By Ryan Brinson
There are some things you should know about Natalie Grant. She’s the five-time Dove Award winner for Female Vocalist of the year, a Grammy nominee and was the host of the hit show, “It Takes A Church,” on GSN. On top of that, in 2005, she founded The Home Foundation, which became Abolition International, an international organization with the goal of eradicating sex trafficking.
But what you should also know is that she’s real. When I talk to her, she’s speaks joyfully about making music and performing as well as speaking candidly about the fact that everything in life isn’t perfect and the importance of changing our perspective when life throws us a less-than-desirable circumstance. I actually met her back in 1999, when she was supporting her first album at a youth convention in Orlando. We performed one of her songs and she actually came to see us perform. To a 16-year-old, having the artist of the song come see you perform seemed like an other-worldly experience. She took time to encourage us and in turn, we became lifelong fans. I mention this to say, 16 years later she’s obviously no longer the emerging artist she was in 1999, she’s now a powerhouse in gospel music and at the top of her game. However, she is the same encouraging, inspiring and faith-filled person she was then. I interview a lot of artists who want to come across as genuine. Natalie Grant actually is. (Not to mention she can out-sing most women in ANY genre.)
I caught up with Natalie to talk about her new album, Be One, how her sound has evolved on this record, and to reminisce about what some songs in her back catalog of music mean to her now.
This is your tenth album. What made making this record different than your previous record?
I’m never trying to reinvent the wheel or do something completely out of the box. I know who I am, who my audience is and what fits my voice. But with this record, we had complete creative control. Usually, the record company comes to us and says it’s time to start on a new album, and that process, for me, usually takes about a year. We made this album in 6 weeks. I told the record company that we were compelled and had something write about so we just did it. They didn’t even hear the record until it was done and we had a listening party in the studio. I’ve never had that experience before. Thank God they loved it like we do.
On the album, the songs “Love Was Won” and “Enough” sound very much in line with Taylor’s 1989 while “Symphonies” has a current Coldplay-esque vibe in it. How did the music’s sound take shape?
My husband (Bernie Herms who is also her producer) and I were influenced and love the retro 80’s programming that’s in music right now. We actually lived through the 80’s music, loved it the first time around and love it now that it’s circling back. This album has that type of Duran Duran programming to it. I’ve always loved having really solid pop tracks, but one thing that was important to me on this record was to not over-sing. I wanted to have melodies that really fit my voice and let me be the singer I am, without over-singing.
Also, we made it really fast. We really saw how creative people can overthink the process and in turn, overthink the creativity right out it. Since we made it so fast, we just went with our gut instinct on everything and there was no time to second guess. We just went with it.
After so many years making music, what keeps the process new and exciting and keeps it from becoming stale?
For me, keeping in perspective that this is something I would have done as a hobby. When I’m stressed out and tired and overwhelmed, I remind myself that this used to be singing into a hairbrush and to stuffed animals. Now it’s a real microphone and singing to real people. The last few years, I’ve learned that perspective is everything. You can’t always control your circumstances and can’t always change them, but you can always control your perspective. I read an article by a 93-year-old woman where she said ‘it’s all about how you arrange your mind.’ It’s the same with keeping the music and writing fresh. In the Bible it says, “He makes all things new.” With recording, it’s a new song and a new life lesson, so I’ve never struggled with it feeling stale.
Which of your older songs do you still love singing?
I still love singing “In Better Hands.” I love that song, the melody, the harmony and the message. I love seeing people sing along to it. I also still love singing “Your Great Name,” The Real Me,” and even though it was on the most recent record so it’s not old yet, I still love “Hurricane.”
What’s coming up once the album has released?
I’m on the KLOVE Christmas tour through December, and then I will come back in January to tour until the summer. I’m really excited about this album. I love it because there is a thread of true joy through the songs. I’ve always sung from a place of brokenness because that’s what I knew and wrote about. Whether it was postpartum depression, not being able to have kids, or loss in my life, I wrote about it. Not all of those things changed, but my perspective on it did. This record is about joy.
For the long-time fans:
I asked Natalie about some of the songs from her previous records and what her immediate thought is when she thinks about them now.
“Closer To Your Heart” – Hurricane (2013)
Fun, pure pop.
“Make Me Over” – Awaken (2005)
My heart cry.
“I Am Not Alone” – Deeper Life (2003)
The big note.
“If The World Lost All It’s Love” – Stronger (2001)
It would be tragic. That’s the first thing that came to my mind.
“At Your Feet” – Natalie Grant (1999)
I always wanted to have a song that sounded like CeCe Winans and that was my CeCe moment.