Vince and amy gill

Amy Grant is best known for her career as a Contemporary christian music singer-songwriter who has also made appearances on the pop charts with love songs like “Baby Baby” (which had a popular music video and secured a Grammy award nomination) and “That’s What Love Is For” from Heart in Motion or her latest new song, “Say It With A Kiss.” But she is also known for her relationship with her husband Vince Gill, a country music star. The couple did not have the easiest road to happily ever after. Two marriages later, the couple have been together for nearly 20 years. Their story is a prime example that with a little patience and faith, everything will work out as it should and love will find a way.

Grant and Gill met for the first time in 1993. Grant was married to Christian musician Gary Chapman at the time and Gill was married to singer Janis Oliver. After 17 years of marriage, the Dove award winner and Chapman decided to call it quits due to irreconcilable differences.

For anyone thinking that Gill disrupted Grant’s marriage, think again. She told AARP that her first marriage “had been rocky from the get-go. I’d been holding steady for 15 years in something that was not easy to hold steady.”

After meeting Gill and performing a few times together around Christmas of 1993, the singer and songwriter was immediately drawn to the country music singer. The chemistry was undeniable and made everything worth the wait. Watch their duet below.

Read More: ‘Go Rest High on That Mountain’: Behind Vince Gill’s Majestic Song

The couple waited to be together until Grant’s divorce was finalized and married in March of 2000. The real struggle at the time was blending their two families. Grant had three children from her marriage with Chapman, and they were working to create a new normal at the peak of their careers. All eyes were on the family and the children, ages 12, 10, and 7 at the time, did not immediately enjoy their new family.

Luckily, the birth of daughter Corrina in 2001 brought everyone together. She really made their family home a house of love. ” the glue of this whole family,” Gill told AARP. “She bonded all of us in a blood way that really did connect us.”

Mutual friend Rodney Crowell explained to Taste of Country how perfect the pair is for each other.

“Sometimes one person in your life puts that final block in place, and you step into the ownership of who you are. That was a positive merging right there — two great, fun-loving, accessible people. They’re the perfect couple and parents, fully realized human beings and philanthropists. And there’s absolutely no pretension about them, which is very rare.”

Grant has made multiple Christmas albums over the years including A Christmas To Remember and Home for Christmas. She’s even got a Christmas tour coming up with Michael W. Smith. Clearly the couple loves that time of year because they collaborate annually in Music City with their Nashville, Tennessee Christmas tour, 12 Days of Christmas at the Ryman, which takes place at the historic Ryman Auditorium.

Vince Gill & Amy Grant’s Redeeming Love Story

photo: Vince Gill Facebook
In a 1999 CCM Magazine interview, Grant shed light on the demise of her first marriage.”I didn’t get a divorce because ‘I had a great marriage and then along came Vince Gill’. Gary and I had a rocky road from day one. I think what was so hard—and this is (what) one of our counselors said—sometimes an innocent party can come into a situation, and they’re like a big spotlight. What they do is reveal, by comparison, the painful dynamics that are already in existence.”In getting married, Grant’s three children Matt, Millie, and Sarah combined into a blended family with Gill’s teenage daughter, Jenny. The couple also welcomed their daughter Corrina into the family on March 12, 2001.

“In our wedding pictures, all of the children are grim-faced and understandably so, because these were not their choices,” Amy shared with Good Housekeeping in 2007. “But from the start, Vince and I promised to love each other well, and in any home, blended or not, if the man and wife are loving each other well, you have a much better chance of parenting well. Vince’s love has empowered me to be a better mom.”

To make things easier on Amy’s younger kids during the big transition, Vince gave them space. “When we got married, he inherited an entourage,” Amy recalled. “I had three children who were living under the roof with a man who was not their father. They were 7, 10, and 12, so in the evenings Vince would recede — go read, watch a game — to let them have their familiar routine with me. Then slowly he entered the picture. But there isn’t one issue that comes up with the kids that isn’t discussed from every angle by Vince and me. The one thing you have to require in a family is that everyone is respectful. But you can’t require closeness. That comes in its own time.”

Fortunately, Vince and Amy’s relaxed and level-headed approach their stepchildren and relationship helped the two families bond and unite into one big happy family.

“When Vince and I got married,” Amy explained, “I knew the reality was when you’re putting two lives together, there is no riding off into the sunset. You show up with all of your baggage and all of your ghosts and all of your patterns. Whenever you start over, you can feel like a stranger in your own life for a while. But you keep making choices toward building a life together. You can’t demand it of each other, and if it can be done overnight, it’s not worth anything. But after all these years, it’s so interesting — we’ve found our footing.”

After seventeen years of marriage and raising five children jointly, Vince and Amy have struck a healthy balance while maintaining their independent careers. Now that’s something remarkable. We wish these two many more years of wedded bliss!

Ask Vince Gill and Amy Grant what makes a marriage great, and their answers come tumbling out, not a whit of time for reflection required: “You can laugh together easily.” “And trust each other.” “And spend lots of time together.” “And have great fun in bed!” “Yes! A fabulous sex life!” And on they go…

These two are no shrinking violets when it comes to the topic of love. Gill, 52, a renowned singer-songwriter/guitarist and an icon of country music (he was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2007), and Grant — at 49, the best-selling artist in contemporary Christian music — are about to celebrate 10 joyful years of marriage. And while they seem to be soul mates, things didn’t simply fall into place, storybook-style: Each had been married before, and had to navigate the choppy waters of divorce. Each had offspring with a previous spouse, and they discovered that blending the families took serious work. And then there was the maelstrom of bad publicity surrounding their union and its alleged improprieties, which even caused Amy’s religious faith to be called into question. There were hard choices to be made in the name of love, and the rippling effects of those choices. And the story is still unfolding.

Marriage, Southern-style

It’s hard to envision megastars like Gill and Grant leading a leisurely, no-rush life, but in fact that’s just what they’ve engineered. Their home, located on a cul-de-sac in Nashville, isn’t the glitzy mansion you might expect of music-industry royalty. Tasteful and subdued, it has the spirit of an old-fashioned country home. Flowers border the front lawn; the scent of honeysuckle tinges the air; and half a dozen rocking chairs idle on a generous porch, along with a tail-wagging mutt named Chester. The home is a throwback to another era, a time before IM-ing and date-night scheduling, when romance blossomed while lingering over iced tea and listening to a country ballad. It’s a clear and purposeful haven for Gill and Grant, who also work here, writing music and recording in their just-finished home studio.

