September 22nd, 2010
11:05 PM ET
The next time you hear "Rock of Ages" on Christian radio you might not recognize it.
The 2010 version is definitely a lot different than the 1775 version.
Heather Payne's adaptation has a decidedly pop feel to it, with a driving drumbeat and electric guitar lead. She said she also tweaked the arrangement, making one of the verses into a chorus.
"I love how it turned out," she said by phone recently from her home in Louisville, Kentucky.
"Rock of Ages" is the initial single off Payne's first solo album "Sweet Exchange," which released Tuesday. The former Point of Grace singer said that she wanted to bring some of her favorite hymns into a new era and give them a "more modern feel."
"They are just so full of truth, of unashamed truth," she said. "The writers had a way of expressing theology and doctrine in a song that people just don't do any more."
The last time many Christian music fans heard from Payne was two years ago when she retired from Point of Grace after 17 years with the quartet. At the time Payne wrote a letter to the group's supporters, saying that she would sing again, but she was done touring. Payne said the other day that she is by no means ready to get on the bus again.
Her vehicle of choice these days is a Chevrolet Suburban, which has enough room for her, her husband and four children. She's a busy mom, planning birthday parties this month for her two oldest children, Ella and Nate, as well as ferrying everyone in the SUV to school, and to practices for soccer and baseball.
"It never ends," she said, adding that all of the children are musically inclined and Ella wants to take piano lessons.
But as much as Payne loves her family, she also loves making music, and producing music. In retirement Payne has done the occasional one-off performance, but just one a month, she said.
She missed being in a studio, being able to tailor a song to a new style. Payne said she and her husband, Bryan, had talked about teaching hymns to their children. It's becoming more rare to hear a hymn in church these days, she said, because so many fill their services with modern worship songs.
She also felt like God was calling her to use her amazing voice.
"To not use it would be a sin, really, because it is a gift that He gave me," she said.
Recording the solo album was a great experience because she got to do it in her home city, she said. On days when she recorded, her husband watched the kids until she came home. There were no weeks spent apart as there were when Point of Grace was making an album in Nashville.
She found a local producer and arranger to work with at a studio in a home in Louisville. She used former band mate Terry Jones (who left Point of Grace before her) as a backup singer on three songs and also used her sister on three others.
"Terry has a very unique voice and I know people miss hearing her sing," Payne said.
Payne was careful to have a sound different from Point of Grace. She intentionally kept most of the songs to two-part harmonies to make it distinctive. When there is a third voice, it is far back, she said.
"I didn't want to reinvent Point of Grace; I wanted to make it my own," Payne said.
Payne wouldn't completely rule out a one-show reunion with Point of Grace, which remained a trio after Payne left, but at the same time, she's content doing concerts with Sandi Patty and Wayne Watson and the occasional chance to lead worship at friends' churches.
And she's really busy with her full-time career, where the biggest dream now isn't winning a Dove Award or getting a gold record, it's getting the little one potty trained.
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