SPECIAL OFFER: - Limited Time Only!
(The ad below will not display on your printed page)
Vince Gill is strumming his guitar in a rocking chair on the back patio of his Nashville home with his wife, Amy Grant, smiling and lolling on the porch swing next to him. And despite the fact that they're there for our photo shoot and the limestone patio is filled with people, they are in their own happy bubble. It's like watching a love song play out in front of your eyes.
"She's really easy to love," Gill, 49, said earlier that day, in his soft Oklahoma-by-way-of-Tennessee twang. "I got lucky. Real lucky." We're now sitting in a warm den-like room on the side of their five-room brick Georgian house. Every surface is covered with awards -- Grammys, Country Music Awards, ones I'm guessing are golf trophies, Gill's other passion. It reminds me that in addition to his 17 Grammys, Vince Gill has won more CMA awards than anyone else, ever. When I admire the room, where Gill spent the last year or so working on his four-disc, 43-song collection of new music, These Days, he chuckles and says he's about to gut and redo whole thing.
"We just keep tweaking and tweaking," he says. "I like messing with stuff more than Amy does. We start cuddling up in a room and she sees me start to look around and just says, 'Don't, don't start. What are you going to change now?'"
Grant, joining the conversation, readily agrees. "I hate change. He'll come in after staying at some hotel with a bed he thought was comfortable or with chairs he thought were great and look around and go, 'What do you think if we...?' I go, 'Stop!' Sometimes I get grumpy about it, because I don't want anything to change."
It's perfectly understandable; she has already had enough change for a lifetime. In 2000 her world turned upside down when she, the Queen of Christian Pop, and he, the King of Country, got married, leaving behind first spouses and their fans' mountain of expectations. Together they went about quietly creating a new home for their new blended family.
"When we came into this marriage, we hoped that there would be times that everybody would be together," Grant says. "Vince had Jenny, who was 17 then, and I had three kids, Matt, Millie, and Sarah, who were then 7, 10, and 12. And we knew we wanted to have a child together. This sprawling house was what we needed. And even here, Corrina, our baby, slept in our closet for her first 18 months. When Jenny went to college and Corrina, who's now 5, finally got a room, it was a big thing -- she's finally coming out!"
"The beautiful thing is that Corrina gave us all something in common," Gill says. "A blended family can be awkward. Amy's kids' father is very much a part of their lives. I told Amy, when we first got together, 'They'll see for themselves, in their own time, who I am and how I treat you.' And time has been a great healer for everybody."
"There was a time when our life was in upheaval, which is hard for any child, and then it settled again," Grant, now 46, adds. "If you break a bone, and it's reset properly, it's actually stronger. I wouldn't wish anybody a broken bone, but if you use the situation to your advantage, you can have a lot of honest conversations about what you've learned. Our children don't look at their parents as being perfect."
Their home seems almost perfect, though, in a wonderfully relaxed sort of way. As we sit down for a long chat, their friends and children and two dogs roam in and out of rooms -- just normal family life in this big brick house with gloriously flowering gardens and lots of comfy spots to relax, inside and out.
Ladies' Home Journal: This seems like the house everyone comes to.
Amy: I grew up on a dead-end street like this and I love it. The ice cream truck comes by in the afternoon and there's always kids around. People riding their bikes, Corrina's friends showing up at the door...it's important to have a place that the whole family can get together. I grew up in Nashville; my parents are still here and I have three sisters with 17 kids among us. The whole family comes here for Thanksgiving.
Vince: Amy has a huge family. We've had as many as 75 people for Thanksgiving. One of our favorite memories is of one Thanksgiving when Amy and I sat and peeled potatoes till 4 in the morning. It was just the two of us -- everybody else had gone to bed -- I was telling her all these old war stories of my life. I'm not so proud of all of those stories and I'm not ever going to enjoy peeling potatoes, but it was a fun night for us and I'll cherish that memory forever.
