Growing up in the '90s, there was never a Christmas without Amy Grant's music. Home for Christmas, in particular, was a favorite around our household, its string-swept nostalgia wrapped around the family den like a warm blanket and a plate of cookies. So when I invited the Nashville pop singer to perform our annual holiday Tiny Desk, I had to bring my mom.
You could almost map Grant's fabulous four-decade career by those Christmas records (four in total, five if you count her reading of Jimmy Webb's The Animals' Christmas with Art Garfunkel). In them, you not only hear an artist progress — from '80s synth-pop to lush string arrangements to a contemporary Nashville sound — but as a person, as her own feelings and faith surrounding the season evolve with a mixture of melancholy and cheer.
"As I've gotten older, sometimes I've realized the bravest thing you can do at Christmas is go home," she tells the Tiny Desk audience after performing "To Be Together," from 2016's cozy, yet lived-in Tennessee Christmas. "Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is open the door and welcome everybody back."
And that's when it all comes home for Amy Grant. "Tennessee Christmas," written 35 years ago, takes on new meaning here — this was the first time she's performed the song since her father died this year. You see her eyes glisten, and her voice catch on the final "tender Tennessee Christmas," everyone feeling that wistful tenderness and offering some back in return.
To shake out her sadness, Grant dons reindeer antlers (generously provided by someone at NPR because of course someone at NPR keeps festive wear on hand) and dashes through a delightful version of "Jingle Bells." Happiest of holidays from all of us at NPR Music!
Tennessee Christmas is available now.
- "To Be Together"
- "Tennessee Christmas"
- "Jingle Bells"
Producers: Lars Gotrich, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kaylee Domzalski, CJ Riculan, Beck Harlan; Production Assistant: Brie Martin; Photo: Cameron Pollack/NPR