All artist and candle-lighting photos taken at the Creation East 2008 festival.
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Amy Grant & Hawk Nelson Interview
The 30th anniversary of any event is special, but the 30th anniversary of the Creation East festival was made extra memorable by the appearance of one of Christian music’s most well-known and loved artists—Amy Grant. On Friday night she performed five songs, including her hits "Lead Me On" and "Love of Another Kind". It was fascinating to see how the crowd responded. One humorous exclamation came from a young girl who turned to her Dad and said, "What's Amy playing a Bethany Dillon song for?" (Bethany re-did "Lead Me On" on her debut.)
The icing on the cake was when Amy teamed up with pop/rock sensation Hawk Nelson to sing backup on their song “One Little Miracle”. Just how did this collaboration come about? Where has Amy been for the past few years? What can we expect from her and the Hawk Nelson guys in the future?
At an exclusive interview session with other members of the press held on the festival grounds, we at TitleTrakk.com discovered the answers. Moderated by FM 90.3 WJTL dj Mindy Lynn, read on to experience for yourself this intimate and entertaining conversation!
MINDY: A couple years ago, Amy, I understand in 1983 you were getting ready to perform at Creation and a transformer blew. What happened?
AMY: There was an event in Florida where a candlelight was planned. But it rained, and the candles weren’t used. I guess all the trucks and vans drove up from Florida for Creation, and when the transformer went out everything went out. I mean, there was no sound system, and we were in darkness. Back then there weren’t all the worship songs either. Not many choruses. The only songs we could figure out that everybody knew were Christmas songs. (Laughs.) Pretty limited! So Brown Bannister got up and he was swinging a lantern to keep everybody singing in time. It was the dark ages! Jason (nods to Jason Dunn sitting next to her) was not quite one then.
DANIEL BIRO: That is so vintage!
AMY: Somebody went and got all the candles from the van, and that was the beginning of the candlelight service at Creation.
So, Amy . . . what have you been up to?
AMY: So much. This month marks 20 years since I had a record called Lead Me On come out. And so I’ve reassembled most of the old band, and we’re going to do a 20 city tour. We re-released Lead Me On with 45 minutes of unpublished material. Some live concert songs from the 1989 tour, and some more recent things. And then I’m starting a record which will be out next summer. I’m doing a Christmas tour with my husband Vince, and mostly just trying to keep my kids out of trouble. (Laughs.)
DANIEL: Hey, Amy, do you think we could be like a permanent part of your band?
AMY: That was so much fun tonight. It was unbelievable. We’d have to include Will Owsley though.
DUNN: Will’s amazing.
So I understand you going back and bringing out these 45 minutes of older stuff brought you to your newer album. The old stuff kinda made you think of new material?
AMY: I sort of fell off the map a little bit because I went through so many life changes. I went through a divorce in 1998. In 1999 I remarried, had a baby. I sort of feel like I entered a long, dark tunnel that took about ten years to come all the way through. And anybody that’s ever been through an intense life change realizes your life can suddenly look different, and you can feel like a stranger in your own life. It takes time to get your footing. It was Brian Ward’s idea to re-release Lead Me On, and it was when I re-heard those live recordings that something happened in me . . . the healing was done. So I said, let’s get out there and start making some music. I’m 47 and a half, and I don’t know what music is going to look like as I’m closing in on 50, but it probably has less big stages like that [gestures behind herself toward the Creation festival main stage] and more tents like this [referring to the small tent in which the interview was conducted], which suits me just fine. But I know when you’re creative, there’s always something ahead.
And I understand there are 3 new recordings, one with Vince and one with Michael W. Smith and Will Owsley?
AMY: Yes, the songwriter versions of three of the songs we picked are totally stripped down to highlight the lyrics.
Who are some of the original band members who’ll be out with you on the fall Lead Me On tour?