As she talks, Gill leans in closer to Grant; he appears to have something to add. But she’s not done, so he holds his thought till she’s finished.

“I think the quality of our relationship — the romance in it — it’s him,” she continues. “I think a woman can have all of the ideas and mental pictures. She can be a real planner and a motivator. But in the end, I think a woman does best when she responds to a man. You can’t make a man be romantic. You can’t make him slow down if he doesn’t want to slow down.”

Gill smiles, shrugs.

“I’m just grateful ,” he says. Ten years into their marriage, he still longs to be around her and admits he feels adrift when they’re apart, playing concerts out of town. “We talk several times a day,” says Gill. “I want to. I find myself going, I don’t want to call her too much, or she’ll think I’m nuts. But it’s when I feel safest, when I’m talking to her.”

There’s a noticeable and natural ease about this partnership, with Gill’s even keel setting the tone. But like all couples, they have their moments: “He has a quick temper,” Grant says, “and I’m as stubborn as the day is long. Through our early lives, we came to understand that you make the choices you make, and if those screw up, then you learn to make new choices. Somebody who has been in a very bad wreck is going to be very conscientious about not speeding through a yellow light….You just learn so many good lessons when you go through a failed marriage. If we had married at 21 and 24, it would have been completely different.”

Next: Read how Amy and Vince met (while they were both in other marriages)

The long (messy) road behind

Grant and Gill have been schooled by love’s complications. When their paths crossed in 1993, both were married (Gill to country singer Janis Oliver; Grant to Christian musician Gary Chapman) with children. They met at a taping for Gill’s Christmas TV special, on which Grant was a guest performer. “The connection there , that was kind of rare,” Gill told Larry King in 2003. “The hang was easy. The conversation was easy.” The Christmas shows became a yearly collaboration, and the backdrop for a growing friendship. “November would roll around and I’d go, Hey, we’re doing that Christmas show again,” Grant told King. “In my mind, I justified it: He can be my friend.”

Though they have always maintained that there was no infidelity (during Gill’s divorce, he and Grant were reportedly prepared to sign affidavits saying so), there was no hiding their emotional connection, both onstage and offstage. Gossip columnists noticed it; so did both of their spouses. Gill’s ex-wife, Janis, reportedly told her sister that she initially tolerated the close friendship he struck up with Grant. But, Janis said, when she found a handwritten note from Grant saying, “I love you…Amy,” in her husband’s golf bag, she unsuccessfully asked Gill to cut his ties with Grant.

Grant, who learned of Gill’s divorce by reading about it in the newspaper, was in the midst of her own marital woes. “The real pain of it is trying to take the high road,” Grant told King. “But when you have such an easy rapport with another person, what it really does is it highlights where you don’t have as easy a rapport.”

She and Chapman tried marriage counseling, but began divorce mediation in 1998. Grant then moved out of the family home and filed for divorce in early 1999, with the marriage officially ending that June. During this time, Chapman was being quoted as saying he “literally, on knees, begged not to leave.” In one of her own interviews at the time, Grant said a counselor told her, “God made marriage for people. He didn’t make people for marriage. He didn’t create the institution so He could just plug people into it. He provided this so that people could enjoy each other to the fullest.”

But Gill and Grant weren’t just any celebrities swapping partners as celebrities so often do. Gill was as known for his good-guy image as he was for his guitar chops. And Grant was the most prominent Christian entertainer of her generation. Not surprisingly, her divorce upset many of her fans, who viewed marriage vows as a spiritual covenant not to be broken.

Christian commentators debated whether a performer like Grant, who influenced others in Christ’s name (and benefited financially from doing so), should be held to a particularly high moral standard. Some Christian radio stations stopped playing Grant’s music; she remained mum on the topic at the time, refusing to enter the fray.

Today, she speaks thoughtfully and evenly about the media firestorm that swirled around her in those days. As pundits weighed in on the sanctity of marriage, Grant recalls, she had starker worries. “I don’t mean this in a flippant way, but I was so unconcerned by what somebody who I would never meet wrote in a rag,” she says. “I felt like I had flipped a car over three medians and I was trying to figure out if my children — if we all — still had a pulse. I could not imagine going through life not by Vince’s side. hear people saying, ‘I heard so-and-so say they’re not playing your records anymore.’ I had to trust that eventually everything was going to be OK.”

In fact, both their careers weathered the criticism. The year of her divorce, Grant went on a successful concert tour. Several months after her divorce was finalized, she and Gill began to be seen in public together, as a couple. And, a little less than a year later, in March of 2000, in a fairy-tale-like ceremony on a hill, they married and embarked on “happily ever after.”

Of course, they weren’t traveling alone. There were four kids in tow — Gill’s daughter, Jenny, then 17; and Grant’s three children, Matthew, Millie, and Sarah, who ranged in age from 12 to 7. “It was a long haul to feel like a family again,” says Grant. “The parents have made a choice, but none of the kids have made the choice. And wherever it’s going to wind up, you’re not going to get there quickly. You just have to give people their space.”

Next: Learn about Amy and Vince’s marriage rules

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Blending the two families was an arduous and sometimes painful process. “There have been a lot of hands-down, pivotal turning points, with a lot of words and tons of emotions,” Grant says. When asked for specifics, the couple clam up. Says Gill: “When I went through my divorce, there were some things in certain magazines, and I despised the way it made my kid look. So as a parent, there’s a side of you that just builds a wall and says, ‘You can ask all you want, but you’re not gonna get any of that stuff.'” Even in the face of the challenges, Gill and Grant made a point of always acknowledging the past. “The one thing we never tried to do is to say that life began for us the moment that we said, ‘I do,'” Grant says. “A whole lot of life had gone before that, and it was worth, in time, integrating in a healthy way.”

Gill and Grant’s daughter, Corrina, now 8, was born a year after they were married. (She and Sarah currently live with Grant and Gill; the three oldest now live on their own.) ” a great blessing for us,” says Gill. “All of a sudden, we all had something in common. And we didn’t know it at the time, but it really provided a sense of glue.”

Meanwhile, the passage of time, plain and simple, has helped to mend the double fractures of divorce and public chastisement. “From time to time it still comes up, and you want to say, ‘Come on, we’ve beat this into the dirt,'” Gill says. “But we just dismiss it in a way that is respectful.” He recalls a day when a man approached him in a guitar store. “I’d never met him,” says Gill. “And he said, ‘I owe you an apology. When you and Amy got married, I told my children that you were wrong. And now I’m going through a divorce.'” At that moment, Gill was glad that he’d never lashed out at the finger-waggers. “Not all Christians feel and act and do things exactly the same,” he says. “If you always try to take the high road, then everybody has a chance to benefit.”

