Amy Grant graduated from one of the earliest classes of Leadership Music in 1991—the same year her now quintessential album, Heart in Motion, released. The month before the coveted music business program’s closing retreat, Grant’s “Baby, Baby” hit No. 1 on the pop charts. It was a bittersweet milestone for the singer who started her career in Christian music. On one hand, she had just made history as one of the first artists in her genre to “cross over.” On the other hand, the meteoric success of the record, propelled by the hypnotic pop of the chart-topping lead single, meant Grant would miss the pinnacle of the Leadership Music program, which she calls a “fantastic, great community-building experience.”
“I mean, when you suddenly play an important role in somebody’s fiscal year, your life is not your own. It’s not. I had to be in Singapore during the closing retreat,” the six-time GRAMMY® winner remembers during an interview with Sounds Like Nashville. “My little [Leadership Music] group all wore black armbands because I wasn’t there, but it was fun to be a part of a very Nashville experience during the time that song exploded.”
Today a pop record originating from Nashville doesn’t make headlines, but in the early ’90s, it was front page news. “Nashville is so much more of a musical melting pot, but at that time, it wasn’t the hub of Contemporary Christian Music. It was the hub of country music. It’s such a broader base now,” the 26-time Dove Award-winning artist remarks. “It was really the first pop effort that succeeded to come out of Nashville in probably a decade. It was just a totally different landscape.”
For many who worked behind-the-scenes to bring the record to life, Heart in Motion was their first run at a major label project. The LP’s runaway success essentially launched the careers of its three distinct producers: Keith Thomas (Brian McKnight, Faith Hill), Michael Omartian (Rod Stewart, Donna Summer) and Brown Bannister (Steven Curtis Chapman, MercyMe). In addition, it opened doors for several of Grant’s co-writers, like Wayne Kirkpatrick, who while relatively unknown at the time, went on to pen hits recorded by Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton.
“Everybody who was involved in that project that we took the effort to connect with saw it as, ‘This turned the tide for me. I was seen differently in the music business after this,’” Grant reflects.
The GRAMMY®-nominated Heart in Motion sold more than 5 million copies and garnered five Billboard Top 10 singles, including “Every Heartbeat,” “That’s What Love Is For,” “I Will Remember You,” “Good For Me” and smash hit “Baby, Baby.” The landmark project also made Grant the first Christian artist to have a record certified Platinum, the first to hit No. 1 on the pop charts, and the first to perform at the GRAMMY® Awards.
In July, Grant released a double-disc 30th anniversary edition of the career-defining album, which boasts remastered versions of the original 11 tracks, as well as select remixes and never-before-released selections. This fall, the beloved songwriter and philanthropist will visit 42 cities on tour to celebrate three decades of Heart in Motion.
While Grant recalls numerous memories of that particular season of her career—a period she calls “some of the craziest years of my life”—it’s the people who worked on the record and the fans around the world who resonated with the songs that remain the focal point of the 30-year milestone.
“A lot of big records have come out of Nashville,” she comments, “but those of us who made this one are mostly all still alive, and it’s just been such a celebration of the gift of each other and teamwork.”
Grant will be inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, alongside fellow members of the Hall’s Class of 2021, including Toby Keith, Rhett Akins, Buddy Cannon and John Scott Sherrill, on Nov. 1. This December, she and husband Vince Gill will reprise their annual Christmas residency with 12 shows at the historic Ryman Auditorium.