Heading into the 2017 Grammy Awards, CCM artist Natalie Grant and her husband, songwriter/producer Bernie Herms, are together nominated for five trophies.
Grant’s two nominations in the Best CCM Album (Be One) and Best CCM Song (“King Of The World”) categories mark her fifth and sixth nods, and the singer-songwriter hopes they mark her first Grammy wins. Grant’s first major label album for Curb Records, Stronger, released in 2001, though it wasn’t until 2012 that she earned her first Grammy nomination, in the Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance category, for her song “Alive.”
“My first Grammy nomination didn’t come until after I had been doing it for over a decade,” Grant says. “I’ve been doing it for 18 years now and I’m still getting nominated for Grammys. I feel like it is encouragement for struggling artists everywhere when the culture tells you your career will be done by a certain time.”
Herms has garnered three nominations, including a Best CCM Song nod as a co-writer for Hillary Scott and The Scott Family’s hit “Thy Will,” and two nods in the Best CCM Album category, for his work as producer on Be One, and on Hillary Scott and the Scott Family’s Love Remains. Herms’ career as a producer and songwriter has included work with Selah, Avalon, Danny Gokey and more.
“It’s the way we get to physically see the impact of a song you write,” Herms says of the nominations. “There is a lot of seclusion to what you do, at least with what I do in being a producer. So when your colleagues tell you they think it is remarkable with these nominations, it doesn’t get old. I’m a needy artist just like the next guy.”
Grant has been transparent on previous albums about the couple’s struggle to conceive and journey through IVF treatments, before they welcomed twin daughters Grace and Isabella in 2007. Grant is also open about her battle with postpartum depression after the birth of their third daughter Sadie in 2010. Grant has taken lessons from those trials and translated them into the hope and confidence found on “King of the World.”
“I wanted the music and message to reflect that, because I had been so honest about the struggle,” Grant says. “I wanted those same people that identified with that music and that message so strongly, to see that you can rise above.”
While the majority of the tracks from Be One center on finding a spiritual safe haven, the title track focuses on becoming that safe place for someone else.
“I loved the urgency in this song,” Grant says. “This was written pre-presidential election, but even in 2015, you could feel this tension in the atmosphere of our world. I feel like there was urgency in ‘Be One’ to become hope for others. Instead of sitting around and complaining about things that need to be different, start being that.
“At the end of the day what is really more right than anything else, is being full of grace, love and generosity. If we can get more of the faith-based community to live that way, our faith would have more of an impact on the world.”
The couple’s family struggle also influenced Herms’ “Thy Will,” which was co-written with and recorded by Hillary Scott. The writing collaboration began after a chance meeting with Scott and her husband Chris Tyrrell during a flight.
“They sat down in the row in front of us, and Hillary introduced herself, and said she was a fan of my music,” Natalie recalls. “It was such an organic moment. I was like, ‘But wait, I’m a fan of yours,’ and then she told Bernie she knew he writes and asked if he wanted to write together.”
At the time, Scott was in the middle of not only crafting her first gospel project, but dealing with personal tragedy. Unbeknownst to fans at the time, Scott had recently suffered a miscarriage. She brought the myriad of emotions and thoughts into the writing room with Herms and fellow songwriter Emily Weisband.
“Instead of hustling to write a hit, we just started talking and she shared stuff that her family has gone through,” Herms recalls of the session. “We did talk about how God works in our lives and not always in ways we are expecting. Sometimes they are painful. We haven’t experienced what she and her husband have experienced, but I’ve had the struggle of thinking at one time in my life, ‘I’m never going to be a father.’ I had that very clearly spoken to me by a physician. So, those are interesting dynamics and from that point I empathized.”
What resulted was an intensely personal song that struck a chord with listeners and topped the Hot Christian Songs chart.
The nominations are especially heartening, as the entire process for Be One, from the writing of the first track to the recording of the album’s final note, was completed in six weeks. Be One released in November 2015.
“It’s the fastest creative project I think either one of us has ever been a part of,” Grant says.
“I’m the kind of producer that slaves over details and puts 110 percent of love into the music I produce. To be honest, it’s not typical for me to be super quick, but I had no time to overthink stuff,” said Herms. “With this album, it felt like we found the inspired moments, and we went with our gut reaction to things. I think this is one of the strongest records we’ve made.”
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