Marriage, version 2.0

Now, the couple say, their happiness draws heavily on lessons learned from youthful missteps and from the early days of their union.

“There’s no such thing as riding off into the sunset,” says Grant. “You get into a second marriage and you go, Oh man, some of those weird dynamics, those were just me, and I’ve just dragged them off to the future!” Laughing heartily, she adds, ” I shouldn’t have been so hard on that first chapter!”

She recalls the time that her propensity for running behind schedule made them both late for an engagement. “We got in the car,” she says, giggling at the memory of it, “and Vince said, ‘I’m feeling a lot of empathy for your first husband.'” Similarly, Grant says of Gill, “I’m glad I’m the second wife. I don’t know what it was like the first time around, but for the most part now, he’s very patient and level.” She tests his patience from time to time, Grant admits. Halfway through a trip to Africa last summer with the whole family, “we were in this little, two-room, thatched-roofed building, and I was really proud of him because he didn’t ever lose his temper or mutter under his breath or any of the things that men do. And I opened the doors between our room and the room where Jenny and Millie were. I had probably been in there 10 minutes and I said, ‘Jenny, your dad has been so patient,’ and as soon as ‘patient’ came out of my mouth, I hear him say, ‘AMY!!!’ I had left the bathwater running and the entire floor of the room, our suitcases, it was all soaked. And the door slammed and Jenny said, ‘Oh, gosh, I hope my dad’s not yelling at your mom.’ And Millie said, ‘I’ve never heard your dad yell at my mom.’ Which is interesting. I do a lot of things that are easy to yell at!”

In fact, Grant’s penchant for leaving appliances on — irons, stoves, faucets — has earned her a nickname at home: “Absentminded Professor,” says Gill, laughing. “I just follow her around the house with the fire extinguisher, putting out the flames.”

But the pair have also learned how to turn their relationship issues into personal ground rules for a strong and respectful marriage. Though these guidelines may sound simple, it’s the following through on them, Grant and Gill admit, that can be challenging.

  • Know when not to talk. Granted, communication is the cornerstone of a good marriage, but there’s true value in knowing when not to speak. “When we first got married, we got sideways about something,” Gill recalls. “I could tell she was firing up to really unload on me. I said, ‘Hold on. If you just take a second and be still, you might not say some things that you’ll regret. If you start saying things, then I’ll start saying things.’ And it wound up being a pretty good pattern for us. Now, if we get sideways, we let a little time go by. And then you can attack it without your anger coming through. Being a great companion is more about what you don’t say than what you do say.”

Next: Read why Vince thinks being “right” isn’t as important as being kind and forgiving

But be ready to pinpoint a problem.
Grant has had the same “you never help me around the house!” complaints as many wives. Hers tend to come out at the holidays, when she and Gill host dozens of relatives and, notes Grant, “I have that tradition from my grandmother and my mom to have all the tables set up, everything with a tablecloth, and you pull out your best whatever. It’s Southern. And there were several years there that I was grinding an ax pretty hard because Vince was watching a ball game. I would just go, I can’t believe that I’m in here doing all this stuff and he’s totally content to sit in there! I would get really bent out of shape. And when I tried to talk to him, I’d be all snippy and ‘Hmpf!’ And he said, ‘If you will just ask me, I’ll do it.’ And I said, ‘But I don’t want to have to ask you. I want you to notice what I’m doing and just jump in.’ It took me several years to realize what he was saying. I’ve been through so much counseling and Vince has been through some, too, and I think at some point you have to realize, This angst I’m feeling is real, but I have to learn to say, ‘Hey, will you help me set up these tables?’ rather than building up a big head of steam.”
Get off your soapbox. “I think that most people are more concerned about being right than they are about being kind or forgiving,” Gill says. “As I get older, I don’t care as much about whether I’m right. There’s never that friction of, ‘Well, my point is, what I’m saying is right and what you’re saying is wrong.'” This, in turn, allows Grant to let her own guard down. “The great thing about really liking somebody is that I want to get along,” she says. “Usually you can sort of tell, if you’re discussing something, that it doesn’t matter equally to both people. If you are inclined to have peace between you, it’s OK to say, ‘This matters more to you than it does to me.'” Even if you’re not particularly thrilled with how things pan out. Take, for instance, the leather couches that Gill was getting for his home office. He had made his selection, but then, without telling him, Grant went ahead and changed his order, opting for a lighter shade instead. “We just kept them,” he says, acknowledging that it clearly mattered to her much more than it did to him. “And then later she said, ‘Honey, I think yours would have looked better.'”
Kick the kindness up a notch. Grant recalls a time, a few years into their marriage, when she got an advanced-level seminar on this subject and turned her attitude around. It happened on a bike outing, an attempt at “couple time” that went downhill fast. In previous years, the pair had usually golfed together. (Gill is an accomplished player; he’s even installed a putting green in their yard.) But that year, Grant threw herself into a new passion: biking. “He didn’t really like it,” says Grant. “But I said, ‘Please go with me,’ and he went.”

Problem was, he was a little slow.

Then she passed him. Or, as Gill grumbles, “You left me in the dust!” In mock disgrace, Grant buries her face in her hands.

They both double over in laughter.

How did it end? Gill pulled his bike alongside his wife’s. As Grant remembers it, Gill said, “How would you feel if I teed off and then said, ‘See you at the next tee?'” Chastened, Grant reconsidered her motivation that day. “What was my ultimate goal there?” she says. “I was acting like I wanted to go do something with him, but really, I wanted to work out…and I learned a good lesson the hard way.”

Next: One thing Amy and Vince have in common — the desire to help others

Keeping the faith

This philosophy extends beyond how Grant and Gill treat each other. They’re dedicated to giving back: Grant’s notion of “not working” (she’s been taking a break from performing after releasing She Colors My Day last May) is actually a schedule chockablock with benefit concerts, fund-raising appearances, hospital-wing dedications, salutes to heroes, and nonprofit kickoffs. Gill, meanwhile, presides over his own expansive roster of humanitarian efforts. (Most famously, there’s the annual Vinny Pro-Celebrity Invitational golf tournament, which helps support junior golf programs in Tennessee and gives money to a host of charities as well.) Between the two of them, they’ve supported sick children, wounded veterans, extraordinary women, MS sufferers, community activists, the mentally ill, Africans in poverty, and a growing list of aid organizations that count on the couple’s fame to raise awareness.

