Longevity is a rarity in the entertainment
business. Most artists consider a good five
year run a job well done. Then again, most
artists aren’t tobyMac.
Since his debut with dcTalk in 1987 the
eternally young hip-hopster has been
turning out infectious tunes, current
beats and the kind of lyrics that stick
with you in the best way. With more than
10 million albums, more than 10 Dove
Awards and countless number ones, the
GRAMMY winner has a track record that
speaks for itself.
That kind of success doesn’t just
happen. It requires focus, intentionality
and prayerful diligence. It requires you
to keep your eye on the ball, so to speak.
It’s just that type of focus that was the
well-spring of creativity for toby’s latest
album, Eye On It
, which released
He shared more about his heart, his
focus and why he can’t wait for you to
hear this project in an exclusive interview
CCM: I can tell you’re excited about this
project…as you should be. What’s so special
about this one?
I worked so hard on it. You always
want every song to count and to matter.
This time, I just anxiously waited for God
to bring these songs to me. He was just
really faithful. And time was my friend
when it came to recording. They’re all
songs about things that are real in my
life and I think people can sense that.
When you write honest songs…I always
say if I’m going through a bunch of
things, I would imagine that others are
going through the same things…
CCM: Well, if the songs are about what’s going
on in your life, catch us up. What are we going
to hear about tobyMac on this record? Any
standout moments or songs in particular?
A lot stand out. Songs about families,
about storms in relationships, husband
or wife, siblings or the body of Christ…
fighting through the tough things of life…
You come to a point when you recognize
what matters. I do. I have to remind myself
that this is what I want.
“Steal My Show” is about truly
recognizing that whatever you’re
doing in life, if you’re a part of God’s
kingdom, there’s a bigger picture than
yourself. We’re stealing the show usually.
There’s something about letting God do
“Me Without You”…how can you really
appreciate what you have in this amazing,
grace-filled relationship with God until
you recognize where you’d be without it?
Really, truly, where would I be without
God? I would be an absolute mess…
Rather than naming how great God really
is and how wonderful it is being part of
His family, the song’s a pretty fun song
about recognizing who God is in the
struggle. There’s a sense of urgency about
recognizing who God is in faith.
I grew up in athletics…playing any
sport I could play from basketball,
football, golf, baseball… I was told my
whole life to keep my eye on it. Even
when you begin to carve out a career in
music, I think there’s something to that
phrase—focusing on what matters in the
midst. There are many things about being
an artist that don’t matter. There’s one
thing that does. I want to open people’s
eyes and hearts to God’s kingdom.
CCM: Which you’ve done…in spades! You
recently stopped by The View to wish Sheri
Shephard a happy birthday and perform; NBC
has tapped your songs for use in commercials
including an ‘America’s Got Talent’ commercial
and even The Simpsons movie! What is that
kind of exposure like? Did you ever imagine
you’d have this kind of reach?
It was amazing. I’m honored
definitely. There’s a moment there when
you go, wow…a little punk back in a dorm
room trying to make loops on a little drum
machine, rapping, trying to sing. Now, this
is like all of America…not just a niche or
section. I never used my music for only
a Christian market. For it to be out there
a little further… It’s what I’ve always
purposed it for, what I’ve always shot for.
I’m honored to be in Christian music and
stand in front of believers but I’ve always
believed we should go where we can. I’m
glad that my music that represents God,
represents light could be in there…
CCM: It stands to reason that you’d have
a diverse audience. You’ve always prized
diversity in your public life and private. Why
has that been such a calling for you?
I think the most important thing to
me is that it’s real. It’s not just a platform.
It’s my life. I’m married to a Jamaican
woman. My church is richly diverse with
an African American pastor. The guests on
my record show that diversity is important
to me. It’s not my platform. It’s who I am.
It’s how I want to live. It’s where I believe
there’s richness in life. Not everyone can
make their world diverse. It’s not wrong,
but I think you’re missing out in richness.
CCM: You’ve made Tennessee your home for
a long time…and are very plugged into your
local community. Why is it so important and
how do you find time to make such a vibrant
local life for you and your family?
I didn’t used to. Back in the dcTalk
days , it wasn’t easy. We weren’t really plugged into our local communities. We
were gone. Now, having a foundation
here with a wife and family, you see what
community is all about. You begin to be
plugged in because you have a family
here. You function with people here.
You’re part of a community way more as
a family and not just an artist. My life has
changed. The opportunities to be a part
of community have presented themselves
and I’ve said yes. I love it. There’s
something special about it. You’re not
only reaching out to other people; they’re
reaching into us.
CCM: You’ve been really intentional about
building your creative community as well.
Especially pouring into younger artists like
Jamie Grace…how has it been to watch her
grow and take off like she has?
I knew when I met her and her mom
and dad and sister that there’s an artistic
freedom, but an absolute adoration of the
Lord and a sense of family that I hadn’t
seen in a while. She lights up a living
room and an arena. There’s something
really special about her. How do you take
what she has…her songwriting, her smile,
what God has made in that young girl
and present it to people… We worked
together on her record for 8-9 months.
She kept presenting these songs and they
were growing and blossoming in front
of you. I’m proud. When she calls me her
mentor, it’s an honor. I try my best to
advise her right and love her well. It’s not
always easy. We don’t always agree…but
ultimately, it’s up to her.
When I get the privilege to devlelop an
artist, it’s up to him or her…
I’ve always recognized that. I’m not a creative island. I’m very needy. The
people that have come alongside me,
from producers to band to management
can’t be praised enough. I can’t say thank
you enough. One of the things we lose
perspective of is how needy we are. If you
recognize the need, you can see other
people’s strengths… I’m thankful for the
people I work with.
CCM: Where will we see you and all these great
people? I hear there are some exciting plans
for upcoming tour and show dates…
From October to April, we’ll
probably have almost 100 dates. I will
work hard to share this music with people.
When you’ve labored in the studio and
people really take to it or don’t, it’s a
very humbling moment where everything
comes together. People singing music back
to you, with you can be indulgent. But to
serve people, to move them in a way that
their spirit is served and causes them to
ask themselves tough questions…
The body of Christ is to serve, so when
people come to the show, they were
thought about, prayed about…
I think every batch of songs sort of
brings a new moment that we’ve never
had before…this new wave of creativity
for the live performance…
That sort of drives it all. I keep asking
God when I sit down to write, ‘If you’ve
got something for
me, I’ll clear the
way, breathe it on
I’m loving what
I’m doing. It is a
labor of love…