Natalie Grant is a living, breathing example of multi-tasking.
Recently having been honored for the fourth straight year as female vocalist of the year at the Gospel Music Association’s Dove awards, Grant’s musical success is only a small portion of who she is.
As the mother of twin 2-year-old daughters Gracie and Bella and an advocate for girls and women trapped in the international sex trafficking trade, free time is a fleeting concept.
“I love listening to other people’s music, but I used to do it a lot more than I do now,” Grant joked. “I’m OK with riding around in the car with no sound on and enjoying the silence. It doesn’t happen too much these days.”
Gone are the days when the sole focus was building her music career which started with a self-titled album on a small label a decade ago. Grant, like the Christian music industry itself, has grown and evolved. Her 2008 Curb Records release “Relentless” has been on Billboard’s Christian music charts for 65 weeks, peaking at No. 2.
“The music industry, Christian or not, has changed tremendously since I started out,” Grant said. “There are a lot fewer record companies anymore. A lot of people will work now through the Internet and independent distribution to get themselves heard. There are a lot more options because of technology, but it’s more difficult to get a break.
“Radio stations have a much stricter playlist and artists already need to have shown they’ve done something big to get noticed by a major label.”
The lack of commitment of labels to develop talent creates additional hurdles, she said.
“It used to be that labels were committed to artists’ development. They would take time and be patient. I’m so grateful to have been a product of that approach. I didn’t record hits right away and I had people stick by me. Today, I think for artists to be involved with local churches and getting plugged in that way is a good way to start, but it is difficult.”
Having climbed the ladder of success to where she is a Dove awards mainstay, Grant said she is she humbled by the accolades. This year’s awards were particularly notable for male vocalist winner Steve Curtis Chapman. Chapman’s daughter was tragically killed a year ago in the family’s driveway when she was accidentally struck by an SUV driven by her older teenage brother.
“I absolutely think the award was appropriate,” Grant said. “He is an icon and deserving regardless of the tragedy. The way he has handled it is a testament to the world about what sets us apart as Christians. To see someone live out the true Gospel like that in those circumstances is such a beautiful reflection of the love of Jesus.”
Grant had her own brush with tragic circumstances during her spring concert tour when she played at First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill. The suburban St. Louis church drew national attention when Rev. Fred Winters was murdered while giving his Sunday sermon on Mar. 8.
“It was one of the most difficult performances I’ve ever done,” Grant recalled. “The pastor’s widow and their two daughters sat in the front row. It’s difficult to know what to say. You walk through the usual catch phrases you use in a concert and it just falls short.
“It’s in those situations when real Christianity shows up. That same church had faced another tragedy right afterwards where a 7-year-old girl was killed, too. Words can’t explain it. The people there were so gracious and to see the amount of joy, faith and peace was inspirational. It was quite remarkable to see how they handled everything.”
Grant has also made reaching to children in tragic situations her ministry.
Her Home Foundation is dedicated to helping stem the growth of brothels in the developing world where girls as young as eight are sold to sex traffickers who may cage them to break their wills and force them into a life of rape and sexual slavery.
During a visit to Mumbai, Grant was shocked to see a young girl staring out from a cage in an upstairs window and was informed by her guide she had likely been sold by her parents for easy money and false promises of boarding and private education. The reality, Grant said, is that girls like her are routinely raped to create physical and psychological dependency on their captors.
Her ministry seeks to help free children and young women from the sex trade and also provide them with resources overseas and when they arrive in the United States as peddled chattel to move toward a better life.
“To me, this is the most horrific type of evil imaginable,” Grant said passionately. “These kids are all impoverished and many already have AIDS to begin with. You would treat animals better than this. When I saw this, my question was, ‘Why isn’t the church on the front lines of fighting this?'”
Her message has been largely well-received by churches and other organizations she’s approached, but there is still some surprising resistance.
“There have been a few places I’ve gone where they said they didn’t want to bring the subject up because it wasn’t family-friendly,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘Are you kidding me?’ They must be reading about some other Jesus. He lived his life calling us to do the same thing and reach out to the least among us. It charged me up all the more.
“Without the hope we have in Christ it’s impossible to open these doors for others.”
The activity level of Grant’s career on- and off-stage won’t be slowing anytime soon. Starting June 6 in Louisville she will launch her summer tour and later in the year she appears with Jeremy Camp, one of Christian music’s rising young stars. In the meantime, she is content with that quiet in the car, if and when she can find it.
“The twins have gone on tour with us since they were 12 weeks old, so they’re old pros at it now,” Grant laughed. “It’s definitely a balancing act. It’s a crazy road and I would leave it to raise my children, but I feel God has created me to do music and be a mom.
“It’s a unique and beautifully chaotic life.”
Natalie Grant home page: http://www.nataliegrant.com/
Home Foundation: http://www.thehomefoundation.net/
Billboard’s Natalie Grant profile: http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/bio/index.jsp?pid=386744
Jeremy Camp: http://www.jeremycamp.com/