A few days after this interview, in fact, Grant will host a giant yard sale in a nearby university parking lot, with dozens of volunteers and scores of donated items (many from Grant’s own closet), all to raise money for two local charities. “Everything that Vince and I do, all of it has come out of relationships,” she says. “You know someone, and then, ‘Oh my gosh, her husband’s been diagnosed with what? Of course I’ll come help raise money for that.’ Life is about investing in people. And then tragedy strikes, and it pulls you together, and then you reinvest, and it’s a constant cycle.”

Gill nods in agreement. “I hadn’t set out to be the Giver of All Things,” he says. “It’s just, people ask. And we say yes more.”

A strong spiritual undercurrent runs beneath their drive to help others, but Grant chooses her words carefully when discussing it. She realizes that she is one of the faces who represent the marketable Christian industry, but she’s troubled by certain elements of that industry. “The toughest thing, as a believer, is to see how Christianity is pigeonholed into this one did-you-get-the-memo-on-how-to-vote kind of thing,” she says. “I am somebody who feels very spiritually alive, and prayer is an integral part of my daily life, along with confession, worship — all those things. But I see how all that’s been quantified, and made a caricature of, and I don’t want to add to a cultural experience that turns people off.”

Gill calls himself “a novice of Christianity.” “I didn’t grow up in the church the way Amy did,” he says. “This is not to say ‘Yay, me!’ But because I don’t have all the rules drilled into my head and all of that, I feel like I do it from an honest place and live my life serving people, lifting her up, being kind and compassionate.”

There it is again: the word “kindness.” Gill considers it and says, “A big reason why our relationship is so good is that it begins with respect and kindness. If you have those two things on the front burner, then the rest is kind of easy.” Grant gazes at her husband, as if considering this blessing, and smiles.

Amy Grant Reveals Why She Doesn’t Want to Be Labeled a ‘Christian’ Artist

Veteran artist Amy Grant has explained why she prefers not to be identified as a “Christian singer” – despite enjoying nearly 30 years of success in the Contemporary Christian Music industry.

The 55-year-old “El Shaddai” singer told Fox News: “I don’t put labels on anybody. Am I a person of faith? Absolutely. But I think all creativity comes from God, so whether somebody is in a place in their spiritual journey to acknowledge that or not, I just say everybody is artistic in someway and all that comes from God.
She added, “So I always steer clear of labels and it’s not from an embarrassment standpoint, it’s just because every good thing comes from one place.”
While she doesn’t want to be identified as a “Christian artist”, the six-time Grammy winner said faith and prayer are the most important things in her life.
“I pray a simple prayer every day and I have for almost 30 years. And it’s just this, ‘Lord, lead me today to those I need and to those that need me and let something I do matter eternally.”To me, faith, that’s the adventure part of life. So it has nothing to do with how I plan my career and it just has to do with my day in and day out how I live.”
Grant summed up her faith in this way: “I think my faith, the way I understand God’s love is only two rules. Love God and love everybody no matter who they are no matter what they say and to me that’s the most freeing way to live life.”

The singer’s latest album, “Tennessee Christmas,” is available now at Cracker Barrel, and highlights both the joy and the sadness that often accompanies the Christmas season. The album was released Oct. 21 and its 13 tracks are a mix of Christmas hymns, Christmas mainstays and original songs.

As earlier reported, retailer LifeWay Christian Resources decided not to sell her latest album, deeming it not Christian enough.

At the time, Grant said she accepted LifeWay’s decision, but encouraged her followers to continue discussing what it truly means to be a follower of Christ.

“We respectfully accept Lifeway’s decision that my new Christmas album didn’t meet their criteria. Let’s all move on from that decision without arguing about it. But let’s not stop asking the questions about what it means to live in faith and reflect love to the world around us,” said Grant, in a post on her official Facebook account.

“Asking questions opens all of us up to the possibility of being willing to consider how we might live differently,” the Nashville-based singer continued. “We are all loved by God…all of us…How we communicate that experience is unique to each of us…Unity is not about everybody being the same…it’s about all of us coming together…with our differences.”

LifeWay’s competitor, Family Christian Stores, is selling “Tennessee Christmas,” according to the retailer’s website.

Amy Grant: Hint of Shadow for a Christian Singer : Gospel/Pop Star Isn’t All Spiritual Happy Talk, and Neither Is Her Latest Album

Gospel-cum-pop singer Amy Grant remembers being on tour a few years ago when a new Joni Mitchell album, “Dog Eat Dog,” came out. She and several members of her band who counted themselves Mitchell fans eagerly gathered in the back of their bus, Xeroxes of the cassette’s lyric sheet in hand, to have a listening party.

Spirits were high until the last song on Side 1 came on. It was “Tax Free,” a rant against the televised version of Christianity, with actor Rod Steiger interjecting a nasty spoken-word caricature of such a TV evangelist between Mitchell’s vitriolic verses.

Grant, who is probably contemporary Christendom’s most famous and outspoken musical emissary, fell into a funk.

“That song came on and we looked at each other and murmured, ‘Oh, gosh.’ Christianity has just been so maligned. And it wasn’t ‘poor God’ or ‘poor Jesus,’ because they’re still who they are, but just ‘oh, what a gross misrepresentation we’ve made.’ And that was before any of the big stuff had come down.

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“Let me say that the back half of ’86 and all of ’87 were a great time to be off the road,” added Grant, who’s now back on it with an 18-month tour that reaches the Pacific Amphitheatre on Saturday. “It was a great time to not be in the public eye as a Christian because of the news-flash things going on. I don’t say that judgmentally at all; I was just so glad to be here on the farm, out of the picture and not having to tell everybody what I thought.

“People have the most warped perception of Christianity. I mean, nobody on the street is talking about C.S. Lewis. Nobody is talking about Oswald Chambers or Charles Spurgeon or people who are cornerstones of the faith and have been for years. Everybody’s talking about people whose pendulums have swung way wide as being the representatives for the family of God and followers of Christ. I think the silent mass of people who are swept up in the passion of God’s existence and his effect on their life have no voice. They speak with their lives, and they look at all this media stuff coming down and they’re just grossed out and sick at heart.”

Grant even began to question her own culpability in the mass-media gross-out.

“And here I am, going, ‘Gee, I’m part of the Christians in media!’ And I just want to be normal and real, and I want to live the same life that I would’ve lived if nobody ever bought a record or heard me on the radio or saw me on a talk show–and hope that by God’s grace something of his integrity will be maintained. But that’s his doing. I just think that any time a human is involved, you’re talking major screw-up. And that’s the Catch-22 with God living in humans.”

