Ashley Cleveland - ChristianMusic.com
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The first woman to win a Grammy Award in the Gospel Rock category and the only woman to win twice, Ashley Cleveland is up for a third Gospel Rock Grammy for "Before the Daylight's Shot," her most recent album.

"I never really set out to be a Gospel singer," Cleveland tells ChristianMusic.com. "I really set out to be a rock star. My first record deal, with Atlantic, was a rock deal. But even my first album had songs that were embraced by Christian audiences. I wrote from a very transparent, revealing kind of place," Cleveland says. "People gravitated toward that."

Interrupting a music session to talk, Cleveland is recording demos of some new songs that she is writing for other singers. After writing for herself her whole career, she says, she wanted to try writing for others.

"I never really set out to write a Gospel song, just write a good song and see where it goes," Cleveland says. Living in Nashville, she plans to shop her songs around to various artists who accept others' material.  

Though it will certainly be interesting to see how other singers interpret Cleveland's powerful, revealing lyrics and strong-hearted songs, this latest Grammy nomination is testament to her own unique mixture of Gospel and Rock.

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Certainly, she is no stranger to other genres having sung back-up on over 300 albums. Born in Knoxville, she spent most of her time growing up in the San Francisco area, though she would spend summers with her father back in Tennessee. She attended University of Tennessee for a couple of years then moved back to California, playing guitar and singing in clubs in and around San Francisco during the late 1970s and early '80s.

She moved back to Nashville in the mid-'80s. "I needed to be in a music town," Cleveland says. "L.A. was enormous and expensive and scared me a bit. Nashville just felt right."

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Having started drinking at a young age, Cleveland became addicted to alcohol and cocaine. "I'm one of those people who likes to 'run my show,'" she says. "I kept running my show until I ran it into the ground." Her family intervened and helped her to get clean.

"I grew up in the church. Both of my parents were devout church-goers. Presbyterian. I think it was just part of their social life. But I always believed," says Cleveland. "But it didn't have an impact on a deep level until I was way down in the hole." It was utter despair, says Cleveland, that brought her to a new relationship with Christ.

"The Lord really had to dismantle some notions of God that I grew up with," she says. "A performance-oriented God. After all, I had less than nothing to offer."

"The thing that really drew me to a life of faith was a profound tenderness and kindness. I felt absolutely accepted and embraced," Cleveland reveals. "I felt that if this is God, then I need to know Him."

Ashley Cleveland
Rock, meet Gospel.

Married to musician and music producer Kenny Greenberg, Cleveland has three children, ages 25, 15 and 13. Included in her concert venues are drug and alcohol recovery places and treatment facilities. She also is one of the artists who participate in "Freedom Sings," a program of concerts sponsored by the First Amendment Center to raise awareness of the connection between music and the First Amendment.

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"I've really been blessed," Cleveland sums up Greenberg's and her careers. "What an amazing gift that we get to make our living playing music. We do the thing that is dearest to us."

Ashley Cleveland Video


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