Our Conversation With Natalie Grant
CCLI: Welcome to @CCLI. I’m Paul Herman, here today with multi-Dove winner, Natalie Grant. Natalie, so good to have you here.
Natalie Grant: Thank you for having me, I’m glad to be here.
CCLI: So we’re here in Vancouver, Washington, which is the hometown of your keyboard guy, Tim Downing, a good friend of mine. Tell us how you connected with Tim.
Natalie Grant: A gal that traveled with me for about 8 years, was a backup singer named Tiffany Thurston. She’s from a church in Hawaii, but New Hope has a church plant in Oregon. Anyway, she recommended Tim. We were looking for a piano player, and, in my particular case, filling the shoes of keyboard player is kind of difficult because my husband was my keyboard player for a very long time [laughs] and he’s also my producer and a really world-class piano player, so whoever it is that has to come play piano has to pass the husband test. Tim passed. He’s just an amazing player, but also just such a wonderful guy. He’s played with me now for almost 6 years. It’s a gift to have him with us.
CCLI: Tell us if you would, about the song “Clean,” the impact of it and the inspiration behind it.
Natalie Grant: Yeah, I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve written a lot of songs, and a lot of songs that I record I don’t write, it’s about 50-50. “Clean” was a really unique experience for me. I’ve never heard God speak audibly and I’ve been listening for a long time, but I recognize that still, small Voice and that urging that you feel. I remember a dear friend of mine had come to my house, and I didn’t really know what she wanted to talk about, but I could tell the minute I opened the front door, like, oh this is heavy, something’s going on. She came in and she was trying to speak but she couldn’t and she kept saying these words over and over again. “It’s too dirty, it’s too dirty, it’s too dirty.” And she finally, at 31 years of age, spoke about horrific abuse that she endured as a 5-year-old girl. And she had never talked about it out loud before. For her it was a matter of speaking about it, we prayed, we cried together, we read scripture together, talked about finding a great counselor for her. She left my house and all I know is, I was walking the hallway from the kitchen to my bedroom, and I was literally like, “but there’s nothing too dirty, there’s nothing too dirty that He can’t make worthy.”
We have a studio in our basement, and our grand piano is upstairs. I called my husband and said, “I need you to come to the piano, I think I’m writing a song.” I literally wrote that song in 15 minutes. I say I really do think that God wrote the song through me, I was just holding the pen. When you know that, in the moment you have all these ideas of how you believe it’s going to connect with people, but then you never know. But then when you see it come to pass, I kind of always knew with that one because of how it came about, I knew it was a message for everyone. Whether you’re in the church or outside the church, or whatever you’ve faced in your life, it was that message…. and I remember even thinking, “Are people going to be OK with the fact that I say the word ‘dirty’?” I’m going to say, “There’s nothing too dirty.” There’s certain words that you think, “I’m not sure that’s going to work.” But it was exactly what she had said, and it’s so interesting that that phrase in particular, it resonates. And I’m really grateful.
CCLI: And you must have heard lots of stories coming out of that song.
Natalie Grant: I’ve heard so many stories, I could literally fill a book. One though, for me, that stands out above the rest is, I was playing a show on a tour called Summer Lights this past summer in Nashville. It was at the Amphitheater, and if you’ve ever been to Nashville or seen that amphitheater, it’s right in the heart of downtown. It’s this beautiful open-air area, and what’s cool is there’s all these great restaurants around it. I’ve been to those restaurants with my husband, and we’ll be like, “Oh, that’s Carrie Underwood or oh, that’s Keith Urban, like you can hear the concert from wherever you’re dining. And I remember being on that stage going, “I’m about to sing this song and the entire city is going to be able to hear it.”
I got a message from the marketing director of the Omni Hotel. She messaged me on social media, and she said, “I didn’t know who you were, I never listen to Christian music, but I want you to know, I was driving over the bridge, and somebody—it makes me cry when I tell the story—somebody was singing freedom into my window. I got over the bridge and I just kept hearing these words, ‘There’s nothing too dirty, there’s nothing too dirty.’ And I pulled over and I was trying to remember all the words, So I’m googling ‘there’s nothing too dirty that You can’t make worthy’ and you came up. I just want you to know that literally on the side of the road, Jesus set me free and met me right where I was.” She was just driving her car home from work. That’s the power, not just of music, but when you put the Gospel in music, you know, you don’t have to be in a church or at an altar, or have all the right scenarios for it to happen. That woman was set free in a moment.
CCLI: The Holy Spirit will just take it where it needs to go.
Natalie Grant: Yep. Absolutely.
CCLI: Talk about another song, if you would, “More Than Anything.” What’s the story behind that one?
