Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
Grammy-nominated, five-time Dove Award-winning Female Artist of the Year Natalie Grant makes her Grand Ole Opry debut tonight (10/22) as Women Rock For The Cure in the fight against breast cancer. The fifth annual Opry Goes Pink show will feature Grant alongside award winning artists including LeAnn Rimes and Pam Tillis as they perform in support of breast cancer awareness. Grammy-winner LeAnn Rimes will flip the switch on the Opry’s signature barn backdrop, turning it pink for the night in recognition of breast cancer survivors around the world. $5 from every ticket sold will be donated to Women Rock For The Cure (For more info go to opry.com).
The appearance comes as Grant is the enjoying the success of her album Hurricane which debuted last week. That highly-anticipated release followed the single which came out last May and proceeded to blow away the competition as it took the number-one spot on iTunes while also exploding onto the Billboard and MediaBase charts, making it the fastest rising single of her career. One of the most successful crossover artists in gospel music, Grant has maintained a strong foothold as a top selling icon in the industry.
2013 is proving to be a banner year for the singer who recently performed at the “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony held at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington commemorating the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington. The event was a natural for Grant who has also become known as a strong advocate for human rights, most particularly on the issue of human trafficking.
What’s more, she’s also moving into the acting sphere with a supporting role in the film Persecuted. Planned for a 2014 release, the movie is being made by Gray Frederickson, the Oscar-winning producer known for films like The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Grant will co-star alongside James Remar, Dean Stockwell, Bruce Davison, and Fred Thompson. Written and directed by Daniel Lusko, the film deals with the issue of religious liberty.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with singer-songwriter-activist (and now actress) Natalie Grant about her very-full plate.
JWK: Congratulations on the success of Hurricane. It’s a really nice song.
NATALIE GRANT: Thank you. Thank you, very much.
JWK: You wrote the song.
NG: I did. I wrote it with Cindy Morgan and Matt Bronleewe.
JWK: How did the idea for the song come to you?
NG: It came to me when I was walking through a really dark struggle in my own life. I was facing postpartum depression after the birth of my third child. My father had been diagnosed with cancer. My nephew (was) struggling with addiction. I just felt like I had a lot of storms in my life. I felt like I was in a very dark place. I found strength from a story in The Bible where the disciples of Jesus faced a really heavy storm. Just through reading that story, which is from Matthew, Chapter 14, there’s just such a reminder…We’re always asking…you know to get out of it. Could the storm just end? Is there a way out of it? I think often times we miss the fact that peace come in the storm. We can find peace in the middle of our storm. That’s really where the inspiration for the song came from.
JWK: What’s your songwriting process like?
NG: It’s always a little different. For me, I don’t have some songwriting formula that I kinda go by. Usually it just comes by way of inspiration. Sometimes I’m inspired by a melody first and sometimes I’m inspired by a lyric. Typically, I’m inspired by an idea for a lyric and then after we get the lyric going then we write a melody to it.
JWK: The Hurricane album is doing very well.
NG: It is.
JWK: You devote yourself to a lot of causes. Besides (tonight’s) anti-breast cancer event at the Grand Ole Opry, I understand that you’re involved in a charitable organization aimed at fighting modern-day slavery.
NG: The charitable organization that (I think) you’re talking about is an organization I founded back in 2005. It’s called Abolition International (which) exists to fight human trafficking. The way that we do it is through providing quality aftercare for victims of trafficking. We work in about seven different countries but now we’re focused mostly on the United States. People have a hard time believing that human trafficking is happening in their neighborhoods and in their towns but just a few months ago the FBI did a raid and found over 150 girls…who were forced into sex slavery. I think that it’s such a dirty thing people don’t want to talk about. But there are (so many) young children in the United States of America that are desperate to be rescued. But, more than that, it’s more than just the rescue. Rescuing them does nothing if it doesn’t get followed up with the proper quality care. So, we’ve written a standards-of-care module that we believe really works. That’s really the greatest cause of my life.
JWK: That’s quite a big cause. How did you become involved in that?
NG: Well, honestly, in 2004 I was watching a television show called Law & Order. They were doing an episode on human trafficking. I had never heard of it before. Everybody’s talking about it in 2013. It’s become a trendy cause but in 2004 (most people) never heard (about it). I was just watching the TV show and watching that show led me to research it on Google…I saw that there is more slavery in the world today than at any other point in our history. There are 27 million slaves throughout the world but nobody’s talking about it or doing anything about it. My husband and I ended up going to India where we saw little children for sale on the streets. We saw a six-year-old child in a cage. We saw some things that would just wreck anybody for life if they did that to us. We knew that we would spend the rest of our lives fighting for their freedom…Then when we came back to America…I saw a local news report that said…they had just found 12 girls under the age of 15 in this apartment building in Nashville — a mile from my front door! That’s when I knew I had to use my platform (to tell) the audiences that listen to me…the truth about what’s happening around the world to the most innocent among us.
JWK: So, you believe it’s important to use your talent and platform to help others.
NG: Well, absolutely! It’s an age-old proverb that it is more blessed to give than to receive…Those are the words of Jesus, actually. I say all the time that if you really want to feel alive, it’s not through striving for yourself. If you really want to feel alive, it’s not through trying to get more things or get more success or climbing a corporate ladder or getting to the top. Because, once you get there, you realize that you don’t really find happiness in that. If you want to feel alive and if you want to feel peace and happiness, give your life away. Do something that is outside of yourself for someone else. I think that’s the way to truly feel alive.
JWK: You have a lot of wisdom. Changing gears quite a bit, I understand that you’re hosting a new GSN pilot called It Takes a Church. Can you tell me about that?
NG: Sure…Everybody knows that at every church there are well-meaning matchmakers who always think that they’ve got the best person for you. So, this show builds on that idea. (The people of) the church finds bachelors suitable for one of their single congregants and then tries to do the job of matchmaking. I’m just (psyched) to do the show.
JWK: That sounds interesting.
NG: (laughs) It’s funny, if nothing else. We shot the pilot already and it was VERY interesting.
JWK: Are you the host of the show
NG: I am the host, yes.
JWK: That’s a new role for you — that of a reality TV show host.
NG: Yes, that’s very different. I’ve never done that before.
JWK: You have done some acting though.
NG: Very little but, yes. Just this past year it seems like doors have opened in that way. I’ve had the opportunity to film a couple of different movies. One will be a documentary called In Plain Sight. (It’s) about the problem of human trafficking in America. The other is a feature film called Persecuted…The script is very interesting. The cast was great. There are some incredible actors in the film. The producers were fantastic but the script was fascinating. It just talked about what would happen if our religious freedoms were infringed upon. It’s a very fascinating script.
JWK: As I understand it, it speculates about what would happen if we came to the point where Christians actually faced persecution in the United States.
NG: Yeah — and it’s not even just really about Christians. It’s just about the thought of our religious freedom being infringed upon.
JWK: Can you describe the plot?
NG: There was an evangelist framed for murder in the film because a political party was trying to pass (a law) where you couldn’t anymore speak (directly) about what it is that you believed in. It had to be more general. (It’s about the issue of religious freedom but I wouldn’t describe it as) a “Christian” film, per se.
JWK: It’s a topic that should interest anyone.
NG: Yeah, absolutely.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11