I had the radio cranked up on KLOVE and was captured by a new song called “Hold Me.” When the song ended, the radio host mentioned that the audience was listening to a new voice in Christian music—Jamie Grace. As he went on to talk about her for the next few seconds, he mentioned that she was studying to go into children’s ministry. That most certainly got my attention! My eyes widened and my ears perked. It was at a Children’s Pastors’ Conference that our paths finally crossed, and I found out that Jamie lives a mere 45 minutes from my new residence in Georgia.
This bubbly, young, recent winner of a Dove Award joined me at one of her favorite fried chicken fast food restaurants to talk. So, pull up a chair and grab you some chicken. Enjoy the conversation with Jamie Grace.
What actually launched you into the music industry? You were a teenager, enjoying your music, then all of a sudden, everybody’s listening to you.
TobyMac kind of watches for new talent. He started GoTee records, and he’s had some of the biggest Christian artists come out of there. When he first contacted me, it was on Twitter. So many things went through my head. One—it must be fake. Two—my friends must be playing a joke on me. Three—What’s going on here? Four—I can’t breathe. It was such an amazing moment! My very first concert was going to hear DC Talk and now, the guy from DC Talk was contacting me! That was 2010 and he signed me to GoTee records that fall. We started recording right away and writing. It was sort of a slow process … a fun process … like a dreaming process. Where are we going to go? What’s going to happen? I don’t think we necessarily knew when I would release an album. Then the Revolve Tour came up, a girls’ conference, where I was actually going to be a speaker. It just happened that they already liked the song “Hold Me.” We didn’t really plan on “Hold Me” coming out as fast as it did, but it just made sense, since I was going on this national tour.
Did “Hold Me” cross over into secular music?
Apparently, there’s been some pop stations that have been playing it. It blows me away. Honestly, that song reminds me that there’s only comfort in the arms of God. But, a lot of people think I wrote it to a boyfriend. I’ve been single since I was born and there’s no way that was written to a boy. I don’t have a boyfriend to write it to. My Jesus is the only One who holds me. It’s just a blessing. If God can use a love song to Him to minister to someone else, I’m okay with that. I don’t have to compromise who I am. As long as God’s Word is being shared with other people, I’m okay. Some people are saying these are love songs. Yes, they are love songs, because I love the Lord.
Tell me about your college career.
I graduate from college May 12. I’ll probably walk across the stage around 11:34. (She chuckles as she pulls out her phone to check the official countdown). I started school when I was 3, and started college when I was 16. I’m 20 now. It’s a lot of balancing. My mom always had a passion for teaching. My sister is 2 years older and Morgan loved learning from an early age, loved conversations, and read from an encyclopedia. If we watched TV, it was the Discovery channel. As the younger sister, I just followed in her footsteps. Because we homeschooled, I was right there, and it made sense.
Homeschooling set me up for college. People have asked me, “Because you were homeschooled, doesn’t that make college harder?” Not really. Actually, college was a breeze. Now, there were some challenges. Biology almost killed me! My entire childhood, I knew how to teach myself and I knew how to go to my teacher if I needed help. When I got to college, I didn’t want to function unless I knew my professor, like “What’s up? How’s your weekend?” I instinctively had the relational thing with my instructor and knew how to work on my own. I could work in my room without getting distracted. College is definitely a lot like homeschooling.
When you’re on tour, how do you handle college?
A couple of things come into play. I go to a school that is all about living your faith in your community, in the world, for Christ. I go to Point University down by the airport. I’m really blessed to go there. They want their students to be able to follow their dreams, and they really do believe that God has called each person. They support what I do, and that’s what blesses me. I occasionally have to get an extension. I’ve shown them that I really want my degree, but I really want to sing as well.
So, what degree are you getting in college and what do you see happening with that degree?
The formal title of the degree is a Bachelor of Science in Children and Youth Development with a focus on children’s ministry and a minor in biblical studies. It’s a long degree. It’s going to take a poster instead of a certificate!
For the longest time, between 7th grade and my sophomore year of college, I worked with the children’s ministry with my mom at our church. I wrote songs and worked with the kids. I really loved that. But, with the touring, I wasn’t able to do that all the time. I’m looking more at consulting in children’s ministry, because that’s something I could do and still tour at the same time. I do love being with the kids at church. At Easter when I came home, my mom said, “So, you’re teaching the kids this Sunday, right?” I still have my place here.
In the long, long run, there’s a show called “Super Nanny.” I love that show! I’d love to do a version of Super Nanny, but more faith-based, to help with disciplinary issues. It’s a strong element that’s missing, because it’s tough. Can’t you imagine it—Jamie Grace, Super Nanny!
And then, I would love to focus on families with children with disabilities. I have Tourette Syndrome, OCD, and ADHD. My parents had to work hard to figure out which was causing my behavior and how to best handle it. I’m still praying about how that would work out. Hopefully, through personal experience, I’ve accumulated some things to do and say.
How have your unique challenges effected you?
It was kind of a domino effect. The physical challenges caused emotional challenges, which caused social challenges. There was a lot. The Tourette’s was something that started when I was about 9 years old. I wasn’t diagnosed, though, until I was about 11 years old. That was hard, because during that time I really didn’t know what was going on. When I was a little girl, my biggest thing was gymnastics. I was athletic as a kid, but I’m definitely not now. I was obsessed with gymnastics. I had the cutest little leotard. I was convinced I was going to be in the Olympics. When the Tourette’s got really bad during that two years, I had to quit gymnastics. It was a big part of my heart and my aspiration, and it was just taken away. I just knew that I was moving my legs and hands all weird.
I was pretty convinced that I would never dream again … I’d never smile again. I just shut myself in my room. I was a sickly little kid. I had asthma and pneumonia 7 times before I was two years old. They were always the kind of health issues, though, where you give it a week or two, take medicine, and you were all right. I remember the day I got the diagnosis for Tourette’s. I was excited, because I thought I could go home and feel better now. It felt like a celebration. But, there’s no cure for it, and when I realized that, I reverted right back to my room. There are treatments now, a lot more than there were at that time. The medicines that they tried were for adults with bipolar. That was a lot for an 11-year-old body. There were so many side effects that I would rather deal with the Tourette’s than with the medicine.
How did you family help you?
My family really helped me. My mom and dad (Pastors James and Mona Harper) are wonderful! And, my grand-daddy. (She paused and smiled, I believe picturing him in her mind.) The sweetness of that old man … he just wanted there to be some fun in the house. One time he brought over an amplifier, guitar and a drum set … a sparkly drum set. He set it up in our guest room and brought me and my sister in there. Our faces lit up! He has always been a very giving grandfather. I think he gave every one of his 16 grandkids a musical instrument. I just remember playing those drums, and oh my gosh! It was a way to get it out. I could whack on those drums! And now, anytime I’m on tour and they need a sound check, I say, “I’ll play the drums.” Although I’d been singing all my life, the drums kind of gave me this back door to singing. The drums brought the guitar, which brought the singing, which brought the songwriting. All of that together brought this hope and joy and love and this sound that rocked. I’d been sitting in my room for seven years. The music kind of woke me up!
Is there a key verse that has been especially real for you?
Psalms 30:5 where it says that “joy comes in the morning.” That was a verse that was there when I reconnected with the Lord. All my life I had been singing in church and serving in church. It’s not the kind of morning like you’re waiting for Santa Claus. But it’s more of a morning where life may be crazy, but God’s even better.
If you haven’t listened to the music of Jamie Grace, finish reading the magazine and then get ALL of it. You can’t help but get happy as you listen! And, the kids in your ministry will love Jamie and her music, too.