Natalie Grant: Yeah, this song is from my “Be One” record, which is hard for me to believe it’s been out for 2 years, it’s my new single to radio, and in today’s day-and-age, to be 4 singles deep anymore, it’s like it never happens, so I’m just so grateful. But because of what I’ve recently been through, people thought it was a new song. Well, it’s not, I wrote a song called “King Of The World” with a couple named Sam and Becca Mizell. They also wrote “More Than Anything” and one of their dear friends was suffering from breast cancer. They had had this conversation, and she had been saying “I want all these things from God, but He’s challenging me to just want Him more than anything.” They wrote that song off of her story, and when I recorded it back in the summer of 2015, I remember thinking to myself, “I think this message is going to help a lot of people.” I remember standing in the studio, going, “It’s gonna resonate, it’s gonna resonate.”
So fast-forward a couple years, and the record company says, “Hey, we want to release this to radio.” And there’s a big radio convention that happens in Florida called Momentum. So I’m at Momentum getting ready to sing that song for the first time to radio. It was in this club in Orlando where all these radio guys were meeting, and so my guys and I, we wanted to spend the day at Disney so we didn’t even sound-check. So we’re standing out on the street, kinda running through it, and I got to the chorus, and I was about to say “Help me want the Healer more than the healing” [pauses] and what they didn’t know was that that morning I had received a phone call and I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I hadn’t told anyone, and all of a sudden I got to the part where I needed to sing those words and [chokes up] I couldn’t actually get them out, because it was like “No, I actually want the healing, I really, really want the healing.” It was like those moments where everything kind of plays over and over and you’re taken back to the moment when you’re in the studio recording it, thinking it was for someone else and you realize, no, even then God knew, He knew what I was gonna face, He knew how I would experience Him in such a deep way.
I’ve been walking with Jesus for more years than I’m gonna tell you because then you’ll know how old I am. I’ve known Him for decades, and I have experienced Him in the last several months in a way I never have before. You can quote these verses, but until you’ve lived them, they just sound good. You know what I mean? But then you live them, and for me now, that song has become so precious to me because oftentimes when we’re facing the unthinkable, we seek His hands before we seek His face. We want what He can do for us, instead of just wanting who He is. At least that’s where I found myself in my own personal life.
Sitting in front of the surgeon who said, “Hey, this cancer is curable, we’re gonna get it. The problem is, your thyroid is wrapped up in your vocal cords, you may never sing the same way again.” My father had thyroid cancer, his voice was permanently damaged. They said “Your stamina is not going to be the same, your strength, you’re probably not going to be able to hit the same high notes, it’s all kind of up-in-the-air.” But also “Count it all joy when you fall under various trials….” I never understood that scripture. I would say it to other people who were falling under various trials, “Cling to this, because this is what it’s going to do for you.” And then I found MYSELF falling under various trials. But the Bible says over and over again, that He is near to the broken-hearted. He is near to the downtrodden, He is near to those who are downcast. I experienced that, not only through the circumstance but I experienced the nearness of God through the family of God. And I think that in that moment of, ok, Jesus, this is where the rubber meets the road, I want You more than anything. And I might not even mean that fully right now, but I’m gonna declare it even if I don’t feel it. So that song has become VERY personal for me now.
And thank you Jesus, I am cancer-free, and side note, my voice is stronger than it ever has been! Literally, my husband is my producer, and he’s like, “I really don’t know how to tell you this, but your voice sounds better than it ever has.” I’m like, well, thank you, Lord, now You’re just showing off. [claps and laughs] Thank you God. I’m really grateful. And I do feel like, even the timing of this song, like, nobody planned any of that, it’ wasn’t like we were manufacturing it But it was for that moment and the Lord wanted me to be able to deliver that from an honest place instead of trying to tell somebody else “Want Jesus more than anything” it needed to be, “Help ME want YOU Jesus, more than anything.” I can say with authenticity and honesty that that is exactly the place He has me.
CCLI: Any last thoughts at all for our worship leaders and worship teams in churches out there?
Natalie Grant: Well, first of all, for worship leaders, you guys are heroes. I grew up in the church, I love the local church, and I never planned on doing this like THIS, I actually went to school and studied to be a first-grade teacher, side-note, I home-schooled my children, let’s just all thank God I actually didn’t become a teacher! But I remember that serving is not for the faint-of-heart. It is NOT. It is, like, volunteering—is there a pastor watching this? I’m really sorry, but it’s not the pastors that hold the church together, it’s the volunteers, the people who serve week-in and week-out and get nothing for it except for just the blessing of serving, that hold it together. Thank you for what you do to make His presence known. Thank you for what you do, even when you don’t feel it coming back, sometimes you’re investing your heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears in something, and in today’s world they might just be holding a coffee cup. But it doesn’t matter, just like I said about the song “Clean” it goes in to the heart and you may not always see what you’re doing producing fruit, but it DOES produce fruit. Thank you so much for that.
CCLI: Natalie, thank you, for being here and sharing.
Natalie Grant: Thanks for having me.
CCLI: And thank you for watching. Take care.