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She laughs a hearty Southern laugh that cuts across the expanse of her Nashville farmhouse’s living room. “That’s a big rub.”

Balancing the very public excesses and extremes of the world’s Jim Bakkers and Jimmy Swaggarts–and the ugly reflections held up by the world’s Joni Mitchells–would be a tall order for any of Grant’s aforementioned pillars of faith, let alone a doubt-wracked 28-year-old woman who admits her genteel Tennessee upbringing was privileged and sheltered.

Yet Grant remains determined to see her music cut across the boundaries that increasingly separate the conservative evangelical from the patron of the secular arts.

She grew up in the ‘70s with Carole King as a heroine, and after Grant’s very successful flirtation with sequencer-driven dance-pop on her platinum 1985 album “Unguarded,” she’s now returned to those mellower, more contemplative roots. Her latest effort, “Lead Me On,” is an impressive bid to create a quasi-religious, quasi-romantic “Tapestry” for the late ‘80s. Her understated pipes lighting a quiet fire that’s soothing and sexy, Grant beckons forth in both love songs and gospel songs with the oddly sensual aura of hearth, home and altar.

Hints of social, spiritual and romantic unrest do creep into the otherwise soothing tonics: “Faithless Heart” deals outrightly with adulterous temptations, Janis Ian’s “What About the Love” takes on both unctuous fundamentalism and Wall Street materialism, and “Wait for the Healing” suggests that things may get worse before they get better for 1988’s shell- and scandal-shocked Christians.

“There is kind of a dark side to this album,” says Grant, who admits she survived minor marriage difficulties and spiritual dehydration between the last album and this one. She nonetheless feels confident that her older, more conservative fans will be bothered by the new-found questions and confessions only “if they want me to be a Barbie doll.”

This is in stark contrast to her decade-long string of albums for gospel’s Myrrh label, which were full of spiritual happy talk. “I thought she was taking the easy route all along,” said A&M; Records executive David Anderle, who served as executive producer on the latest album and encouraged her to take more risks. “I thought a lot of what she was doing had been very fluffy, very cute, very pretty. . . . “

No more. “This is a really good record, one you don’t take to the public saying ‘This is a Christian record,’ ” Anderle says. “You go to the public and say, ‘This is a real record.’ And if people fall in love with the song and find out afterward that Amy is a Christian, they’re not gonna run away. They’re not gonna say, ‘Oh God, I made a mistake. I really liked the song, but I don’t like it now because I’m not a Christian.’ ”

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Still, won’t some never get past the image of Amy Grant–Christian Singer?

“Probably, and that’s a shame,” says Anderle. “I can’t tell Amy not to say Jesus and can’t tell Amy not to say Him with a capital H, because that’s all part of her love, too. She has a human love and she has a spiritual love. We all do; she just chooses to have her spiritual love revolve around her God and around Jesus. That’s not the way I want to go, for instance; I have my own God and my own spirituality. But I don’t have a hard time with that (Grant’s Christian views) at all.”

Anderle is the rare record executive who speaks in terms of good and evil . “With so much decadence and weirdness going on in the world, it’s almost lining up right now–which side do you belong on? It sounds so corny, but she’s a spokesman for that which is good. She represents a certain way to live which really is dealing with ethics, morals.

“But at the same time, she’s not pure. She has been tempted, like everybody. She’s not Pollyanna, not Goody Two-Shoes. When people listen to the record, they’re going to see that she’s a grown woman.”

Might not she still seem just a little too wholesome for the average weekend-warrior pop record-buyer, though?

Anderle chuckles. “I think it’s OK to lust after Amy if you want to.”

Dan Harrell, a brother-in-law of Grant’s who oversees her career with partner Mike Blanton, recalls a minor revelation he and the Nashville management team had:

“We went to a Twisted Sister concert a few years back,” says Harrell, “and we came out going, ‘You know what? Everybody–whether they believe it or not–is basically preaching something.’ Because everybody’s got something that’s down inside of them that’s coming out in their lyrics and their music. Everybody, if they’re really good at what they do, is preaching something. We all of a sudden decided we’re not gonna be defensive about the fact that Amy Grant’s gonna try to the best of her ability to express what’s in her heart. Twisted Sister was doing a great job of it that night; it’s the same thing for us.”

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Still, Grant herself has stronger compunctions all the time about burdening her audience with the full weight of her beliefs:

“I love orchestrating things. The good side of it is that I can move a crowd that’s much bigger than one I can fit around my dining room table–hopefully 10,000 people–and be a hostess and make them feel that we’re in a living room. And the bad side is that sometimes I don’t recognize that God does not need me to orchestrate his plan. You know, I’m so busy trying to manipulate people toward God, and I think that in the last couple of years–and maybe it’s reflected in ‘Lead Me On’–it’s like ‘OK, You be God, and I’m gonna be Amy.’

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s my job to pray for people, but it’s God’s job to save them. And I think there’s a time when I felt more pressure, not from inside of me, but from other people to be pushy with my beliefs. And then after a while, I thought, I’m just gonna have to do what my heart says, because as soon as I start trying to read somebody else’s monologue, I’m on such unfamiliar turf that I really get lost.

“And by pressure, I mean, I remember being on a talk show and getting several letters afterward saying, ‘You had 8 1/2 minutes on that talk show and you didn’t give the gospel! A million-and-a-half people could’ve heard it!’ And I remember thinking, ‘You know, you could’ve set up a PA at the grocery store and told 150 people yourself!’

“I think some people would relate to my honesty about my understanding of God, and on their own want to find out who he is. I don’t think very many people relate to being banged on the head with the Bible or being told what to do all the time. I wish I hadn’t been quite so. . . . Even in sort of a gentle, young woman way, I think I was pushier in the past than I am now.”

She pauses, reflecting on the age-old dogma-versus-mysticism dilemma. “I’m sitting here just smiling, because the older I get and the longer that I follow Christ, I realize that he is so capable of revealing himself to anybody. And he’s so much bigger than anything I could explain, it almost makes me hesitate more now to try and explain him in a song: ‘You are so big and incredible, and you chose me, and you’re so beyond all of this–and I think I just diminished you by trying to explain you to people’.”

When John Darnielle sat down at the Yamaha keyboard on stage at Calvin College’s auditorium last spring, his fingers began to play, “O Bless the Lord, God of Our Salvation.” The lead singer of the indie rock band The Mountain Goats told the audience at the Festival of Faith and Writing, “I’m a religious obsessive, so whenever I’m in a place like this, I want to play hymns.”

