(Photo: Gotee Records)
Jamie Grace records hit singles when she isn't completing a full course load in college.
The 20-year-old singer songwriter, who goes by the stage name of Jamie Grace – short for her full real name Jamie Grace Harper – starts her final semester at East Point, Georgia’s Point University this week. It will be hard concentrating, she said, as there's a possible Grammy award to worry about besides senioritis. The child and youth development major is competing next month in the category of 2011's "best contemporary Christian music song," for "Hold Me," a single she recorded with tobyMac of DC Talk and solo artist fame.
"I have always wanted to share God's joy and love with young kids in the hopes it will inspire them," said Jamie Grace. "I feel blessed to do something like this at my age. It's rare."
Performing comes naturally for Jamie Grace, who said she started expressing herself artistically at an early age. Born in Atlanta, she grew up the daughter of a pastor and associate pastor at the same church. At age 12, she said she asked for a video camera for Christmas. Unwrapping it that holiday, she said singing and acting have taken center stage in her life ever since.
"I've always been very dramatic," Jamie Grace said. "I'm a lot more comfortable singing my feelings, for example, or even just typing them, rather than saying them out loud. I think I'm more comfortable with music, but every now and then I still like to do a monologue. Music is very therapeutic to me."
Music soon became not just a performance for Jamie Grace, she said, but a coping mechanism. Born with Tourette syndrome, the young singer said songwriting soothed her during battles with her condition. Tourette's is a nervous system disorder that manifests itself in uncontrollable physical or vocals tics in victims.
"A lot of times they say that if you're focused on something you love, Tourette's won't bother you as much," Jamie Grace said. "When I'm playing music or acting, my syndrome isn't visible. It was definitely something that was harder for me earlier in life. I know that I'm not going to be stressed out or upset about it as I know God's going to bring me out of my pain in it."
Jamie Grace said her parent's faith forced her to nurture her musical talents. Diving deep into Korean pop, Southern gospel, jazz and Christian rock music, she soon developed an eclectic style that she perfected in a series of YouTube videos. They caught the attention of tobyMac, who signed the young musician to his record label and helped her release her first album One Song at a Time last September.
"For me, tobyMac isn't just someone on the radio," Jamie Grace said. "He's someone I really looked up to growing up. He's so humble. It's all about God and his music."
Realizing their daughter's talent, Jamie Grace's parents gave her their blessing to play professionally so long as she stayed in school. It was a tough decision, Jamie Grace said, but the college student eventually decided to complete her studies in children's ministry. Once she finishes this year, she said she intends on making her parents proud regardless of her career path.
"My parents are the best parents I could have ever asked for," Jamie Grace said. "They're my rock and everything to me. I feel very blessed God would surround me with them."
Her success, she concluded, couldn't have come without God's blessing. Whether she's tackling Tourette's or a college exam, she said she trusts in the Lord to lead her on the path to success.
"I always encourage kids when they're going through rough spots to surround themselves with people who love God and love them," Jamie Grace said. "It's important to stay in the Word and relationships with those in the Word. I just want to continue staying focused on whatever God has for me. I'm ready to go for it."