Amy Grant is passionate about performing Christmas classics and original songs, and not just for the music.
The contemporary artist told PopCulture.com in an exclusive interview she and husband Vince Gill might not be together today without holiday specials. The two first really connected when he was a guest in the 1990s.
"He asked me to to be part of their TV show for Christmas that he was taping and I said, 'Would you be willing to guest on a Christmas show I'm doing with a symphony?'" Grant said. "It's nostalgic for us."
It has become a tradition for the couple, who are in the midst of their annual holiday series at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, aptly titled "Christmas at the Ryman." Grant admits that of the two of them, she loves the holiday the most.
“He’s not a Christmas nut but we kind of tease each other about it during the show," she said.
As the first home of the Grand Ole Opry, performing at the auditorium is special for many artists. Grant calls the former church a “magical space” that housed countless country music greats in its long, storied history.
Along with performing alongside her partner, the artist particularly enjoys the sense of faith that comes with putting on a show rooted in the religious holiday.
“I love the shows, and to me, it’s such a natural time when people are more open to the message of love and faith, and the possibility of exploring God in our world," she said.
Despite nearly three decades of putting on the annual program, the message never grows tiresome for Grant.
“What I find is that everyone wants something that feels meaningful at Christmastime, whether you go to church or not. You can’t even see advertising and go, this is the time of year we should be feeling and showing love and giving. I think our culture, so many times our presentation is a very brave face, but the reality of our lives can be a lot more disjointed. We work really hard to do an evening that’s meaningful,” Grant explained.
“We just try to create an environment where people can be seen,” she said. “It’s not about me and Vince. Especially this time of year, people want to have a meaningful experience. We have worked really hard to do that.”
One standout moment of the show comes toward the back of the second half, Grand said, when the program highlights Music City Lights, a youth orchestra.
"Just such a lovely way to have a moment of calm," Grant said. "To have these young players come and they do a couple songs and you can just feel everyone take a deep breath. Of course, the people gave them an immediate standing ovation because who gets to be surrounded by 8 violins playing 'Silent Night?' It’s gorgeous. That pays homage to the music in the Ryman the way it was before everything was amplified."
A self-proclaimed “Christmas nut,” Grant finds meaning during the holidays offstage, as well. She said the best part about celebrating is reuniting with her family: her father, three sisters and all the spouses and children.
“We are one of those Southern families that gather most holidays. It’s all about the food: divide and conquer,” Grant joked. “The only real tradition we’ve done for the last 12 years would be on Christmas morning, we take a photo of our children and any stragglers that have no place to go on Christmas. Sometimes I’m stuffing a stocking at 2 in the morning, and I don’t know who it’s for. Some of those oldest photos, our youngest is holding a bottle and now everyone’s grown and holding a cup of coffee. It’s really just about celebrating the gift of each other. Reconnecting.”
Christmas at the Ryman will be held through Dec. 21. Grant's latest Christmas album, Tennessee Christmas, is available now.
Grant also helped to set up a Christmas Playlist on Spotify, exclusively for PopCulture.com fans. You can add yourself as a listener here.
Photo Credit: Sparrow Records