When Darnielle heads out on tour this month, theater and bar crowds will also get a taste of the religious themes and biblical references that pulse through his literary and often semi-autobiographical lyrics.

He reminded me twice that his 2009 release The Life of the World to Come appeared on CT’s list of best albums that year. Back then, the singer referred to himself as a “Catholic atheist.” These days, a 49-year-old father of two, he describes himself as a theist who prays to Jesus.

Regardless of the labels, Darnielle can quote Scripture as well as his songs would suggest (each of the dozen tracks on The Life of the World to Come had Bible citations as titles, and more than 100 songs in The Mountain Goats canon reference specific passages, creeds, hymns, and teachings), and he has an un-ironic appreciation for Christian contemporary music veteran Amy Grant and the late Rich Mullins. He said Grant’s collection, available on iTunes, saved his life during a dark period several years ago.

But what makes so many Christians drawn to The Mountain Goats’ music? According to reviewer Joel Heng Hartse, Darnielle brings an “unflinching gaze at truth” and a “large-hearted openness to the beauty of the world, the goodness of life and humanity” that resonate with believers over his decades-long career. “Even a song like ‘The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton,’ the chorus of which is literally ‘Hail Satan,’ is really a song about how even people who seem beyond the pale of goodness are deserving of love and understanding,” Hartse said.

Those themes have carried over into Darnielle’s 2014 novel, Wolf in White Van, a National Book Award nominee. Always a captivating storyteller in his lyrics—with a lot from his own life to pull from, including a troubled relationship with an abusive stepdad, drug addiction, and experience working in a psychiatric hospital—Darnielle has continued to write. His next book, Universal Harvester, is scheduled to release in February.

Ahead of The Mountain Goats’ fall tour, the lead singer spoke about what spirituality looks like in his life now, from praying with his four-year-old son to grappling with God’s message in the Book of Jonah.

What are the spiritual rhythms in your life? How do you find yourself reflecting and connecting?

I’m the only theist in my house except for my older son. He’s four. He used to like to pray with me at night. He was going through a rough patch after his brother was born… I would stop to pray in the middle of the night when he’d be awake and struggling. And it would work. It would distract him long enough.

I’ll tell you a story that happened recently. We had a cat named Roz. Both our cats died recently, and they were old. They’d been with us since Iowa. This is so interesting because there’s a lot of levels to this… I had this prayer experience with my son, and Roz died. Children can’t understand that, but you want to tell them where the cat went. So I said, “Roz went to be with the Lord,” and we buried her in the backyard.

He was looking around on the stairs one day. I think he saw a cat toy or something. He looks at me. “Roz went to be with the Lord,” he told me. Of course, my heart swelled. You see why people get into child evangelism because it’s amazing to hear a child talk about God. Jesus did the bit about having the faith of a child, and so it really reaches you. So I said, “Yes, buddy, that’s where Roz went. Roz went to be with the Lord.” Well, of course, another day had passed before he sees Daddy and wants to prove himself. He says, “Roz went to be with the Lord!” That’s also a lesson of how performative faith is. It’s a little further from actual faith, but it’s something people also do. It’s like if people are impressed by your confession, then you’ll make it again.

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What kinds of things do you pray for?

My prayerful life is strictly one of thanksgiving. I don’t ask for stuff. I ask for mercy for other people. I don’t know the verse, but when Christ introduces the Lord’s Prayer, I take that really seriously. He doesn’t give us any examples of saying “help me get a job” or “help me.” The examples you get from the Gospels are “let this cup pass from me.” You can pray for relief, and you can pray for nearness to God, but giving thanks seems to me the point of prayer.

You said that you have a Catholic background. Do you label yourself religiously? Do you call yourself a Christian, a believer, a follower of God?

The thing is, I hate to say this to somebody from Christianity Today, but I pray to Jesus. That’s who I pray to. But at the same time—this is going to sound terrible—Christians over the years have made something of a bad name for themselves. So when you want to identify as a Christian, it’s sort of like maybe you might have fiscally conservative policies, but to identify as a Republican is to throw your hat in with some bad actors. And so I don’t know. I’m hesitant, even though Jesus is the person I pray to. That’s whose name I say in my dark hours, but I don’t strictly know that I identify as Christian. I have a hesitancy about it.

I think a lot of our readers can at least relate to the feeling of simply wanting to call themselves a “follower of Christ.” Tell me more about how religious themes in your work have been received by your fans, because I know there are Christians who love your music, as well as atheists and others.

I have a spiritual hunger, but everybody has a spiritual hunger. Most grown people, once you get past being mad about the Crusades and stuff—which is a totally valid position—are able to look at the Bible and say what a remarkable testimony it is of people trying to wrangle with ideas bigger than themselves. Anybody can look at the ministry of Christ and think it’s quite radical and quite transformative to human history. So I think—I mean, I’ve had people come from various places. There were some people who were bummed, mainly atheist rationalists. Most people grow out of that, but not necessarily into theism. When you’re in a reactionary place where you see the Bible and you are mad about it: now, come on.

You talked a little about this Amy Grant moment. What period of your life was that, where you felt like you had a new awakening or a new sense of connection with God?

I was going through a whole bunch of struggles that I don’t talk much about personally that involve my body, and I couldn’t sleep. I was having real trouble sleeping. That will get you into some dark places. The problems are ongoing, but I learned to deal with them. If you know these Rich Mullins songs, like “Nothing Is Beyond You,” Rich Mullins confesses to his doubt and fallibility constantly in a way that a lot of CCM people don’t. A lot of CCM people, they want to present themselves as models, or if they say that they’re fallen, that’s all they say: “Oh yes, I’m fallen.” Rich Mullins, like specifically, identifies his own ignorance, our own inability to comprehend things further, things that are beyond us. “Nothing Is Beyond You” is this incredible confession. I used to listen to that one every day. I listened to “Sing Your Praise to the Lord” and Amy Grant’s music for a long time. Her voice is so amazing, but also Amy Grant’s story. If you go find any Amy Grant story or video on the Internet, you will find a lot of professed evangelicals calling her a whore and things like that because she’s divorced. She got all kinds of abuse from the very community that both had nurtured her, but that she had given a lot to.

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I was interested in that dynamic because I’m an entertainer, too. So I know people come to have expectations of you, and then if you don’t meet those expectations, they personalize it very incredibly when it’s actually your work. I don’t know Amy Grant, and neither do any of her fans. It’s just her work. So, there’s a lot of axes along which I was able to relate to her stuff. Plus she’s an amazing singer, and the musicians on her records are great.

