Singer Amy Grant to bring nostalgia to Fox Theatre

Chris Azzopardi
Special to The Detroit News

All the world needs now is… Amy Grant?

Known for her Christian-contemporary and pop-crossover success, the six-time Grammy winner is hopeful the forthcoming holiday season will spread cheer amid post-election divisiveness.

Singer-songwriter Amy Grant says togetherness inspires comfort, a warmth conveyed in her holiday tour that stops at the Fox Theatre on Sunday.

“The political and cultural climate,” she begins, her voice dropping, “it’s done so much harm to the reality of our community and our country. Unity is always about differences coming together, not about being identical.”

Love, faith and mindfulness have been Grant’s career convictions since she released her 1977 self-titled debut as a teenager. In the years after, those motifs have pervaded her four Christmas albums, including her latest, “Tennessee Christmas,” the singer’s first holiday release since 1999’s “A Christmas to Remember.” From the ironic melancholy of a stripped-down “Joy to the World” to an original contribution co-written by Grant titled “To Be Together,” “Tennessee Christmas” is a no-frills addition to Grant’s beloved Christmas catalog.

“To Be Together,” she warmly intones, is “comforting to me.” She says that same comfort will extend throughout a current Christmas trek that brings her to the Fox Theatre on Sunday with fellow Christian music performer Michael W. Smith and Jordan Smith, the Season 9 winner of “The Voice.” A rhythm section and a symphony orchestra will also be on hand.

“Two Christmases ago, Michael and I said, ‘Let’s go do two or three shows,’ and the response was amazing,” says Grant, who also performs an annual residency in Nashville, “Christmas At the Ryman,” with country star and husband Vince Gill.

Part of the demand for the Christmas gigs, she thinks, is “just the nostalgia of the country.”

“The emotional depth of where people are willing to go is different at Christmas,” she maintains. “I think it’s possible, musically, to get people, including myself, to soften and be open to experiencing something because it’s Christmastime.”

The overwhelming response to these shows surprised Grant, who signed on for a fourth Christmas album after realizing interest in her holiday music hadn’t waned — in fact, three-plus decades into her Christmas career, it’s only snowballed.

“It’s crazy!” she says. “Nobody could have ever prepared me for how hard I’d work in my 50s at Christmastime.”

Grant’s latest Christmas album captures the nostalgia of the season — by title alone, in fact. For the release, Grant recorded “Tennessee Christmas,” a seasonal standard she first recorded for her 1983 holiday debut “A Christmas Album.” The classic would become new album’s title.

As she recalls working on “Tennessee Christmas” this past summer, the 55-year-old singer laughs. “It was all things Christmas,” she says about her Tennessee home being elaborately decorated in festive decorations months before the holidays. “I thought my neighbors were gonna think I’m a nut bag for having tree with tinsel out by the road in July.”

By most standards, summertime may be too early for Christmas trees — even for a holiday lifer like Grant who says her genuine adoration for the season, not commercialism, keeps her making Christmas music.

“I have always had such a love of Christmas because it’s such a natural confluence of faith and culture,” Grant explains. “Both of those things just poured so easily into the same flow, so it’s always been natural to me. I truly love this time of year.”

Grant’s latest Christmas album celebrates holiday nostalgia.

This year in particular, while recording “Tennessee Christmas,” Grant was left with “an incredible sense of adventure for how I’m discovering all of our lives are connected,” and her hope for this holiday season: that people coexist harmoniously.

“(The album) doesn’t express itself with what somebody might consider ‘religious vocabulary,’ but that whole feeling of welcomeness ... ,” she begins. “Why not welcome? Why not?”

Chris Azzopardi is a Canton-based freelance writer.

Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith with Jordan Smith

7 p.m. Sun.

Fox Theatre

2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit

Tickets: $25-$125 or call the box office (313) 471-6611