Everyone has those special songs that take you back to a certain place and time, songs that have made a particular impact and hold a special place in our hearts. Award-winning Christian music artist Natalie Grant celebrates the songs that have changed her life and career with her new album Seasons, releasing Oct. 6 via Curb Records. Here Grant shares the long journey that inspired her to develop the new record, including a surprise “bucket list” duet with Dolly Parton — at Dollywood of all places! — that lead them to team up again on Seasons!
In recording the 10-song album, Natalie Grant invited some of her favorite vocalists to join her in reviving this set of beloved classics. CeCe Winans duets with Grant on the Andraé Crouch classic “My Tribute (To God be the Glory).” She teams with Dolly Parton on Whitney Houston’s “Step by Step.” Tasha Cobbs Leonard sings with Grant on Simon & Garfunkel’s iconic “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and her mother and daughters join her for a poignant rendition of Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love.” Mary Mary, Cory Asbury, Tauren Wells, Jekalyn Carr and Jonathan McReynolds, to name a few, also lend their voices to Seasons.
“Sometimes you can say, ‘I’m doing a covers record,’ and people automatically discount it a little bit,” the Grant tells Woman’s World. “Some people think you are needing to fulfill a record [company] requirement or it’s just something to do between the next record and the last record. This isn’t that for me. This is like a dream record.”
Seasons gave Grant a chance to revive some of her all-time favorite songs and it was a labor of love for the accomplished artist, who has been named Female Vocalist of the Year five times from the Gospel Music Association and is a nine-time Grammy nominee.
The mother of three-daughters is also the author of multiple books, including the Glimmer Girls series for tween girls. She’s also a fierce activist who co-founded Hope for Justice, an international nonprofit with offices on five continents that is working to end modern day slavery.
The surprising inspiration for the Natalie Grant album
Grant says the idea for the Seasons album was born during the pandemic. “During the lockdown of 2020 my husband Bernie and I started doing what we called ‘A Song a day keeps the Crazies Away’ in our living room,” she recalls of having fun with her Grammy-winning writer/producer hubby Bernie Herms.
“We started doing those songs on Instagram or Facebook and I sang a lot of my own songs. Initially we thought we were going to do like 14 or 15 songs. We didn’t have any clue we’d end up doing 81 songs because we didn’t know it was going to last so long.”
Not only did Grant share some of the hits that have made her one of Christian music’s top artists for nearly two decades, she also sang her favorite hymns and songs that had been hits for other artists.
“I was worried about what was happening in the world, and I started going back to the songs that have carried me,” she says. “I’d sing ‘To God Be the Glory’ or I’d sing a hymn or other songs that have meant so much to me. We had no idea how people were going to connect with those little videos we were doing. At last count 76 million people watched those. So we realized we were not the only ones gravitating towards these great songs. Everybody goes back to what carries them when times get tough, and I always say it’s Jesus and Jesus Music that have carried me through my life. I am the deepest fan of Christian and gospel music. It is the soundtrack of my life and that’s really what inspired this album.”
(Click through to hear 15 soul-stirring gospel songs)
Songs close to Grant’s heart
Once Grant decided to revive her favorite classics in her new album, Grant had the idea to invite some friends to join in the fun. “I went to their concert back when I was 11 or 12 years old,” Grant recalls of seeing CeCe Winans and her brother BeBe. “I thought that she was an actual angel. She just glows. She’s one of the most beautiful people inside and out, and her voice is from another planet. Singing that classic Andraé Crouch song with CeCe Winans, to me there’s just nobody who embodies that song more than her. So that was a dream come true to do that song with CeCe.”
As a longtime Whitney Houston fan, another song that is very special to Grant is “Step by Step.” “It came out on The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack,” she notes. “I had just moved to Nashville in August of ’96 and I moved here like everybody else to pursue music, but I got a job doing accounts payable at Medicare. I literally hated this job with my whole heart, but I had to pay my rent and I had to eat. I drove this beat-up Volkswagen bug, and if you went over 55 mph, the steering wheel would start to shake, but I had my cassette player and it still worked.”
