by Kirsten Akens
She’s won six Grammy Awards, earned three multi-platinum albums, and had 10 Top 40 pop singles since she broke into the music scene in the ’80s — but that’s really just the tip of Amy Grant’s successes, which also include her popular Christmas concerts, both on the road with Michael W. Smith, and in her hometown of Nashville at the Ryman with husband Vince Gill.
When we speak with her in mid-December, Grant’s prepping for that evening’s full symphony orchestra-backed concert at the Sprint Center, which she describes as spending a “beautiful sunny day in Kansas City in the bowels of a building.” She laughs and adds, “I know the underground passages of every arena and theatre.”
It’s the life of a musician, and a life that she says is both hard work, and completely enjoyable.
We chatted with Grant about that life she’s built, how she manages the travel piece of it — and a few holiday-specific questions.
Adventure Girl: How is being on the road different now at 57?
Grant: (Thinking) I’m not juggling a lot of small children (laughs). I have four kids and they were — at least those really early years for each one of them, I took them with me, and so they learned to walk on a bus, potty-trained on a bus. And so now when I leave, I leave my family. Vince and I just have our 16-year-old still at home. You know, it’s work, but it kind of feels like a vacation, in a weird way … I’m a working mom like millions of American women and women around the world. I mean, the to-do list kind of never stops. And so, on the road, I have a very simple existence — it’s a long day and I meet at least 100 people every day, but it’s still focused. And so, I just try to stay healthy and be present where I am.
Adventure Girl: Do you have any must-haves when you head out on the road? And those might be items, or routines, habits (aside from being present).
Grant: Sure … it’s better to under-pack than over-pack. I try to travel as light as I can. … And, as far as fitness goes, I just think the most important thing is to stretch, and so I kind of — I’ve never taken yoga classes, but I take this little piece of canvas, like drop cloth, and I throw it down on the floor wherever I am and I … yeah, it’s like I kind of incorporate my meditations and stretching and prayer and all of that. It’s funny, I call it — (Laughs) One of my sisters, she’s like, “What are you doing?” I said, “You caught me right in the middle of my ‘prayer charades.’” Yeah, I just think movement and stretching and just kind of waking up your body and your mind and our senses is all part of being present … And you can miss the people in your life, but when you wake up any given day, that’s where you are and whatever adventure that holds, whether it’s finding the best cup of coffee or the color of the sky at sunset, that’s what this day holds, just wherever you are and how you live it.
Adventure Girl: That’s great. So, I’d like to ask about your December shows at the Ryman. Will you talk about what’s special for you about those particular shows at the holidays?
Grant: … It has always felt like a return to family. I can look out in the audience and there are always familiar faces. Last night, my sister Mimi was at the show with my brother-in-law Jerry. I mean, the trips we made to Caribou Ranch to record those early Christmas records, my sister and all my family went. … And my grandmothers were there at the studio — I was 22. And my nieces and nephews were there. Well, now, Vince’s older daughter, Jenny — I call her my “I do” daughter — she’s singing backup and she’s eight months pregnant with her second child. So, it’s like those shows, they’re like a time warp. They’re just so full of nostalgia and memories for me. And last night, Mimi and Jerry showed up and they had eight of their grandkids. … I grew up in a very kind, gentle, loving environment and we celebrated Christmas, not necessarily extravagantly with gift giving, but extravagant with time spent together. And that’s what I’ve always wanted to do through my music and through concerts is to create an environment that welcomes people and that they can, “Oh, we went with our family to this and everybody relaxed and had fun.”
Adventure Girl: What holiday songs do you most look forward to hearing?
Grant: Hmm… anything from Nat King Cole because that was — you know, as a young adult, when I left home, that was the Christmas record that I latched onto. That was the record that I would open a bottle of champagne, even if I were the only one at home, and put on Nat King Cole. And it’s funny because as my kids were born and young and then helping with the tree, and now, there are times that I decorate that tree all by myself (laughs), but it’s still Nat King Cole and a bottle of champagne.
And, you know, it’s funny, I have had one leisurely day spent with Diana Krall. My husband was working with her in the studio and it was at a time that I had a couple of horses that were hardly ever ridden. And it was a cold day and he said, “Would you come pick Diana up and take her horseback riding?” (Laughs) And I’m like, ‘We’re putting our lives at risk here.’ But I’m such a fan of her music and we rode for a long time. … We talked about Christmas, and, you know, she was married to Elvis Costello and she said, “You know, so many times, I’ve decorated that tree by myself. He might watch.” And I just said, “Diana, it doesn’t matter. So many of our lives have similarities that we are completely unaware of (laughs).” But we just laughed about how you have to kind of blow wind into the sail of your own ritual.
Adventure Girl: That’s awesome. I decorate my own tree and even in 21 years of marriage, it’s always my process. And I turn on the holiday music and I have a glass of wine or something and I pull out all the boxes and then the rest of it is just time spent with myself and that tree.
Grant: And you know what? I mean, clearly, you’ve made peace with that, and I have made peace with a lot of kind of following my own lead to create beauty. … Today I woke up by myself and there was no laundry to do, I didn’t have a bed to make, and I took so much time organizing my backpack — I mean, I was doing my best sloth imitation. I was in slow-mo as you can possibly be. And I did think, “I’m so grateful to have a day like this” … I can’t stress enough that the enjoyment of anything is how we linger over it, even if it’s rushed. That’s true of sex, it’s true of a good meal, it’s true of putting on a favorite outfit, making a bed. It’s just how we process that and how we allow ourselves to linger, even if it’s for five seconds to just acknowledge it. Changes everything. And that’s my travel advice, too.
Amy Grant’s most recent holiday album, Tennessee Christmas, is available with two new songs for 2017 as a Target exclusive. Purchase yours in-store or online today.
Kirsten Akens is a freelance writer, traveler, and restorative yoga evangelist. She’s a lover of books, Boston terriers, blogging, (cowboy) boots, Browncoats & baked goods. And she has an unnatural affection for alliteration. Follow Kirsten @kirstenakens on Twitter.