NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Looking back at the hundreds of church services she attended as a child, Christian music star Amy Grant can't recall one sermon. It's the music that got to her.
''I grew up in a family where we went to church every Sunday morning, every Sunday night and every Wednesday night,'' said Grant, who has sold more than 22 million albums.
''Even on vacation, we would find a church and go. I can't remember any sermons from when I was a kid. I memorized a few Bible verses. But the hymns were always there.''
On ''Legacy...Hymns & Faith,'' Grant's first new album in five years (except for a Christmas album), she revives old hymns such as ''This Is My Father's World'' and ''Holy Holy Holy.'' Husband Vince Gill, a country star, helped her rearrange the songs.
''These songs gave me a feeling of security, a feeling that there was an eternal plan in place and operating,'' Grant said. ''As I grew up hearing all these songs, it helped me to understand I have a place in this plan. No one is insignificant.''
The return-to-roots album marks the 25th anniversary of her career, and precedes a new album titled ''Simple Things'' that will be aimed at the pop market in September.
''It's a neat situation,'' Grant said. ''Knowing how hard we worked on the pop record, it took all the pressure off this record."
''I want people to hear it because I feel like it's a beautiful emotional journey. ... I don't care if it sells or not. All that pressure was completely met and addressed in the September release.''
Grant grew up in Nashville, the daughter of a surgeon. Her family belonged to the Church of Christ, and the Southern congregations don't allow any choirs or instrumental music.
''So if you didn't sing, there was no noise, period,'' Grant said. ''I listened to a ton of non-church stuff, too. I had my Emerson Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull and the Beatles.''
Inspired by the Jesus rock movement of the 1970s, Grant began writing songs at 15. She was discovered by producer Brown Bannister two years later, and he got her signed to Word Records.
Grant became a star in contemporary Christian music, then crossed over to pop in the late 1980s and early 1990s with hits such as ''Baby Baby'' and ''The Next Time I Fall,'' a duet with Peter Cetera.
She never expected her career to last this long.
''I remember when I was in my mid-20s and Tina Turner came out with 'What's Love Got to Do With It,'' and it was a resurgence in her 40s,'' Grant said. ''I remember telling one of my friends, 'If I'm ever on stage when I'm 40, take the big hook and yank me off, because I don't have Tina Turner's legs, and I can't walk in heels, and I certainly don't have her voice.'
''Now look. I'm 41, and about to put out two records. ... I really feel free from people's expectations.''
Grant and Gill attracted tabloid attention in the year leading up to their marriage in 2000. Grant divorced Christian singer Gary Chapman in June 1999.
Grant said ''it's hard to know'' if Christian music fans were bothered by changes in her personal life. She's been relatively inactive in recent years, except for her annual Christmas tours. She and Gill had a baby daughter last year.
''The only way to gauge, I guess, would be to enter chat rooms on the Internet, which I never do,'' Grant said. ''People I see have been great. I guess we'll see as the records come out.''
Gill was integral to the ''Legacy...Hymns & Faith'' album, and will likely join her on tour later this year. He suggested horn sections and other musical touches.
''It's the first time 'Fairest Lord Jesus' has even been done with a little Bo Diddley feel, I venture to say,'' Gill said. ''The hardest part of the job from my perspective was to go through all these hymns and make them all different. They're all similar melodically and in chord structure. "
We couldn't do them all as slow, sing-along hymns. So we were looking for different ways to go, without being irreverent.''
Gill encouraged a black gospel sound on ''Nothing but the Blood'' that is far removed from Grant's Church of Christ roots.
''Of course, he's so soulful,'' Grant said. ''But it was fun. He said, 'Amy, you've got some soul in there. We've just got to get down in there and free it up a little bit.'''
Because of a tight 29-day recording schedule, Gill played almost every guitar solo on the album.
''I love it, because it was such a neat project to share,'' Grant said. ''It was kind of a mind meld with all of these songs that are kind of precious to me in my memory.''
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Amy Grant Web site: http://www.amygrant.com/
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