Christian Music's Best-Seller Is the Sweet-Sounding Gospel According to Amy Grant

UPDATED 04/18/1983 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 04/18/1983 at 01:00 AM EST

Amy Grant is one singer who lives by the book—the Good Book, no less. Though virtually unknown to pop music fans, the honey-voiced Grant, 22, is contemporary Christian music's fastest-selling artist. In February Grant received a Grammy for her album Age to Age, and she has been nominated for four of this week's Dove Awards by the Gospel Music Association. "To always be singing about love or sex relationships is leaving out a real important part of your heart," says Grant, whose six LPs have sold more than a million copies. "I want to know why we're all afraid to sing about God."

Grant, who describes her music as "pop, rock and ballads that happen to have Christian lyrics," is currently on the road with her 10-piece band for a 41-city concert tour. She hopes to lure pop followers as well as devotees of gospel music, which accounts for only about 5 percent of total record and tape sales. "It's like there's a huge mountain called the music business," explains Grant, "and this thing next to it, a little bitty saltshaker—that's the Christian music business. My question is, how can I sing to that mountain of people out there?"

Grant is counting on songwriter husband Gary Chapman, 25 (he wrote country singer T.G. Sheppard's hit Finally), to pen songs that will appeal to both audiences. Worried that the label "Christian singer" is confining, Grant largely avoids appearances on religious TV shows. "I think we're talking about the same thing," she says, "but the styles of communication are different." Churches, she finds, are rarely large enough to handle her sound equipment—not to mention the crowds she attracts.

Grant's appeal stems from her homespun values and strict moral code. "I try to do what I feel are the right things," she explains, "what Jesus would have done." She is not pushy about her religious convictions, and lest she sound like too much of a Goody Two-shoes, Amy admits to a few minor transgressions—flunking a test, getting drunk once and being tempted to go too far sexually. Still, Grant says she was a virgin when she and Chapman married last June. "I made a conscious effort to say, 'I'm going to save my most intimate part for the person I spend the rest of my life with.' "

Grant was born in Augusta, Ga., the youngest of four daughters. When Amy was 6 months old, her family moved to Nashville, where her father is a physician. She began playing the piano in third grade and was writing music by 15. During her sophomore year at Harpeth Hall, a swank all-girls school in Nashville, Amy's classmates coaxed her into performing on the guitar—and responded enthusiastically. "That was when I accepted full force that God loved me," exults Grant.

At 15, she signed her first contract with Word Records, Christian music's largest label. Grant met her future husband when the two got together to talk about her recording some of his songs. Chapman, a guitarist, was soon signed to open her act. "In a working situation we saw the best and worst of each other," she says. "We really liked one another and kind of fell in love."

Grant and Chapman live in a two-bedroom penthouse in Nashville. One semester shy of getting her B.A. at Vanderbilt University, Grant has temporarily shelved her education to pursue her career and crusade to broaden her audience. "What's so different about our music?" she asks. "It's just another wedge in the pie of life."

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