Grant says she would listen to “Step By Step” every morning at 7am on her drive to work. “The part of the song where Whitney Houston would go, ‘Come on baby, got to keep moving. Come on baby!’ I’d sing that at the top of my lungs going into this job I hated because I was like, it’s a step-by-step process,” Grant recalls. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s a step-by-step process and so that was my song.”
Dreaming big…with Dolly Parton
The young Natalie back then who was stuck in a job she didn’t like with a car that barely ran would have been surprised to know she’d one day record that same song as a duet with Dolly Parton.
Last March, Grant was booked to perform at the season opening of Parton’s East Tennessee theme park Dollywood when her manager called to let Grant know they’d received a special request. “The email said, ‘Dolly is going to happen to be at Dollywood and if it wouldn’t trouble Natalie too greatly and interrupt her set, she was wondering if she could come and sing a song with her,’” Grant recalls. “I’m like, ‘If it wouldn’t trouble me? Are you kidding? It’s Dolly Parton!!!!!’ I was like, “Of course!!!!’”
The two powerhouse vocalists sang “Just a Little Talk with Jesus” much to the delight of the crowd. “I’m thinking that item on bucket list is checked off. That’s probably the start and finish of my Dolly Parton moment right there,” Grant says with a laugh.
Not long after their Dollywood duet, Grant’s manager reached out to Dolly’s team and asked if Dolly would sing “Step By Step” with Grant on her new album. Dolly, unfortunately, said she wouldn’t be able to do it. “I didn’t even know to be disappointed because I didn’t even know my manager had asked her,” Grant says with a laugh. “I didn’t even know to dream that big.”
But Grant had no idea how the situation was about to play out. “Four weeks later I got an email on Dolly letterhead it said, ‘Hey Natalie, I don’t know if you’ve found anybody to sing on your record yet. I love this song so much and I can’t get it out of my head. If it’s too late for me, I understand, but I just want you to know this is a great song for you and a great song for the world, Love Dolly.’ I’m like, ‘Wait! What? You are asking to be on the song?’ Wait a second! Dolly Parton just asked me to be on my song and I’m like it’s never too late for Dolly!”
And now, the rest is history…and Dolly is on the Natalie Grant album.
An unexpected gift of love and legacy
The collaboration with Dolly Parton is only one of the highlights of Grant’s stellar collection on Seasons. Another special moment is “To Make You Feel My Love,” which Grant recorded with her mother Gloria and her daughters. Grant says she was listening to the song with her family on vacation and suddenly felt the lyric in a different way. “We were in our rental car and my girls were talking about how much they love that song by Adele, and Bernie and I were like, ‘Now listen, we love Adele, and we love her version, but that is not an Adele song. This is a Bob Dylan song,’ and we played them the original,” Grant recalls.
“We were driving down the road in the Pacific Northwest in 2019 and all three of my girls are in the backseat and I look in the rear view mirror and I’m hearing those lyrics, ‘I’d go hungry. I’d go black and blue. I’d go crawling down the avenue. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love,’ and I started to cry. My girls are like, ‘Mom why are you crying?’ and I’m like, ‘I’ve never heard this song this way, but these are the words I would say to you.’”
Grant immediately said, “‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if one day I covered this song and got Grandma to sing on it,’ and then they all started to cry,” she says that conversation was the precursor to the family singalong on her new album.
“Bernie ended up flying out to Seattle and recording my mom’s vocal in my childhood home,” Grant beams. “It was such a special moment. My mom was always the singer in our family. When I hear her sing on it — and then we have the girls do the background — I hope the world loves it, but honestly if nothing else, it’s a gift for our family. It’s a gift that we’ll hold onto forever.”
Get your own copy of the new Natalie Grant album Seasons on sale October 6th at NatalieGrant.com.
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