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Shop 'Til You Drop!
By: Marty Kasza

      When the Brio staff found out that Christian singer Natalie Grant- who has a bigger-than-life-voice-was going to be in Colorado Springs, Colo., we jumped at the chance to spend an afternoon with her. We've been around Natalie before and know from experience that this gal is loads of fun!
       We started brainstorming to create the best itinerary for our few hours together. What would make this interview like none other she'd ever done? Bowling? Snowboarding? Paintball? None of those seemed right. And thent he obvious hit us when Natalie's publicist mentioned that she's a girl who lives to shop!
        Enough said. We let Susie pick the place for lunch, and of course, we went to her favorite downtown Mexican spot- Jose Muldoon's. After our meal, we arranged for Natalie to join three teen girls- Andrea Kasson, Jacelyn Mitnaul and Jamie Zehner- to hit the unique boutiques lining Tejon Street. Oh, and we can't forget about the incredibly yummy ice cream the group devoured at Michelle's. But wait. Let's back up. You've gotta catch all that Natalie said as we chatted over Cokes, tortilla chips, burritos, and salads.
Brio: How did you get into singing?
Natalie: I grew up singing in my church. We had an incredible youth music program. Then, a musical group named Truth came to my church in Seattle, and I auditioned for them. They retired this year-after 30 years. Contemporary Christian artists Steve Green and all of 4 Him came out of Truth, and Point of Grace's entire band played in Truth. I with in Truth with Jody McBrayer and Janna Long from Avalon. Truth-made up of six singers and a full band- has provided so many musicians for the industry, it's incredible. It was during that time that God called me to do this. I was going to college to be a first-grade teacher. I didn't want to move to Nashville, Tenn., and do music, but it was Truth that God used to show me He'd been preparing me for this.
Brio: How did you end up in Nashville?
Natalie: I moved straight from the Truth bus! I had $200 in my pocket, no place to lice, no job, no car-nothing-but I knew I was supposed to do it. A family took me in, and I got a temp job working at Medicare (real glamorous, huh?). This familoy put me in their minivan and took me to my job and picked me up. Without them, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing.
Brio: Tell us about meeting your husband, Bernie.
Natalie: I got my first record deal and needed to do a concert for the record company. I had just moved to Nashville and din't know any musicians, so the A&R rep recommended two piano players. she suggested a guy named Byron and one named Bernie. I called Byron because he was the first number I had. He couldn't do it. Then I called Bernie, who's a really close friend of Byron's.
Brio: Is there more to the story?
Natalie: There is. We did that concert together, and I instantly called my family and said, "I met this guy I've dreamed about my whole life!" Bernie ahd actually been engaged and was heartbroken at that time, so he was a lot more guarded than I was. We became really good friends for an entire year before we decided to go on our first date. Then we were married the next year.
Brio: Let's talk about our new album. What do the title Deeper Life mean to you?
Natalie: We pulled the album title from a song. The first time I hear this song it ministered to me because one of the lyricssays, "I've got my telephone, I've got my radio, I've got a million places I can go, but where I wanna be is with God." There are so many things pulling for our attention but in the end we find out they're empty. Everywhere you look people are searching for a deeper meaning for their lives. I've found it through my relationship with Jesus Christ. Birthed out of that relationship are the relationships are the relationships I have with others-my husband, my parents and my church. The record is full of songs that talk about relationships with God, but also relationships with other people.
Brio: Describe the sound of your album.
Natalie: This record has more of an edge to the style than my first record; it's more aggressive musically. Lyrically, it's more direct and meatier. I was more involved in writing this time, which made a huge difference. As far as the style, it's still the big voice type of singing, but I wanted to mae it a little rockier, a little more organic.
Brio: Is there anything you miss about being a teenager?
Natalie: I've stayed such a kid that I feel like I'm stil a teenager! One of the greatest things for me was the friendships that I built and the carefree opportunity of life where things weren't as serious-I just had those moments to be footloose and fancy-free. But, there were times in my junior high and high school years when I hated it.
Brio: What kind of concerns do you hear from teens today?
Natalie: The No. 1 concern for girls is their image. I've struggled with an eating disorder, so I have a heart for them. We don't talk enough about it in church, and it's a problem that's so huge.
Brio: Tell us more about your eating disorder.
Natalie: I was 19 when I started struggling with bulimia. I dealt with it for two and a half years. God used my family to bring me through it. They noticed severe changes in my weight and saw that my cheeks were yellowing and my voice was hoarse. My sisters and brother went to the library for books about helping people with bulimia. Then they confronted me. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I'd been found out. But I was also comforted because these people loved me so much that they'd do whatever they could to help me. They told me they knew what I was doing, and for me, that worked.
Brio: Now that you're on the other side of bulimia, what advice do you have for teen girls?
Natalie: First, center your self-image in the Word of God. That's the one thing that's unchanging, and God's really clear that He created us in His image. Everything about us is created for a purpose. In other practical ways, find a parent or a spiritually strong adult with whom you can talk. The more you talk about it, the more it's no longer a private thing. Also, seek counsel on health and nutrition.
Brio: What's your relationship like with your dad?
Natalie: There's a song on the record that was writtne to my dad called, "Always Be Your Baby." I was blessed with a dad who not only taught me how to love God, but who loved and encouraged me and believed in me. I've also seen the other side, as my older sister's husband walked out on her and their two kids. Now her daughter's 13, and I see the negative effect of a bad relationship with a father. If you don't have a father figure in your life, that's where church come in. A lot of churches have wonderful men of God- youth pastors and other dads who can step in and be a positive influence in girls' lives.
Brio: What are your top three favorite ways to spend time off?
Natalie: My No.1 favorite would be with my husband and my family in Seattle. I have lots of nieces and nephews, and I love hanging out with them. No. 2 is hanging out at my house. I love the mundane boring things of life- going to the grocery store, doing laundry and sitting in our big, over-stuffed brown chair. Our idea of a perfect night is being at home, watching a movie and having Chinese take-out! The third way I love spending my time is doing what I'm doing. Once I've been home for more than three or four days at a time, I'm anxious to get back out. I love to travel and meet new people.
Brio: Where do you like to shop?
Natalie: I love Nordstrom because I grew up with it in Seattle. At home I love Target! Their designs are so cool! I like the mall, but I love checking out the downtown areas of the cities I visit. I like finding those little shops that are different. That's my favorite thing-boutiques. I'm a shopper at heart!
Brio: How do you keep yourself grounded and avoid being caught up in materialism?
Natalie: Sometimes it's difficult. I look in my closet, and I have so much stuff. It's easy to fool myself into thinking that because of what I do, I always need something else. In my line of work, people are constantly serving me everywhere I go- they treat me like a queen and make me gift baskets and take me everywhere. It'd be really easy to grow to expect that. But I've been through so much career building, and the difficulty has humbled me so often, that I'm thankful that I can do this everyday and that God had allowed me to do it as a career.
Brio: Joy Williams has said that girls ask her, "How do I do what you're doing?" Her response: "You better be ready to lay it all down." What does it mean to you to "lay it all down?"
Natalie: It depends on what you're doing music for. If you want to get in it because you want a record deal and you want to have your life look like a pop star's, that's one thing. But if you're choosing to do it as a ministry career, it's not the lifestyles of the rich and famous! It's hard work. You leave your family a lot- there are times when I'm by myself in a different city every day. It's important that I surround myself with people who tell me the difficult things- people who keep me grounded and offer spiritual accountability.
Brio: What do you mean by "the difficult things"?
Natalie: People who tell me that I'm a mess, who remind me that all of this isn't from any merit of my own. The only thing I did to be where I am was obedient. Obedience is a very important element. I didn't gift myself; I didn't open doors of opportunity. Also, I need people who encourage me in the moments when I feel like I can't do this anymore. They remind me that what I'm doing is more than making great songs for people to sing along with. The stories I hear from people who say a song saved their marriage or a song helped bring their kid through something are the moments when I think. This is why I do what I do.