How has your ongoing struggle with your body changed how you think of your work and your music?

I’m growing older. This happens. I think my relation to my body is going to be in constant flux. I used to be strict Augustinian: Body is just a cage for the spirit. But I don’t really believe that anymore. I’m not sure where I am at with it. But I do like what it does. St. Francis called his body “Brother Ass.” They used to call him “mule.” So, I like that idea because a mule’s alive, but it also is stubborn.

You quote the Bible so much in your music. Is there a passage of Scripture that has meant a lot to you, like a “life verse”?

Most people’s are going to be from the Gospels or from the Proverbs or Psalms, something like that, but mine is “Should I not pity also Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than”—I can’t remember the number, however many hundreds of thousands of people—“who cannot tell their right hand from their left and also much cattle” (Jonah 4:11).

To me, this is the greatest verse. I love Jonah to pieces. And it’s a very profound question God asks Jonah. Because God is saying, “You wish ill on your enemies. If you don’t wish ill on your enemies, I’m going to call you a liar. You do. If you have an actual enemy, you want harm to come to him.” Right? And in Jonah’s case, Jonah tries to help a bunch of people out according to his knowledge, and they just laugh at him. And then he goes out into the water. It doesn’t go well for him. Everything just goes to hell. When he comes back on the shore, nothing’s changed. God has changed his mind. The city doesn’t get destroyed.

God does a much gentler version of the Job speech. Well, you know you’re not looking at the big picture here. And that that is the last verse of the book is also a great thing. It’s the opening instead of the closing.

Amy Grant opens up about how a recent surgery helped heal old wounds

Amy Grant and Gary Chapman were two Christian singers at the top of their game — until the walls came crashing down around them when they divorced in 1999.

But now, 18 years later, the two are healing old wounds, thanks to the incredible actions of their daughter.

RELATED: Amy Grant’s daughter prepares to give the gift of life to a dear friend

According to an interview with “The Tennessean,” Amy says that her and Gary have mended their relationship thanks to their daughter, Millie, who recently donated a kidney to her friend Kathryn Dudley. During the procedure, Gary and his current wife, Cassie, along with Amy and her husband, Vince Gill, spent many hours in the waiting room with one another.

“In the wake of a loving gift, we all came together to do our hospital vigil and it was a lot of waiting, but so much joy,” Amy said. “It’s been unbelievable, sitting around talking, looking at old family pictures. The older generation is going, ‘Would you have done this?’ I just feel so grateful for her generosity of spirit. It has healed so many things. I’ve had two good snot cries, but that was just appropriate.”

RELATED: Family members issue update on health condition of Amy Grant’s daughter

And the story has more than one happy ending, as both Millie and Kathryn are well on their way to a complete recovery from their procedure.

“I couldn’t do a lot of things people my age should do,” Kathryn said. “Now I get up after seven or eight hours and I’m like, ‘Lets do this.’ It’s amazing how much better you feel after.”

Life is good. Amy Grant couldn’t be having a happier 2019. “When my daughter Sarah married on November 9, she came down the aisle flanked by her father, Gary Chapman, on one side and her stepfather, Vince Gill, on the other,” Amy, 59, exclusively reveals to Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “All I could think was, ‘Phew, life looks all kinds of ways!’”

It’s quite a turnaround from the ’90s, when the Queen of Christian Pop’s career exploded with crossover hits like “Baby Baby” but her personal life was in turmoil: She was divorcing Gary and falling in love with Vince, whom she wed in 2000. “It was sort of like watching a car wreck in slow motion!” she adds. But today, there’s “so much reconciliation. It’s so beautiful.”

Bret Hartman/EPA/

In April, Amy’s daughter Millie, 30, also got married — and her son, Matt, 32 (who works with 27-year-old Sarah’s new husband, Derek Besenius), co-owns LabCanna, a CBD company “which got the first license to process hemp in the state of Tennessee,” Amy reveals. “I’m very proud of them!”

As she unveils her Christmas album box set, the singer opened up about life with Vince and their daughter Corrina, 18; being a grandma of two; and her “faith journey.”

Scroll down for more from Closer Weekly‘s interview with Amy Grant!

What are you up to this Christmas?

I’ve just released a box set of my first three Christmas records. I’ve done four — one in my 20s, 30s, almost 40s and 50s. It’s nuts! Then I have 12 shows with my husband at the Ryman Auditorium at home in Nashville. We’ve done a December residency for several years.

How often do you perform with Vince?

At Christmastime, off and on since 1993. Doing these shows is his gift to me. He would be fine with just one! He is so busy — his new record, Okie, just came out, and he’s a touring member of The Eagles, who’ve already booked over 40 shows next year.

Jim Smeal/BEI/

Did growing up in Nashville impact your songwriting?

My family has many generations in Nashville, so I grew up surrounded by grandparents, great-grandparents, lots of cousins. I’m sure proximity to music directed my life. I didn’t have a goal of becoming an artist, I just loved music. I started writing songs in high school and I’d sing anywhere I could.

Your first LP came out when you were 16. What was it like being a child star?

I didn’t feel like one. I finished high school, went to college, worked on weekends and summers. I didn’t feel the impact of being a familiar face until well into my career.

Why did you pursue Christian music?

When I started to write, I couldn’t find songs about the faith journey. I didn’t grow up in a church that had a choir and wasn’t really familiar with gospel. But I came up in the era of James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell. I sang those songs, but nobody was singing about: Is there a purpose for life? How do you navigate deep questions? I was trying to fill in the gaps.

Globe Photos/mediapunch/

When and how did you get dubbed the Queen of Christian Pop?

I don’t know! It was the mid-’80s. I was signed to Word Records, a gospel company that reached out to A&M Records and said, “We have an artist that we believe can have a larger appeal.” I didn’t even pursue that.

What was it like transitioning to pop?

It was fun! Life is falling in love, being scared, failing, feeling courageous, bowing your head, having gratitude. When I started recording pop, I was glad to have a full spectrum of experiences to sing about.

In 2002, you returned to your roots with one of your most religious albums ever, Legacy…Hymns and Faith. Why?

I had been through a divorce, my first marriage crashed and burned, I had remarried, and I just was trying to find my footing in life. I turned to the things that felt foundational to me.

Jim Mcguire/AP/

How did you and Vince meet?

We met through music. I think it was a Christmas show for the families of soldiers. I was married at the time — we were kind of in the same circles but didn’t really get to know each other until the early ’90s. We hit it off immediately, and then it was like five years of trying to navigate our own lives, but feeling drawn to each other.

