Six Grammy Awards. Twelve Dove Awards. More than 11 million records sold.
Such is the phenomenal success that has greeted Christian pop star TobyMac. His latest record Eye On It(released last August) debuted at the number one position on the Billboard Music Charts, the first Christian artist in a decade and a half to top Billboard. He is also one of only four artists to debut on top of the Billboard Top 200 Albums with a Christian music album.
A dedicated father to five kids, TobyMac is anything but your typical pop star. And he is quite all right with that.
In fact, he tells The Times & Transcript that while music keeps him on the road for more than 100 shows a year, he remains a committed, and, even more importantly, an involved parent.
‘Typically, my tour schedule will have me out for four shows and then home for three days or vice versa,’ he says. ‘I’m always zipping home to be here for my family. Family is really important to me. I work hard but I definitely want to be a father in the mix of what is happening with my family.’
Toby (nee Toby McKeehan) is no stranger to the spotlight. He was one-third of influential Christian band DC Talk whose 1995 album Jesus Freak sold more than a million copies, making it one of the most popular Gospel albums in history. DC Talk’s final record was 1999’s Supernatural , after which the band went its separate ways.
Toby didn’t allow himself to remain idle for long, releasing his solo debut Momentum in 2001. Asked if he found the prospect of moving from a band into a solo career daunting, he says that his solo career has unfolded in ways that he never could have anticipated.
‘At first, it was something that I took as a side project. It wasn’t something that I was actively going after locked and loaded and ready to go. I figured that I would have fun with it, not realizing it would become a second chapter in my life.
‘I was asked to do a song for a movie called Extreme Days and that is what kind of got the ball rolling because the song took off.
‘It was funny though that during a time that I expected to be in a little sabbatical of sorts from music, I ended up climbing another mountain. There was no pressure on me. I really enjoyed the creative process and so I started writing more songs.’
‘Once we had enough songs for a complete record, that is when I started feeling the pressure because then we were tasked with putting a live show together and everything that goes along with that, like how the live show looks. Up to that point though, we were just having fun writing songs in the studio.’
Among the most remarkable aspects of Toby’s career is the way his music has successfully crossed over into the mainstream. While Christian-based acts such as Jars of Clay. Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant have won over mainstream pop audiences in the past, it is a type of success that is not afforded to all acts based in the Christian genre.
Toby admits that while Christian music is perceived as solely having a niche market (albeit a very successful one), he says that a person’s faith is not always the determining factor as to whether or not they listen to his music.
‘In some places, Christian music is definitely a niche market but in other places, people are drawn to the music,’ he says. ‘I’ve encountered many people who say that they don’t listen to other Christian music but they listen to me. When someone has the Christian music label applied to them, I think that a lot of people think that the music is not going to be for them, that they don’t believe the way I believe. My songs speak to everyone, regardless of beliefs because my songs are just about life – the good, the bad and the ugly. My faith in God definitely plays a huge role in my life and while that comes out in my songs, I truly believe that anyone can sing these songs.’
‘I believe that music is music and all I can do is try to be true to the music and the lyrics that are breathed through me. I let the music fall on the ears it falls on. If I start thinking about the politics of the music business and limiting myself by the music I am making, it would ultimately stifle my creativity. If you are writing songs that resonate with people, a good song will get out there regardless.’
Article published in the April 30, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript
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