Natalie's tips for having a Better Relationship with your Dad
Never be dishonest with your dad
Always make time for your dad
Talk with him.
Accept his efforts of loving you
Love your dad by giving him hugs
Involve him in your life
Encourage him with notes
"I always wrote my dad love notes. When he was busy or traveled a lot, I'd write something like 'Dad, I love you' or 'Thanks for being my dad' or 'You're the greatest dad'. Those moments carried him through a lot of difficult times."
-Natalie Grant

HANGIN' With Nat and the Girls
Girls: Where did you travel when you were with Truth?
Natalie: I went to Russia, which was totally incredible- we went to Ukraine, Russia, and Romania, and Chernobyl where 75 percent to 80 percent of the kids die before they're 15. It was life changing!
Girls: Does your husband always travel with you?
Natalie: No. During our first year of marriage he traveled everywhere with me because I was touring so much, and we throught it was important for a newly married couple to spend time together! But now he produces records, so he's busy and has to stay home. He flies to visit me if I'm gone for a long stretch of time.
Girls: Have you always wanted to be a Christian singer?
Natalie: No. I first wanted to be a missionary nurse, But I can't stand the sight of blood! Then I went to school to study Elementary Education. I wanted to be a first grade teacher.
Girls: What's your greates fear?
Natalie: It's something I do all the time-flying! Last year I flew more thatn 250,000 miles. I'm in a bus a lot on tour, but I fly a lot, too, and I get so scared. You think about this little piece of tin up in the sky.
Girls: What's your favorite ice cream?
Natalie: Vanilla! Because then you can put all sorts of toppings on it, and it doesn't interfere.
Girls: What's your favorite food?
Natalie: Chinese and Italian!