Was it tougher getting divorced because of your religious fan base?

Like anybody going through it, you are just trying so hard to manage the world immediately around you. What anybody thinks on the periphery does not matter. I couldn’t have cared less. I had to have the freedom to find the life that I could live with integrity. can stay or fall out.

What lessons did you learn from divorce?

I got lost somewhere in my own life, and it mattered to me to find a way back to myself. It’s made me parent differently, to learn lessons of respect and reconciliation. If I hear someone talking about their own life with a lot of frustration, I’ll say, “What are you willing to change to live a life that’s respectful?” Respect is so important.

Are any of your kids getting into music?

Our youngest, Corrina, is studying music performance in college. She’s a great singer. We’re a blended family of five. I inherited Jenny when I married Vince. She’s 37, and we have two grandkids from her and Josh. She tours with me and is a great harmony singer.

Any life lessons you can share?

We’re in such a polarized time. Say these phrases as often as possible and you’ll change the world around you: “How can I help you? I’m proud of you. I love you. Thank you.” And the one word, “we,” even if it’s someone you don’t with or are furious with. All of life is the work of reconciliation. That’s the journey of faith: the reconciliation between God and man. Everything else is just a lot of bluster.

What’s up next for you?

This year we married off two daughters, our youngest left for college and I’m sleeping like a teenager! I want to experience life and not have a work agenda. I’m going to take my Airstream Bambi trailer coast to coast, meet people and just celebrate being alive!

For more on your favorite celebs, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!

Be sure to check out and subscribe to our Classic TV & Film Podcast for interviews with your favorite stars!

Vince Gill: Father of the Bride

The heavens rained losses on Vince Gill the week before daughter Jenny’s wedding: A flood ravaged his priceless guitar collection, and he and wife Amy Grant weathered the deaths of a cousin in Afghanistan and a close friend. “It really put everything in perspective,” Gill says. “I kept my eye on the weekend, and my mantra was, ‘They’re not going to rob me of my joy.’ ”

Score one for the forces of good. When Jenny married music-publishing executive Josh Van Valkenburg on May 8 outside Gill and Grant’s Nashville home, “it was a magical day,” Gill says. “The joy of it all was more powerful than all that bad stuff put together.”

So powerful, in fact, that Jenny (Gill’s daughter with ex-wife Janis Oliver of the ’80s duo Sweethearts of the Rodeo) joked she was taking bets on how many tears her dad would shed walking her down the aisle. As it turns out, he was dry-eyed. Not so the bride and groom. “The moment I saw Vince walking her down the aisle, my eyes welled up with tears,” Van Valkenburg says. Adds Jenny: “I didn’t make it halfway down and I was boo-hoo-ing. He couldn’t have been a sturdier, stronger dad. I just took a few deep breaths, and he led me down, and it was perfect.”

Still, there were a few lump-in-the-throat moments. Like when he first saw his daughter in her gown. “She was beyond stunning,” he says. “But what she doesn’t know is she’s always been that beautiful to me.” Or when, in reading her vows to Van Valkenburg (on the same garden spot where he had proposed to her nearly nine months earlier), Jenny echoed a line Gill once said to Grant about welcoming everything she brought to their relationship. “That did get me a bit,” he says. Says Jenny: “I’m just so happy I could understand the way he felt about his wife.”

Seeing how well-matched his daughter, a singer, is with her new husband, “there wasn’t anything to be tearful about,” Gill says. “I’ve always loved Josh. It’s a good thing.” The couple, both 28, have known each other since the third grade. “They had this remarkable friendship before they ever started dating,” Gill says. Both families nudged the two toward one another over the years. “This gradual love grew between us,” Jenny says.

The slow, steady build of their relationship is a good sign, Gill says. “There was a great wisdom in the way they got to that day,” he says. “They both come from divorced families. A lot of us didn’t do it right, and they wanted to, so they took their time.”

Despite Gill’s own fractured past (he and Oliver divorced when Jenny was 16), the wedding was a day of unity, with all three of Jenny’s parents by her side. “Time is a kind thing,” Gill says. “There isn’t any weirdness or animosity. There was a lot of peace in that day, and everybody felt it.”

“Each parent brought something important,” says wedding planner Dori Thornton. “All three love Jenny and wanted it to be perfect.” Oliver advised on the dress and makeup, while Grant helped with the decor. And Gill? “He brought the heartfelt moments,” Thornton says.

Among the most moving was their father-daughter dance to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine,” a song with special meaning to the pair. Jenny chose the song for her first grade talent show because “it was the only song I was comfortable with, and Dad said he’d play guitar on it,” Jenny recalls. Then, before her show, Gill was offered his first performance slot on the Grand Ole Opry-on the very same day. “And he turned it down so he could be there for me.” Says Gill: “I let her know she was more important than anything I could accomplish.”

And so, two decades later-despite Gill’s dislike of dancing (“It’s not pretty,” he says of his skills)-father and daughter again bonded over the tune. “It was incredible,” Jenny says, her voice cracking at the memory. “I just laid my head on his shoulder because it was like the last minutes of being a little girl, I guess. I don’t get a lot of moments like that with my dad.”

Music is, of course, the family business, but Jenny wanted the pros to take the night off for her big day and didn’t ask her family-or any of their famous friends-to sing. “It was important to me that they enjoy themselves as guests,” she says. Instead they hired a string quartet of musicians from the Nashville Symphony for the ceremony, and local group the Scat Springs Band for the reception, where the nearly 300 guests nibbled on Cinco de Mayo-themed cuisine (Jenny was born on the Mexican holiday) and sipped mojitos. Adds Gill: “It was so void of show business-I loved that.”

So did Jenny’s 9-year-old half sister Corrina, Gill’s daughter with Grant. “Corrina never left the dance floor the whole night-three hours plus!” Gill says. “She was a wet noodle at the end of it all.”

And Gill wasn’t far behind. “I was spent. We’d been through a flood, the suicide of a great friend, we lost a cousin in Afghanistan, and I was trying to make heads or tails out of losing a big chunk of a 35-year collection,” Gill says. “But the beauty of that day and night-I was undone by it all.”

One of the loveliest moments closed the night. In a surprise Thornton had organized, the couple left hand-in-hand beneath an arch of glowing branches held by guests as a gospel choir sang “Oh Happy Day.”

It was, Gill says, a fitting end. “So many times, all I really want to be is the dad. I just got to be her dad all day long. And it was awesome.”