MANSFIELD — She’s had a successful music career for three decades in both contemporary pop and Christian music, but Amy Grant said she has no secret formula.
“When you’re doing something you love, you just want to keep doing it,” said the Augusta, Ga., native. “Even though the number of records I sell now is smaller than what it was 20 years ago, over the years I think I’ve just developed a connection with people.”
It’s a connection she doesn’t take lightly.
“At every show, I always feel and try to say out loud my gratitude for getting to do something I love and thank God,” Grant said. “As a daily ritual, I always get up, say the date to get a sense of where I am in time, and just express my gratitude for the gift of the day.”
On Friday, Grant will perform for the first time on the Renaissance Theatre stage.
“I don’t think I’ve been to the ‘Heart of Ohio’ before,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Referred to as “The Queen of Christian Pop,” Grant made her debut as a teenager in the 1970s when she unexpectedly got a recording contract after making a demo tape of “Mountain Man,” the first song she ever performed publicly at the all-girls school she attended.
She went on to record her first album “Amy Grant,” in 1977 and continued to perform primarily as a Christian artist until 1991. That’s when she released “Heart in Motion,” a widely popular contemporary pop album. Five of the 11 tracks made it to the Top 20 in the Billboard Hot 100, including “Baby Baby” which hit No. 1.
“Heart in Motion” is Grant’s highest-selling album, with more than five million copies sold in the United States.
Still, she continues pressing forward.
“I’m going in the studio next month and recording a new record,” she said. “So excited about this. I’m working with a producer I’ve never worked with before and spent the last three months getting together with him two times a week. We’ve really been tweaking and massaging each song to make them the best they can be. I’ll get into the studio in October and have it finished by Christmas.”
Grant said she’s particularly excited about a young guest artist who will be featured on the album.
“My daughter Corinna is a sixth-grader, and the one week I had wide open overlapped her fall break and I was going to take her camping,” Grant said. “Well (my producer) said, ‘Amy, this is the one week we both have wide open.’ He said, ‘Bring her to the studio and we’ll find a way to use her.'”
When Grant performs a show, she said fans will hear a wide range of music from her work over the years.
“I keep the melody the same — unless it goes really high and I can’t hit the note anymore,” she joked. “I don’t think it’s necessary to reproduce the sound of the record, but I will try to keep things fresh and interesting. I’ll change songs up a little bit — but not really.
“Songs are a flash of memory, but I don’t really think one particular song made such an impact. I’ll play a song and people say, ‘Oh, that reminds me of spring break my senior year.’ I love that songs can be a reminder for people of moments in their own lives. Songwriting is about helping people articulate their own experience. It’s not about me. It’s how you felt when you were dancing in front of the mirror.”
When she looks out into the crowd, Grant said she enjoys seeing a varied audience.
“Certainly, anyone who’s grown up with me is firmly entrenched in their 50s,” she said with a laugh. “But what I’ve noticed is that many of my fans tended to raise their kids with me. It’s really fun to see the gray-haired fans down to kids.”
When asked about the future, Grant said she’s just enjoying life.
“The best things that have ever happened to me were not on my to-do list,” she said. “The best things were completely unexpected — meeting (husband Vince Gill), getting a record deal.”
Grant said she lives in the moment, sharing one of her favorite examples.
“The first Christmas after my mom passed, in 2011, was difficult. My dad has dementia and it’s sort of hard to be with him by yourself,” Grant said. “Christmas Eve had all of us kind of sad. I have three sisters and we all had the blues, but Christmas Eve afternoon I said to Corinna, ‘Can you please come with me to go see Dad?’ I said, ‘Let’s really doll up.’ “
Grabbing a Santa hat, the pair traveled to all three of her sisters’ homes to take a picture with her father in front of the Christmas tree.
“By the time we were done, I had all three in the car with me and we decided to go caroling,” she said. “The last stop was to an old childhood friend of his and it was just so beautiful. We left that night and I thought, here we all had the blues and were depressed, but sometimes just taking a bath and showing up makes all the difference. I think my goal is to just always be present in the moment and open to the possibility.”
Grant said prayer is also essential.
“About 20 years ago, during my really intense, busy years when I was working really hard, one day I said to my first mother-in-law, ‘I don’t even feel like I have time to breathe a prayer,’ ” she said. “She said, ‘Oh, it’s not that hard, Amy. I just say every day, ‘God, lead me to those I need and to those who need me, and let something I do matter.’
“She said, ‘It doesn’t even matter if you don’t know what it is.’ I said, ‘Well, I can do that!’ And I live by this every day.”