AMY: Well, one person who will definitely not be on the road is Terry McMillan because he died a little over a year ago. Unbelievable harmonica player. We tell a story about Mutt Lang who produced AC/DC, Shania Twain, so many people could sing his praises. But he’s legendary for making a musician do a hundred takes of the same thing. (Imitates British accent) “Man, that was really great, let’s just try it one more time.” Terry McMillan is the only person who has ever done one take for Mutt Lang. And it was in a Shania Twain song that had a key change. He went from one harmonica to the next. When the red lights were turned off, Mutt said, “That’s all we need.” And so on this re-release there’s an extended solo by Terry McMillan, and it’s just wonderful that that’s on there.
And the only other person who I probably won’t invite out on the road, though he would probably go!, is my ex-husband Gary Chapman (Laughs.) I think he would go and have a blast, but . . . we get along great, but there’s only so much you can ask!
Everybody else that was in the band will be out with me. Chris Rodriguez. He’s been out with Keith Urban, but Nicole’s baby is due so he’s off. Gerry McPherson’s been out with Faith Hill, but she’s got the fall off, so he’s coming. Greg Morrow on drums. Chris Eaton on keyboards. Ken Rarick, and Warren Ham who’s been out with Donna Summer.
JASON: I kinda think Smitty should make the comeback, you know?
[One of the Hawk Nelson guys breaks out into song: “Thy word, is a---”]
So what about this little ditty I’ve heard, “One Little Miracle”. How did that come about?”
JASON: Well, me and this girl go waaaay back. [Wrests arm around back of bench he’s sharing with Amy] High school prom, 1984. I was two and a half. (Laughter.) Our manager, Miss Theresa Davis was an Amy Grant mega-fan. Don’t get me wrong . . . Heart in Motion . . . thank you, Lord! But I mean, I could probably sing three of the songs, but Theresa can tell you the track listings. As a kid I grew up listening to Phil Keaggy, who was playing today. I would love to meet that guy still. I grew up on artists such as Michael W. Smith, and of course the fabulous Amy Grant. That was the music I listened to as a kid. My parents raised me on it. Then I grew up and I realized my friends were listening to it, so obviously I couldn’t listen to it anymore. But deep down I was like, “Oh, I love this song. Don’t change the radio. Aw, he just changed the radio! Great.”
When we started Hawk Nelson we came into Nashville for the Gospel Music Association week, and I was like a kid in a candy shop. As a kid raised on Christian music I was nineteen years old and was like, “Oh, my goodness, that’s Michael W. Smith over there. That’s Michael W. Smith over there!” I got Rick Cua to sign my wallet. And then I ran into John Schlitt from Petra, and I was freaking out.
So that’s a long story to say that’s just the type of music I was raised on. I hate to say it, but kids out there don’t know who Rick Cua is, they don’t know who David Meece or Randy Stonehill is. Are you kidding me? It offends me. So we’re bringing it back.
Theresa was like, “We’ll get Amy to do a song with you.” And we were like, “She won’t do it. There’s no way.” But she actually said yes!
AMY: You know, Nashville is a great music town, and the whole fun of making music is making it with other people. I’m not a very good background singer---
JASON: That’s not true.
AMY: I’m telling you, it was pretty painful the first hour of trying to do it because Jason sang that song so well. But I love the collaboration we wound up with. I’m married to a great singer—
JASON: The luckiest man in the world.
AMY: Not a week goes by that he’s not singing on somebody’s record. And it’s because that’s the whole point, to share your gift. And I was so honored. Because I’m not a really good harmony singer, I don’t get asked. Every week Vince is like, “I’ve got five sessions, I’m singing on all these debuts. . .” And I’m thinking, “They must’ve heard about me, because nobody’s calling!” So when Theresa called I was like YES!!! I get to go sing on somebody’s record!
JASON: You did the one up, didn’t you? “What are you doing today, Vince, honey? Oh? I’m going to do that too.”
JONATHAN STERNGARD: And Vince asks, “Hawk Nelson, is that Willie Nelson’s son?”