LHJ: What's the meal's best part?
Vince: All of it! I love turkey, dressing, gravy, corn -- all the things that are staples of our country. I have just always loved that meal.
LHJ: Food can evoke such emotion.
Vince: Well, take barbecue. You could probably get wars started over barbecue. In the South, everything's pork, and where I come from in Oklahoma, everything's beef and sausages. Everybody argues whose is best. I say, if you're going to fry up some meat, it's generally all going to be pretty good.
LHJ: You look great -- have you been focusing on diet and exercise?
Vince: I just went to the closet one day and nothing fit and I said: I'm not buying the next size up. I've always battled my weight and done all these unhealthy diets. This time I hired a trainer and I've lost just over 25 pounds since January. I've been eating smart and because I've been lifting weights, I'm losing fat and building muscle mass. My goal is to lose 50 pounds by the time I turn 50 next April. I want my weight to start with the number 1 again!
LHJ: Amy, you released Time Again...Amy Grant Live, a concert performance of hits, on September 26, and Vince, your four-disc set These Days came out October 17. Tell us about them.
Amy: His is all-new material built from the ground up. Mine is recapping things I've done for a long time.
Vince: It just evolved. I started by writing as many songs as I could and staying in the studio. I looked up, saw there were already 31 songs and thought, uh-oh. And then I got to looking at them and saw that we could really make a few different kinds of records and it just developed into a country record, a moody one, a bluegrass, and one with more of a rock sound.
LHJ: When did you first start playing?
Vince: I guess as soon as I could walk, and maybe before. I was dragging a little-bitty guitar around by a cord. Everybody played music in my house. My first conscious memory of music would have to be my grandmother playing "How Great Thou Art."
LHJ: So you played before you sang?
Vince: Yes, singing's still harder. That's why I close my eyes while I'm doing it. As comfortable as it appears, there's still an insecurity. It's just not normal to say, hey, I'm going to stand up and sing for you. It's just weird.
Amy: And it seems effortless for him. I really have to concentrate to sing. I started when my sisters and I began going to this hippie church downtown [in Nashville], when I was in my teens. It was the '70s, when people would come barefoot in blue jeans and sit on shag carpets and sing Jesus music. I was so affected by it, it felt so real and alive, that I started singing. I never craved being the center of attention, I just wanted to sing.
LHJ: Is there always music here?
Amy: Oh yeah. And Vince has always got a guitar. There was one time when I said, "Will you please fulfill a fantasy for me? I have to weed the garden so would you come play while I do it?" Do you remember that day, Vince? [Vince grins.] It was unbelievable. You just sat there playing and singing while I was pulling weeds and getting dirt under my nails.
LHJ: Do you two ever fight?
Vince: We don't yell. I've got a bad temper, which is my cross to bear. But when we were just married, we got sideways about something and just as she was getting ready to unload I said, "Just wait one second." The look on your face [turning to Amy] was priceless. I said, "Let's just let this settle for one second before you say a bunch of stuff you can't take back and really isn't worth saying. I've done all the yelling and screaming I want to do in my life." It worked. It forced us into a pattern of communicating instead of yelling.
LHJ: Even over silly stuff like messes?
Vince: I am kind of messy. I like things organized, but I don't know how to accomplish it.
Amy: We're definitely even there. He's a little bit more of a perfectionist, though, and nothing in me is about details. I'm more of a planner, though. Don't you think, Vince?
Vince: Yeah, I'm more "in the moment."
Amy: We'll wake up in the morning, we're lying in bed, and I'll say, "I've got my to-do list for today." [Amy gasps] Speaking of which, what time is it?
LHJ: It's 2:35.
Amy: We have to pick up Corrina at 3!
Vince: Okay, we've got time.
Amy: I'll leave by saying I've never imagined things being better than right now. I've seen blended families that try to all wow each other right away. All we said was, Here we are. All under the same roof. Eventually you make a place in your heart for everybody.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, November 2006.