#92. A Conversation with Amy Grant

Jason Anders: I love your artwork for the cover of Somewhere Down the Road- Is painting still one of your hobbies, and what other hobbies do you have?

Amy Grant: Thank you so much. I go through what I call cereal passions, where I'll just get eaten up with something that I love and invest myself in it 100%, and then after a little bit of time I will jump to something else. To me that's just a fun way to enjoy what you love. I love anything outside, the heat doesn't bother me... I love to sweat. Before this interview I was in my garden out back picking okra that was no kidding bigger than my hand. I love nature. Later on today I'm going out with one of my daughters- We're going to ride horses, and I am not a fancy horseback rider. We just trail ride. I like camping. I also enjoy cooking, but I'm very average. I love to read.

I couldn't sleep in the middle of the night last night, so I went and tuned up my bike. I knew that if I got on a computer that I'd never go back to sleep, so I thought I'd do that just in case I had a chance to go ride... and I don't ride like Lance Armstrong. Bottom line is I'd rather be outdoors than in a shopping mall any day of the week.

JA: You said that you love to read, so what are your favorite books, or what is the best book that you've read recently?

AG: Well this is going to sound really like the "spiritual girl", but I'm turning 50 at the end of November and I've never read the Bible cover-to-cover, so I'm trying to do that by my birthday. I also love fiction. This last year I've enjoyed Olive Kitteridge. What have you read that you enjoyed?

JA: I love reading autobiographies more than anything, particularly conversations between interesting people like Hitchcock/ Truffaut, or a book called Conversations with Wilder where Cameron Crowe interviews Billy Wilder.

Moving on to a random question, do you have any phobias?

AG: Bridges. I can hardly bike over a bridge... the older, the scarier. I don't know why, but they just make me nearly hyperventilate. I was in California with a couple of my daughters for a cousin's wedding in June, and my 17 year-old pulled over on the side of this bridge that went near Santa Barbara and over a canyon and she said, "Get in the driver's seat. I don't care how slow you go, but you've got to face this fear." I was sweating from every pore. I don't know why. That's the only phobia I can think of.

JA: Do you collect anything?

AG: I used to collect quilts, but now I have more than I need. I used to collect teapots after I went to Southeast Asia. I also used to collect dishes, but I collected more than I could use and started giving them away. When I was little I collected seashells, and I still do. I have the same seashell collection that I've had since I was kid, and still add to it. After a while you go through so much stuff. What I love is using something until it's all worn out. I don't shop very much, and any great clothes I get is probably because it was for a photo shoot.

I invite people that are a part of my fan club to come to sound checks, I think it's more interesting than waiting in a line to get the same autograph for the twelfth time, and I can sing songs that maybe I wouldn't do in a show or work out new stuff. People will come up to have me sign a picture from the last time and I will be wearing the same t-shirt. My whole family is that way.

JA: On the subject of music, do you remember the first album that you bought?

AG: No, because I'm the youngest of four girls. Actually, you know what? The first album I probably bought was John Denver. I think I was the only John Denver fan in my family. I inherited The Beatles, Elvis, Joni Mitchell, Emerson Lake & Palmer, and Jethro Tull. I had a great record collection when I was young because of my sisters.

JA: Do you have a top three favorite records of all time?

AG: My brain really doesn't work that way. I can say three records that I love, but tomorrow I'd have a different answer.

JA: Are there specific albums that influenced you to start making your own music?

AG: Joni Mitchell's Blue and Carole King's Rhymes & Reasons. Those records were a daily part of my existence in my little yellow bedroom with my first turntable. Also the Jackson 5. I love Michael Jackson. I also love Aretha Franklin. The great thing about music is that on any given day it depends on how you're wanting to be moved. Something that is so perfect in one moment for you could make you want to jump and shout and feel so alive, and later can be something that is so interior and still. There are no three best records. They're all important- the famous, the infamous, and the unknown... because you never know how you're going to be moved.

JA: If someone were to ask you why you do what you do, would you be able to sum it up with an answer?

AG: I would be making music whether or not I could pay the bills with it. I love it. I am just as happy to be onstage as I am to be in a crowd, just as long as somebody's making music. I was so fortunate to get the breaks that I got and for the doors that opened. I always exposed myself to and was surrounded by people who were talented in different ways, and in my opinion were much more talented than I was. I did what I did because the doors opened up. Whether it was listening to records or playing guitar in my bedroom, I just love how music brings people together. I love the community that music creates because it's equally shared ideas. Nobody is more important than anybody else.

That's what makes Nashville such a unique town, so much of it is based on creativity that you just can't hammer down and fly through the schedule. In order to be creative you have to slow down. You have to ponder. You have to think. You have to reflect and articulate. You have to turn off your computer and cell phone and think of something that matters, and say it in a way that's interesting. To be able to do that is a gift.

JA: Which three adjectives would you use to describe yourself?

AG: Curious, hyper-focused, and easy-going.

JA: So if you knew that this was going to be your last interview to ever do, what would be the most important message you would want to get across to people?

AG: Life goes by faster the longer that you live, and it's such an amazing journey. The hardest parts are the most valuable, even though you hate every second of them. I tell my children that if and when you sense God, always open up.