem Grant penned after her son, Matt, lost a close friend when he was only 19. The song chronicles the emotion a mother feels seeing her child wrestle with tragedy. ‚ÄúHis friend had a car wreck coming back home from college,‚ÄĚ recalls Grant. ‚ÄúHe was a sophomore in Alabama and it was Mother‚Äôs Day weekend. It was his 20th birthday.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúBetter Not to Know‚ÄĚ also came from the deep well of personal experience. After her grandmother died in 1988, Grant took her inheritance money and planted 75 fruit trees on the Tennessee farm where she was living with her first husband and children. ‚ÄúI went through a divorce and left the farm,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúTen years after I had left the farm, the people that owned the farm called a dear friend of mine and said, ‚ÄėI‚Äôm pretty sure Amy planted these fruit trees and they are covered in fruit.‚Äô There had not been one speck of fruit for years. I showed up with a ladder and baskets. There were pears, peaches and apples and it was unbelievable. I was up there eating that fruit. It was so good. It was the sweetest peach I‚Äôd ever had. It was really emotional at that first harvest. I started thinking, ‚ÄėIf I‚Äôd ever known, I would have never planted those trees, if I had known my life would be completely up-ended and I wouldn‚Äôt be there.‚Äô Sometimes it‚Äôs better not to know.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúDon‚Äôt Try So Hard‚ÄĚ is a tender ballad about resting in God‚Äôs grace that features James Taylor. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve loved his voice forever,‚ÄĚ Grant says with a smile. ‚ÄúA couple of summers ago he invited me and Vince to come up and be a part of his 4th of July concert. We stayed at their home and their twins are the same age as our daughter Corrina, so that was really sweet. After Marshall and I had recorded ‚ÄėDon‚Äôt Try So Hard,‚Äô we were just in the studio and I said, ‚ÄėI hear James Taylor on these lines and I‚Äôd love to ask him if he‚Äôd sing on this.‚Äô He really personalized that background part. He worked from home, and he really spent some time just stylizing it. He sent me a really sweet email afterwards saying that he‚Äôd ‚Äúspent the last several days with my voice in his head and hoped I was pleased.‚ÄĚ
Grant recruited Carole King to join her on the upbeat ‚ÄúOur Time Is Now.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúI felt like that lyric applied to both of us, to Carol and myself. It‚Äôs a special song,‚ÄĚ Grants says of the tune, which also features her children‚Äôs voices and her father. Among the other guests vocalists on the album is Nashville-based singer/songwriter Will Hoge. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm such a Will Hoge fan, so having him sing on ‚ÄėShovel In Hand‚Äô was really special,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúI just love sort of the raw, rough edges of his voice.‚ÄĚ
The only outside song on the album is ‚ÄúDeep As It Is Wide,‚ÄĚ written by new country artist Eric Paslay, whose writing credits include Jake Owens‚Äô ‚ÄúBarefoot Blue Jean Night‚ÄĚ and the Eli Young Band‚Äôs ‚ÄúEven if It Breaks Your Heart.‚ÄĚ Grant invited Paslay and Sheryl Crow to join her on ‚ÄúDeep As It is Wide,‚ÄĚ a gorgeous ballad about the depth and breadth of God‚Äôs amazing love.
Framed by Altman‚Äôs skilled production, Grant‚Äôs voice has never sounded more compelling and each song feels like a personal story shared by a treasured friend. ‚ÄúI feel the most settled in life and creatively I feel like a kid again,‚ÄĚ Grant relates. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm watching my children launch. It‚Äôs so exciting to sit back and cheer and it leaves me with a lot of free time to reinvest now in things that I‚Äôve always loved and being creative being at the top of the list. Our home environment is so conducive to creativity. Vince is always doing something. Jenny Gill is working on her first record. All of our styles are different, but if you want to be a healthy person hang out with healthy people. If you want to enjoy the outdoors, make friends who enjoy the outdoors because you can feel that camaraderie and encouragement. It‚Äôs just really about the music for me and it always has been.‚ÄĚ
The songs on How Mercy Looks From Here represent a season of growth, yet as personal as they are, they are also universal. Everyone can relate to love, loss and the passing of time. ‚ÄúAt some point you go, some things really matter and some things don‚Äôt,‚ÄĚ Grants says. ‚ÄúLiving matters. Celebrating life matters. Seeing the value in hard times matters and relationships, people matter. I feel like that‚Äôs where my head has been. To me, this is a very positive record. It‚Äôs so life affirming for me. I feel like life prepares us for the journey. You don‚Äôt know what‚Äôs ahead and that‚Äôs a great thing about getting older in a framework of faith, because it stands the test of time. It stands the test of pain. It stands the test of death, and that‚Äôs what life is for me.‚ÄĚ