INTERVIEW: Point of Grace + Ricky Skaggs

By April 9, 2015Interview

Full Circle: Conversations with Andrew Greer
Join singer-songwriter Andrew Greer as he chats with Christian music history makers past and present.

THIS MONTH: POINT OF GRACE + RICKY SKAGGS

For over two decades Point of Grace has endeared their feel-good harmonies to millions of fans nationwide through a platinum discography chalk full of life-changing faith messages, musically relaying the trio’s on and offstage heart for God and people. Earning over two-dozen number one singles and selling millions of records, the group began adding country music to the mix with the success of their roots-driven impact anthem, “How You Live,” and 2011’s country-tinged album, No Changin’ Us.

On the eve of releasing their first covers album, Directions Home (Songs We Love, Songs You Know) this Tuesday on Word Records, Shelley, Leigh and Denise sit down alongside album guest and Country music pioneer Ricky Skaggs to chat about song selection, musical styles and why they do what they do.

Andrew: The songs on Directions Home continue the country-bluegrass-gospel blend Point of Grace has perpetuated over the past few years. What compelled you to continue in this style, as well as cover these specific songs?

Shelley Breen: This album was really different from the rest of our records. We knew we wanted to do a covers record, so we went back into our “song vault” and each brought four or five song choices to the table. Through that process, we realized the songs had a similar theme – a journey, a direction, a place. Directions Home was the inevitable title.

When we sit and think of the music that brings us “home”, some of it is very spiritual and has helped us in our faith, and some of it is poignant in helping us reflect on family, friends, love and life. We wanted the music to not only reflect that in the song choices, but also in the production. With the “home” theme, the rootsy, country style of production evolved naturally.

Andrew: Andy Leftwich, from Ricky Skaggs’ legendary Kentucky Thunder band, co-produced the record with the three of you.  How did his musical experience enhance, challenge and differentiate this recording process from previous studio sessions?

Leigh Cappillino: Andy had played on a previous record of ours, so when we started throwing names on the table for producers for this album we mentioned his name to Vince Gill. Vince’s response was, “Oh, you mean the genius?” So we knew he was the right guy for the job.

We absolutely think the world of Andy and his lovely wife Rachel. He consistently gathered A-team players (himself included), while Rachel delivered these beautiful vocal arrangements. It was a team effort, and a team that’s well loved! The atmosphere was amazing. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of prep time and a ton of good fun throughout the entire recording process. At the end of the day, we’re so excited about this product!

Andrew: Back to Vince, he duets with the group on the title track. Female readers will boycott if I don’t ask – what was it like to sing with Vince?

Denise Jones: We were so excited when he agreed to sing on the record. His voice is absolutely perfect for the title cut, “Directions Home”. Anyone who knows Vince knows that he is kind, and always so gracious and willing to share his great talent. This was truly the icing on the cake for us!

The last thing I want, and the last thing the Lord wants, is for me to keep my music behind four walls…When I play music, I feel God’s pleasure. -Ricky Skaggs

Andrew: Speaking of country music greatness, Ricky, you contributed your singing and preaching voices, as well as your incredible instrumental prowess, to Directions Home. Your contribution to the song “Two Roads” – written by our sweet friend, Cindy Morgan – is truly a moment. How did this collaboration transpire?

Ricky Skaggs: Andy, who is my nephew, told me about it. The record sounded like so much fun and really fresh and out-of-the box for the group. “Two Roads” has an old gospel feel to it. It’s kind of swampy and the one from the project I felt I could lend myself to and add to it.

Denise: Andy has played in Ricky’s band since he was nineteen, and Andy’s wife, Rachel, is Ricky’s niece. So there were these connection points right in front of us. But the thought hadn’t crossed our mind until we were listening to Cindy’s recording of the song and Andy said, “You know who would sound great on this? Ricky.” Obviously, we all agreed and loved the idea. When Andy brought the idea to him he ever so graciously lent his talents, vocally and instrumentally, which was such a treat for us.

It was really fun to pass the news on to Cindy that we were cutting this song because her Mom, Lola, co-wrote it and it is her first cut! “Two Roads” is one of the really special tracks on this album and a favorite for all of us – for many reasons.

Andrew: Ricky, this duet is a perfect example of how you have achieved significant recognition in both the country and gospel music industries. Do you feel your gospel music is specific to “spiritual” or church circles, while your country catalog is designed for “secular” audiences?

Ricky: The last thing I want, and the last thing the Lord wants, is for me to keep my music behind four walls. I see a marketplace for songs of inspiration, comfort and joy. It’s like its got heaven’s stamp of approval.

Andrew: Over the past twenty years, Point of Grace has also run the gamut stylistically. Gospel songs. Country songs. Electric guitars. Acoustic Guitars. Symphony strings. Fiddles. Regardless of musical style, songs, instrumentation, what is the heart behind all of it?  Why do you ladies do what you do?

Shelley: Although musical styles have changed over the years, our purpose has never changed. We started singing together because we love God, we love people and we love to sing. We want listeners to know that Jesus Christ has made the difference in our lives. In a world full of hurt, disappointment and pain, there is a God who loves them and cares about all of their needs. He is not caught by surprise and wants to walk with them through their own journey on this earth, and carry them through to their true home he created them for if they will trust him.   

Andrew: What is the allure of music for you, Ricky?

Ricky: Music and art is so natural. It comes from a pure stream. We don’t try to homogenize it and evaporate it. It’s probably one of the most pure forms today. When I play music, I feel God’s pleasure.

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About Point of Grace: With a career spanning over 20 years, Point of Grace has sold more than 7 million albums, earning two platinum and five gold album certifications, 24 consecutive No. 1 singles (27 total including radio staples “Steady On,” “The Great Divide” and “Circle of Friends”) and 13 Dove Awards. Directions Home (Songs We Love, Songs You Know) is their first covers project. Featuring collaborations with GRAMMY® Award winners Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs, Shelley, Denise and Leigh co-produced the album alongside esteemed country musician Andy Leftwich. The first radio single is their version of Carrie Underwood’s No. 1 hit, “Something In The Water”. For more information visit: pointofgrace.net.

About Ricky Skaggs: With 12 #1 hit singles, 14 GRAMMY® Awards, eight CMA Awards (including Entertainer of the Year), eight ACM Awards, eleven IBMA Awards, two Dove Awards and nine ICM (Inspirational Country Music) Awards, Ricky Skaggs remains a true pioneer to the Country Music, Bluegrass and Gospel / Christian music genres. Since he began playing music more than 50 years ago, Skaggs has released more than 30 albums and has performed thousands of live shows. Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder, continue to keep the tour trail red hot, performing more than 80 live dates each year. In 2012, Skaggs was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame and was awarded the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music on September 24. For more information visit: rickyskaggs.com.

About Andrew: Andrew Greer is a Dove Award-nominated singer-songwriter, author and co-creator of the innovative Hymns for Hunger Tour with Dove Award-winning singer-songwriter Cindy Morgan. His 2013 record, All Things Bright & Beautiful: Hymns for the Seasons (Lucid Artist), held the #1 spot on Nielsen Christian SoundScan’s Instrumental chart for 25 consecutive weeks. And his first Christmas record, Angel Band: The Christmas Sessions, reached the Top 10 on iTunes’ Singer-Songwriter chart and featured collaborations with music legends Phil Madeira, The McCrary Sisters, Cindy Morgan and GRAMMY®-winning legend Sandi Patty. His songs have been recorded by artists like Jaci Velasquez, Nic Gonzales (of Salvador) and Seth & Nirva. As an author, his first book, Transcending Mysteries: Who is God, and What Does He Want from Us? (Thomas Nelson), co-authored with fellow singer-songwriter Ginny Owens, released last month. For more information visit: andrew-greer.com or hymnsforhunger.com.