JASON: Actually, I think it’s great, great, great, great grandson.
AMY: Hey, that’s a pretty good gene pool.
JASON: I’m sorry.
Watch a "making of" video with Hawk Nelson and Amy Grant in the studio:
So, Hawk Nelson, great, great, great, great, grandson of Willie Nelson, what have you been up to?
JASON: Well, this and that. We released an album called Hawk Nelson is My Friend. Available on iTunes, Hawknelson.com, check it out, thank you. (Laughs.) Also, festivals. I love festival season, except when it pours rain. In between festivals is baseball. So we’ve got both ends of the spectrum. We’ve got rain. And then we’ve got 1,000 degree heat in Mississippi where you’re afraid to go outside because your feet might burn.
DANIEL: It’s called Faith Nights, and our booking agency puts it on. Last year we did about 30 of them. It’s AAA baseball teams. The Veggie Tales are there, there are player testimonies, and it’s like a family fun night. It’s all around the U.S.
JASON: Free hot dogs.
JONATHAN: Good times. We did a few major league games, too last year. The Twins. The Dodgers.
DANIEL: Mark Stuart from Audio Adrenaline speaks.
JONATHAN: I grew up with Audio Adrenaline, too, so I’m kind of nervous around him still. This fall we’re on the Revolve tour. It’s for teen girls and is put on by the Women of Faith ministry. It’s awesome, because there are like 10,000 teen girls out there screaming at the same pitch. Actually, that kinda hurts, but . . .
JASON: And we’re like the only guys on the tour so it works out perfect!
AMY: Just don’t let them rip you to shreds.
DANIEL: [Imitates a teen girl screaming into microphone.]
JASON: It’s intense. We play the Cyndi Lauper song, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, and it’s the best song on our set because it’s not ours.
QUESTIONS FROM THE PRESS:
Jason, you played at the Stone Pony I think about a year ago. A guy approached you and wanted to invite you to a big beer bash he was having back at his house. You very eloquently turned him down. Does that kind of stuff happen often?
JASON: There have been some really weird experiences that’ve happened on the road, especially on certain tours that we’ve done. There have definitely been times where I’ve been like, “Are you serious? Are you kidding me? Go get disciplined by your parents or something, you shouldn’t be saying those sort of things.” I’m really thankful for my family, my parents. Parents are awesome. My dad was a great leader. I still admire him and really look up to him. He’s like my hero. I’m really thankful for the way they raised me and my brothers and sisters. I mean, sure, there are times when you relax and fall off the path. We’re all guilty of that, but we need to remember why we’re here, and why we’re doing this and what our motives are behind our music. Once people grasp that and what our mission is, it makes a huge difference for sure.
A lot of people like country music as much as they like Christian music. So Amy, being married to a country artist, what do you see as the similarities between Christian and country music, and would you even consider putting out an album?
I don’t think I’m an authentic country singer. I love recording
with Vince, and I feel like all these years, eight and a half, of being married
to a country singer has changed they way my production sounds. It’s
just earthier. But I think there’s an honesty to a lot of country music.
They’re not afraid to tell a hard luck story. Yeah, there’s a
lot of chest-beating and strutting songs, but country music embraces the
down and out, and it tells the common man’s story. In Christian music
we’re all commoners that need Jesus. There is something, an honesty
level, that I think draws people to both.
Jason, you’ve gone through a lot of different band members, and how has that shaped your band into what it is now?
JASON: Hawk Nelson started in high school, so I was eighteen, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. One week I wanted to be a doctor. The next week, maybe I’ll got into archeology. The next thing I know I’m in a van driving across the country playing shows. When you’re that age you don’t really have the brain capacity to know what you want to do with your life. So we had some guys in the beginning who were like, “Oh, yeah, sweet, we’re gonna go on the road.” Then they’re like, “We’ve been doing this for a year, I’m going to lose my mind if I keep doing it.” The older they got they started realizing this wasn’t for them. That happens in life. You start finding your niche. Now we’re got the greatest guys our band could ask for. I’m so thankful for them. We’re like a family, brothers. We look out for each other.
