Tailored in Music City
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It’s been nearly 20 years since Amy Grant fans found a new album of fresh Christmas material under the tree, and, when asked why it took so long, she counters with a warm chuckle, “I would think the question would be why so much Christmas music.”
It’s true: Holiday tunes have been a huge part of Grant’s career so far, accounting for three full albums, seven compilations, and a triple-Platinum certification for 1992’s Home for Christmas. But, with this year’s Tennessee Christmas, she drops another yule log on the fire, expanding her yearly concert series at the Ryman Auditorium with husband Vince Gill and hitching up the sleigh for a new holiday tour with Michael W. Smith along the way.
In fact, it seems like there’s no such thing as too much Christmas spirit for Grant, a feeling that goes back to her first brush with performing holiday music in the early ’80s.
“It was a whole room full of people at a concert coming together, but the energy was not about the artist onstage,” she says. “The energy came from everybody wanting to have some kind of meaningful experience. Just the way I’m wired, I was like, ‘This is the ticket for me.’”
Calling her new project “one last Christmas record,” Grant decided to give Tennessee Christmas an extra-personal touch. The album was recorded at her home in Nashville with a simple, casual feel and spoken-word stories of her own holiday memories, making it seem less like a “production” and more like tradition caught on tape. “We wanted it to feel like, ‘Oh, they’re just in the next room. Like, I’m in the kitchen throwing dinner together, and they’re just in the family room,’” she explains.
Heartwarming classics like “White Christmas” and “Christmas Don’t Be Late” stand alongside originals, like album namesake “Tennessee Christmas,” which has been updated after 33 years. But Grant also wanted to address the sadness we all know can come with the season, even if we prefer not to talk about it.
Producers Marshall Altman, Ed Cash, and Mac McAnally were brainstorming when Altman related a story about growing up in a house that was normally empty on Christmas, watching the rest of the neighborhood celebrate. The story evolved into “Melancholy Christmas.”
“I went, ‘Oh my gosh. Of course,’” Grant says. “Even if you wouldn’t say, ‘This was a tragic year,’ because of the sameness of some things at Christmas, you always notice the change. You remember the year grandpa wasn’t there; you remember, ‘That was our first empty-nest year.’”
“December” offers another ugly-sweater hug for a tough holiday season, and even “Joy to the World” takes a slowed-down, somber tone, but we wouldn’t call Tennessee Christmas gloomy. “Christmas for You and Me” gives a relatable look at what the big day is really like, and Gill appears to do vocal gymnastics on the bright and playful “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”
That song has become a standard of the couple’s now-traditional Ryman shows, and fans will get nine chances to see it throughout December. Fresh off the bus from a round of arena shows with Michael W. Smith and The Voice Season 9 winner Jordan Smith, Grant’s favorite time of year is officially back—and she says it never gets old.
“It’s like cooking your favorite meal,” Grant says. “You go, ‘Just sit down and eat. This is gonna be good.’”