Tony Cummings charts the amazing rise of teenage singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist JAMIE GRACE
There have been fewer successful launches into the Christian music scene than 19 year old acoustic soul singer Jamie Grace. Her debut full length 'One Song At A Time' has been a major success with "Hold Me", her duet with Toby Mac, a huge turntable hit. What makes the rise of the singer, rapper, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, motivational speaker and actress from Atlanta, Georgia is that since a child Jamie has suffered from the notorious Tourette's Syndrome. She spoke about the Syndrome to journalist Sarah Hearn, "When I was first diagnosed with it I was 11 years old and it was pretty frustrating to find out that there was no cure for Tourette's. For two or three years I'd had these weird twitches and movements that I couldn't control. To find out that I'd never be able to fix it was way more frustrating. I went through a state of confusion that turned into denial and from there it just turned into insecurity, not feeling smart, not feeling beautiful, not feeling I was worth anyone's love and not even feeling like I had anyone's love, especially not God's. I remember going through a moment of just doubting God. It was definitely my relationship with Jesus that eventually brought me through."
Jamie also gives major credit to her parents, Bishop James Harper and Pastor Mona Harper who lead Kingdom City Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia. "The strength of my parents helped me through those times and it was their relationship always being strong and them always inspiring me. They are pastors but they're not just pastors on Sundays, they're leaders every day of the week. They've always put the family first and then the church. They have been a great rock for me, even my mom painted the hallway light blue because she knew it's a colour of hope and she wanted me to be able to smile every time I walked downstairs."
Her father took steps to help as well. "Sometimes when I couldn't sleep my dad would play jazz music and dance in front of the room and be super silly and so I kinda just laughed myself to sleep." Her parents also reinforced her value. "They told me everyday that I was important and that God loved me, even when I didn't believe it myself. Eventually I came around to believing it and I came around to accepting that I was going to have something in my life that I can't control, but I feel like God's love for me was bigger than any pain I was going to have. Even though I have some insecurities about it now, that's the understanding I have about it."
Jamie Grace Harper was born on 25th November, 1991. Her home was an intensely musical one. Said the young singer, "My mom's a singer and writer and my dad is a drummer and bassist. Dad's last music lesson? When he was 10. My mom's dad taught himself to play numerous instruments and both of my grandmothers sing. Our family really loves to grab random instruments and just learn to play! Currently, my brother-in-law is picking up drums and guitar. My sister also plays a heap of instruments, sings and writes. We're writing a lot together these days. I play the drums, guitar, ukulele and some piano. My goal is to teach myself a new instrument every year so I do know some things on the bass, mandolin and harp - thanks to my sis for the last two!"
In 2006 Jamie began putting videos of her songs on YouTube. She told the Washington Examiner how one of these finally came to the attention of CCM star and founder of Gotee Records, Toby Mac. Explained Jamie, "He'd actually found my videos a couple of years ago, but last year he saw the one where I did about 12 of his songs in four minutes. He sent me a message via Twitter and was saying basically 'hey, let's talk about music.' Long story short, a few weeks later my mom and I met him in a coffee shop up in Nashville. Two weeks after that I was signed to Gotee Records to cut a single. That was early fall of 2010 and then by January I was touring with the Revolve Tour and I had a four-song EP."
The Revolve Tour was organised by the Women Of Faith. As well as Jamie as a singer and speaker the tour featured Britt Nicole, Group 1 Crew and Hawk Nelson. One particular concert in the tour sticks vividly in Jamie's mind. "As a motivational speaker, one of the main things I speak about is resilience and confidence, and not putting your confidence in image or material things, but always in your Saviour and the person who created you, God. One weekend at Revolve, I was backstage, doing my makeup, about to go on, and I hated my makeup. I hated my hair, I hated my clothes, and I was having a total girl moment. My mom was travelling with me, and she was telling me, 'You look great honey; it's fine!' I kind of got a little of an attitude with my mom: 'Mom, you're not right, I don't look good.' I was totally lacking confidence; the Devil was really getting to my head. I remember going out there and preaching and sharing and teaching these girls and talking about confidence and talking about putting your hope and your trust in God and not what you look like. And I broke down in tears as I was sharing. I remember that the drummer from Group 1 Crew, Ben, and Jenna Lucado Bishop wrapped their arms around me as I came offstage."
Jamie continued, "You have to depend on God to get you through these moments. After that I realized that everything I was sharing with these girls I was still learning myself. But I love that I'm still learning it, because God was showing me 'you know what, you can practise this a million times. You can have it on the back of your hand and in every part of your head, but at the end of the day, I'm still going to teach you to trust me completely. You don't always have to have it all together.' That was amazing. It was scary in the moment, but it was amazing."
Jamie's truly original blend of R&B, hip-hop and pop immediately caught the ear of the Christian public and within months of its release the title track from Jamie's 'Hold Me' EP debut was at number one in the US Christian chart. Another standout song on the project was "One Song At A Time". Said Jamie, "It says, 'Just give me six strings and I'll sing you the truth.' People who don't know Jesus hear me sing it sometimes, and a lot of times it doesn't really click for them, but then they say, 'What do you really mean by you'll sing me the truth?' That's really cool for me getting to say, 'Well, this is what the truth is. It's about Jesus.' It's really my message of saying - whether I'm singing in front of three people for the rest of my life, or whether I get to do arena tours with the biggest of biggest deal people - whatever I'm doing, I'm just going to get my guitar out and I'm going to sing the truth. I'm going to sing about Jesus, and when I'm doing speaking, I'm going to speak about my Saviour. I'm going to show it in my actions, and that's really what it's all about."
The 'One Song At A Time' album was released in September 2011, followed two months later by the EP holiday project 'Christmas Together'. With "Hold Me" recently being nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Contemporary Christian Music Song, things are continuing to move upward for Jamie. The singer is still stunned by the success God has given her. She said, "A couple of weeks ago I was playing somewhere and I said, 'This next song is called "Hold Me".' The people started cheering, and then when I sang it, they knew it. I know this is being recorded, so people can't see my face. . . but right now I'm like, 'Oh my gosh!' It was so surreal. I mean, I'm a pastor's kid. I grew up going to ZOEgirl concerts. And so to be on the other end with people singing my song back to me, it's humbling, and it's exciting. I'm glad that people are hearing it."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.