Returns to Riviera Theatre on Wednesday
Preview by Joshua Maloni
It’s been an eventful decade for Amy Grant.
A few months after performing at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda – early into the pandemic – the acclaimed Christian/pop singer had open-heart surgery. Just as she was fully recovered and the world was reopening, a bike accident led to additional surgeries and more time off the road.
The news isn’t all bad, though, as the 2020s have also brought Grant three record rereleases – “Unguarded,” 35th anniversary; “Heart in Motion,” 30th anniversary; and “Behind the Eyes,” 25th anniversary; two significant honors: induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and a Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts honor; inclusion in one major motion picture, “The Jesus Music”; and, more recently, new songs “Trees We’ll Never See” and “What You Heard”; plus an 18-song project, “Lead Me On Live 1989.”
One week before a Sept. 20 return concert at the Riviera Theatre, Grant said, “I feel great. I quit drinking after the bike wreck (laughs). I needed to give my brain a few years to totally iron out the issues. But yeah, I feel great.”
She explained, “This sounds crazy, but everything that has happened, including COVID, open-heart surgery, the bike wreck and the two surgeries that I had to have because of the bike wreck, there have been so many hidden gifts – and I just feel so much gratitude and energy.
“And part of me, I just feel like – I don't know how to say this – but like an older-model car that was running just fine, but kind of hanging in there. And I feel like all of those unexpected changes were like being taken to a detail shop and having all the rust ground off, and then a fresh paint job, and coming out going … ‘Hey, I feel differently about myself, about the music I've made, about just going, ‘Hey, let's just celebrate that we made it this far.’
“I hope I still make music. I was thinking of a song idea this morning. It just felt like I've had the chance to take a deep breath and high five a lot of people who've made this journey with me.”
Amy Grant, "Heart in Motion 30th Anniversary" (Images courtesy of the media collective)
On Grant’s website and in each of the press releases sent on her behalf, there is a section that states, “Conventional wisdom has it that Grant put contemporary Christian music on the map becoming the first contemporary Christian artist to have a Platinum record (‘Age to Age’), the first to hit No. 1 on the pop charts ('Baby Baby'), and the first to perform at the Grammy Awards. With that, her legacy as one of the most influential artists of the past four decades is assured.”
In speaking with Grant, though, it’s clear that sales numbers, awards and status mean little in the grand scheme of things.
“I got a call from this man whose sister is a successful songwriter. … He called and he said, ‘I have glioblastoma.’ … He said, ‘I've just lived through so much; I know I've got a purpose bigger than this glioblastoma.’ And I just said, ‘All of us, maybe our purpose is just to connect in the day’ ” Grant said.
“Every day that is a big purpose for all of us. So many things in nature are connecting every day. The compassion of elephants. The hidden life of trees. But we humans, whoo! We are all about dividing lines and, ‘What jersey are you wearing?’ It’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ We have the greatest capacity for connection of anything on the planet, and we just keep abdicating our role – that superpower – by focusing on the wrong stuff. …
“It's so much deeper than all the issues. It is such a deep connectedness of all of us, beyond belief systems, beyond political leanings, all those things; our capacity to be there for each other is a superpower. And divine. And a lot of things. And every day we have the choice of stepping into it or removing ourselves.
“It doesn't take a bank account. It just takes being present.”
Amy Grant, "Trees We'll Never See" (Images courtesy of the media collective)
These ideals are shared in “Trees We'll Never See” – which, too, had a dash of the divine.
On it, Grant sings, “We’re all sons and daughters // Just ripples on the water // Trying to make it matter // Until our time to leave // One day they’ll carve your name in stone // Then send your soul on home // ‘Till then its praying for rain // And pulling up the weeds // Planting trees we’ll never see.”
“I wish I had written that song!” Grant said. “I didn't write it. But here's the crazy thing. I was working with a producer to sing my part on a Cory Asbury song. He's doing his first country album. He's known for praise and worship music. He's got a killer voice. And I was supposed to sing on his record last summer, and then I had that crazy bike wreck.”
Asbury hit pause on “These are the Days” as Grant mended.
“Months later, I can finally sing. I've had throat surgery (laughs). It’s like, ‘Oh, my god.’ And I get this song, it wipes me out it is so beautiful,” Grant said. “I can't believe I get to sing background on this song. I just can't believe it.
“And so, afterwards, I'm sitting there with Marshall Altman, who captured my voice for that Cory Asbury song. And I said, ‘You know, the songs that come from real life (are the most impactful)’ – and I mentioned this song that I had written after a therapy session with my grown daughter – and he said, ‘You know, I wrote a song five years ago with a friend. I'm never even going to ask anybody to sing it, because it's just too special to me. And he sang it to me and I went, ‘Marshall, I have planted over 150 trees in my life. Please, may I record that song?’ And he looked at me, he said, ‘You’re the only person I would ever let sing this.’ And I said, ‘I was made for that song. That song was made for me.’ …
“Thank you, Cory Asbury, for not filling your dance card with somebody else, and waiting on me.”
At the Riv, there’s a good chance fans will hear Grant’s new music; hit songs including “Baby Baby,” “Every Heartbeat,” “That’s What Love Is For,” “Good For Me” and “I Will Remember You”; and maybe a surprise or two.
Amy Grant, “Lead Me On Live 1989” (Images courtesy of the media collective)
Four years ago, one unexpected delight was Grant tackling the vocally challenging “Galileo,” a deeper cut on “Heart in Motion.”
“Well, it's several decades of music, and I try to be brave enough to tackle anything that comes to me,” Grant said of her live show. “I included ‘Galileo’ because somebody shouted it out. I mean, dear God, I hope nobody shouts out something terrifying like that song (laughs)!
“But, because of the release of this recording that I have from 1989 – forgotten for years – I've added ‘Lead Me On’ to the set. Another song from that record called ‘All Right.’
“And then another new song that I just put out on social media called ‘Say It With A Kiss.’ I've added that. It's not a romantic song. It just talks about if we would just see each other with kindness; if we would lead with kindness.
“I don't know what the setlist is going to be like – and it's actually the first night of the tour. And so, I think we'll just find our way through it.
“I've loved touring in this stretch of life. I feel so grateful to the audience who would come and buy a ticket, which actually enables me to continue doing something I love.
“I'm just kind of always picking songs off the carousel from the past, and also trying to include one or two new things.”
Concert tickets are on sale HERE.
Amy Grant is online at https://amygrant.com/.
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