JONATHAN: Amy, you know this better than anyone, but traveling takes a lot out of you. Certain points in people’s life, they’ll come to the point where other priorities might take the front burner. When you’re in a band that travels that much, it’s going to happen.
AMY: How many shows to do you guys do?
JASON: When we were nineteen and twenty we did 280. We’re down to 175 now. There are certain days in the year where we’re like, “Okay, this is it. I’m done.” But that’s life! Everyone’s got that day where they think, “I’m not going to work today. I don’t care what happens.”
JONATHAN: I feel a country song coming on . . . “Quit my job, I’m not goin’ to work . . .”
JASON: Why is it that when you do a country song you gotta put that twang into it?
As Christian music royalty, what do you hope to leave with this awesome group of guys called Hawk Nelson, and Hawk Nelson, what do you hope to gain from this awesome experience of working with Amy Grant?
JASON: Amy Grant’s phone number.
AMY: I hadn’t really thought that far. Contemporary Christian music is kind of a new genre, but I guess I just wanted to be a part of what they were doing to be encouraging. I’m a generation older than you guys [gestures toward Hawk Nelson]. I didn’t expect you to know my stuff. But I know how powerful music can be. I was never like, “Hey, you need to get in the saddle and buckle down.” I think it’s encouraging when you find someone who has done something you’ve done for a long time. I hope we stay in contact, and maybe the conversation you’re looking for will come in a natural way. I’m all for things happening in a natural sequence. Great conversations are born out of real relationships. Things happen in a proper time frame, and so far Jason has not asked for my phone number (Laughs). He’s such a big tease . . .
JASON: I’m nervous!
Mostly what I feel is you guys have so much energy. And what I wanted to
take away from the experience
with them . . . sometimes when
you’ve been doing something for a long time and you partner with somebody
who’s new at it, their enthusiasm is infectious, and you go, “I
forgot how exciting that was! I forgot how great it is to be excited about
a new song!” It’d be like somebody who coached a team for thirty
years, and you get some great young players on that team, and you feel revived
to go into this next season. That’s honestly what I was hoping for,
and it’s absolutely what I got. Beyond all that, we have the fellowship
of being in the same family.
DANIEL: When we played together tonight, it was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever been a part of. I want to thank you, Amy, for doing that with us. It’s moments like that we get every now and then as musicians and believers where God has an opportunity to instill inspiration and fresh thinking on things. It’s funny how we’ve gained a bit of new enthusiasm, too.
JASON: It’s like a jump start.
AMY: I loved John Denver when I was a kid, and I bought tickets to his concert, and I was there when he did a live recording at the Opry House. I got to be a part of a four man songwriter in-the-round, and John Denver was one of those people. It was the year he died, and I’ll always remember that. This is not the year I’m dying, but I’m telling you there is something about just doing something with somebody that affected you when you were a kid. The things that affected us as kids, on that blank palette, are so strong. It never happens like that again. I don’t know if you guys felt that way, but to this day when I hear “Country Rose” and sitting this close to John Denver and singing harmony and going, “Thank you, God, that I got to do that.” It was really a great memory.
JASON: I was telling Amy this tonight. This is by far one of the most monumental things I’ll ever do in my life. I’m not kidding you. This is maybe a little too much information, but this is even more monumental than my first kiss, when I graduated . . . I’m never ever gonna forget this. I don’t even remember my first kiss! Who cares? [Makes buzzer sound.] Back burner. I’m telling you, this is amazing.
AMY: You know, as you gain more and more attention . . . she will never say [makes buzzer sound] on the first kiss. She’ll say, “That guy up there on stage, he was my first kiss.”
JASON: I think I was actually her fifth. I was like thirteen years old! I didn’t know what I was doing!
Watch the classic Lead Me On video: