Denis Grady Facts
- Born: June 25, Peterborough Ontario
- Musical idiom: A hybrid of Country/Gospel/Pop/Folk
- Latest CD: Grace in the Strangest Places
- Latest Single: Woman at the Well
- First CD: Running Too Long
- Distribution: Heartbeat Records of Iowa; Troubadour Communication Group of Eureka Springs, Arkansas; Indie Pool
Unity Award for Best Country Gospel Song of the Year 2001 (Woman at the Well) distributed by the Catholic Music Awards hosted by United Catholic Music and Video Association in Washington, D.C.; Best Country Gospel Song and Album of the Year 2000 – Alberta for Running Too Long; Recording Industry Association of Alberta’s Gospel Musician of the Year 1999.
Founder of the Association of Gospel Musicians Alberta; Founder of the Catholic Musicians Association — Alberta; Member of John Michael Talbot’s Catholic Musicians’ Association
American Federation of Musicians, Alberta Recording Industry Association, Society of Authors/Composers Canada (Socan), Catholic Association of Musicians, Songwriters Association of Canada
Points of note:
A regular performer on the concert circuit in Canada, the United States and Europe (Holland, Italy, Ireland, Germany), Grady is just as often found playing in prisons, soup kitchens, nursing homes and Alzheimer’s wards.
North American country Gospel singer and songwriter Denis Grady stands on stage at the front of a huge amber barn and barbecue. Shakey, his trusty sidekick and the “King of the Roadies”, stands not far away. The music is as soft, clear and crisp as the snow on the nearby Rocky Mountains. “Thank you Lord for the sun today/When the light is out I am on my way/Thank you Lord/For the sun you bring today,” he strums as an exuberant group of musicians back him up. It’s a typical scene from Grady’s friend-filled performing life. Shakey is a mentally challenged 75-year-old man who has lived with Grady for fifteen years. The event is a fund-raiser for a downtown ministry for the homeless and street people in his home city. Grady is doing what he enjoys doing most, singing and sharing about God’s grace and love. Last November in Washington, D.C., Grady received the 2001 Unity Award for the Gospel Country Song of the Year for his song, Woman at the Well. The song is featured on his new CD, GRACE IN THE STRANGEST PLACES, released in February, 2002. It was Grady’s third Unity award in two years. In 2000, Grady received two Catholic Music Awards for Best Country Gospel song and album. A year earlier, the Alberta Recording Industry Association named him Gospel Musician of the Year 1999. Grady won the earlier awards for his first CD, RUNNING TOO LONG, released in April 1998 and distributed by Heart Beat Records. Clearly, Grady remains at the forefront of country Gospel music in North America.
“I truly feel that there is a huge responsibility doing Gospel music,” says Grady, who has toured Canada, the United States and Europe in recent years. “There is a lot of work to be done in sending out a message of hope and promise to counter the confusion that seems rampant in the world. My deepest belief is that God generously makes His wisdom available to all people. The beauty of this wisdom is the amazing peace it brings.”
In his journey as a Christian, Grady came to believe in God’s promises to restore brokenness and offer strength in weakness. As he did so, he gained confidence in going forth into the world with his music. “It is a wonderful vocation to sing for God and to minister to the Body of Christ,” says Grady, whose music and performances cross all denominations. “Why the Father would choose a lowly vessel as myself is simply testament to His rich mercy.” With that sincerity, it is apparent why Grady’s able to perform and be welcomed in front of Protestant, evangelical Christian and Roman Catholic audiences, as well as in secular venues.
The 11 songs on his new CD, GRACE IN THE STRANGEST PLACES, are originals inspired by his work with the poor and marginalized. He partnered with his father, Vern, to create the CD and each song has a story of its own behind it. Grady loves driving down the highway to new places. When he does, Grady compiles a set of favored images and experiences. For instance, “Yes I Do” was written in the foyer of a local ministry to street people while Grady was jamming with a friend. In this song, he sings about visiting the border town of Juarez, Mexico. It was there that Grady and his daughter, Rosie, built a house for the poor many years ago.
Another song, “I Believe in You”, was written as a graduation song for a job-training program run by the Mennonites. “I kept thinking of my daughter, Rosie, who had gone through some hard times and how I have loved her especially at times when she’s messed up,” he says. “I know it’s God’s grace that helps me to do this. It is the same way He loves us amidst our mistakes.” When he sang the song for a tough, old woman in an Iowa cafe, she broke down and cried. “It’s another example of grace in a strange place,” he says.
All the songs on both his CDs are originals written during the past 20 years and recorded at several different studios. They include sessions with bluegrass picker Dennis Agajanian, along with Roy Warhurst, former member of the Sons of the Pioneers, an institution on the Canadian music scene. The result is a blend of country Gospel songs that combine faith- and scripture-inspired poems and several testimonies, resembling the work of Jackson Browne, Dan Fogelberg and Tom Petty. After the release of his first CD, Larry Delaney, editor and publisher of Country Music News – The Voice of Country Music in Canada, wrote about the album: “Calgary singer/songwriter Denis Grady jumps to the forefront of Gospel/Country music in Canada with this strong collection of Original Tunes.” Grady intends to maintain that distinction while endeavoring to appeal to both Christians and non-Christians alike.
Born in Peterboro, ON. Grady, 50, grew up in a musical household. There was always a guitar lying around the house and Grady spent endless hours alone in his room practising chords, emulating the likes of Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot. After playing high school dances with a couple of rock bands, he graduated to the folk scene and began paying more attention to lyrics. An older brother encouraged him and he began writing songs. After college, Grady moved to Alberta in the early 1970s and became involved with folk choirs while playing coffeehouses, social events and special concerts. During that time, he spent two years in Jean Vanier’s L’Arche community in Calgary as an assistant living with mentally- and physically challenged residents. As well, he became a friend and supporter of the work of the Sisters of Charity founded by Mother Teresa, whom he eventually met.
In 1980, he was invited to participate in a Billy Graham crusade in Calgary. There he met two prominent American evangelical Christian musicians, Dennis and Danny Agajanian, renowned for their phenomenal guitar and banjo picking abilities. The California-based brothers invited Grady to join them in San Diego to record some of his songs. The Agajanians, who are unabashed and unapologetic evangelists of the Christian faith, left an indelible mark on Grady’s heart. “I was amazed at how boldly and creatively these guys presented the gospel in their music, and the way people responded,” he says. But it would be 18 years before Grady would release his first CD. God had some work to do on Grady. In 1984, after staring into suicide’s unforgiving face, he entered a treatment centre for drug and alcohol addiction and, in 1989, he went through a painful divorce. “It was a simple fact of not being ready spiritually or mentally,” he confesses. “I had some growing up to do.”
A year later, he established the Catholic Association of Musicians Alberta, affiliated with famed Christian troubadour John Michael Talbot, aimed at helping up and coming Catholic musicians. “His self-giving efforts with the Catholic Association of Musicians and qualitative talent have established him as a leader among his brothers and sisters in Canada,” says Talbot, who has more than 40 albums to his credit. Talbot’s Troubadour Records assists with the distribution of Grady’s CDs. “Those of us who are neighbors to the south welcome him with open arms for music ministry in and from the church.” Adds Grady: “The fact is that I see people hurting, starving for love and then I see all these generous talented musicians who love God, and I want to help them connect. Thirty years ago, I was told that we spend ourselves on God and He replenishes us.”
So He does. During the past five years, he’s undertaken three European tours (Italy, Ireland, Holland and Germany, Ireland, Bosnia), four Canadian tours and five American tours. He played during World Youth Day 2000 activities in Rome and at a major youth festival in Schio, Italy, near Milan, that same summer. In an arrangement with Christian Child Care International, he has organized a series of fundraising concerts across Canada in support of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto in late July. He’s performed twice on 100 Huntley Street, Canada’s premier Christian faith television show produced in Toronto. Moreover, Grady has a distribution agreement with Iowa’s Heartbeat Records which has opened up the U.S. and European concert circuits. Now they will open up some radio opportunities in the U.S.
Grady’s journey is one which he doesn’t mind talking about and one whose example, he hopes will help others find the joy and peace that characterizes his life today.While regularly performing on the concert circuit in Canada and the U.S., Grady is just as often found playing prisons, soup kitchens and Alzheimer’s wards as auditoriums and church halls. “The more I read Scripture, the more I understand about God’s love and compassion for the poor,” he says. “He had an amazing love for the poor, broken and lost. They were his friends. God wants us to go out and love like Jesus. Our responsibility is not to judge, but to befriend and at the same time we can boast in Christ and stand up for what we believe in.”
As his faith journey continues, Grady has drawn on a verse from the apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy to guide him.
“Proclaim the word, be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient: convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but follow their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.” (2Timothy 4:2-6)