TobyMac still pushing Christian music’s boundaries

By Eliza Marie Somers

Toby­Mac sheds the image of some­one who is approach­ing 50 by con­tin­u­ing to speak life into his music. One of today’s most influ­en­tial con­tem­po­rary Chris­t­ian musi­cians, TMac brings his high-ener­gy sold-out show to Red Rocks Amphithe­ater this Sun­day, May 4, with sup­port from Lecrae and Skil­let.

Toby­Mac turned Chris­t­ian music on its ear as a found­ing mem­ber of the ground­break­ing group dcTalk with Michael Tait and Kevin Max in the late 1980s when they stretched the genre with hip-hop beats encom­passed in a hard rock wrap­per. But instead of rest­ing on past accom­plish­ments, TMac remains focused on the task ahead, and that’s cre­at­ing music that speaks to the listener’s heart.

I feel like I’m just push­ing the music,” said Toby­Mac, a six-time Gram­my Award win­ner. “I’m climb­ing the moun­tain with my team. I don’t look back too often. I’m enjoy­ing the climb, and focus­ing our ener­gy on reach­ing the top. That’s what moves me. I’ve been with the same group of (musi­cians) longer than when I was with Michael and Kevin.

But when I do look back it was very fast paced. I see three young guys with a lot of vision, who liked to debate and argue and dream and explore cre­ativ­i­ty. It was a nice mix. We all came from dif­fer­ent back­grounds musi­cal­ly. It was the per­fect storm. We stretched the bound­aries of what was con­sid­ered the frame of music with God and faith. It was an inter­est­ing sort of blend.”

That blend is a mix­ture of hip-hop, hard rock with a pop melody. It may be hard to describe, but it’s a com­bi­na­tion that has unlocked doors for many gen­res to the Chris­t­ian music scene.

It’s still what I do,” Toby­Mac said. “I’m hip-hop with a hard gui­tar base com­bined with melod­ic pop. By no means am I doing true hip-hop like Lecrae or hard rock like Skil­let.”

Despite the open doors, being labeled a Chris­t­ian musi­cian still caus­es peo­ple to pull up the wel­come mat.

There is still a stig­ma asso­ci­at­ed with Chris­t­ian rock.” TMac said “It would be nice to release myself from that label – not release myself from my faith. My Chris­tian­i­ty is first and fore­most, but the moniker caus­es the music to fall on deaf ears. I would like for peo­ple to choose and decide what to hear not based on a label but to fig­ure out if the music res­onates with their heart and soul.”

Instead of retreat­ing to the com­fort of his base camp with his wife and five chil­dren, Toby­Mac remains active as he ascends the cliff face of the music moun­tain.

I love music,” he said. “I stay involved. I’m inter­est­ed in music espe­cial­ly if you can move to it. I com­pare it to being in a riv­er. It’s hap­pen­ing musi­cal­ly and you are mov­ing with it and chang­ing with what is hap­pen­ing in the riv­er. I’m not that kid of the ’90s rock, I’m still mov­ing. I love what the cur­rent music is evolv­ing into. I haven’t pulled my canoe out of the water just yet.”

Switch­foot, Mat Kear­ney, Lecrae and Kayne West are some of the artists cur­rent­ly in TobyMac’s playlist. Yes, Kayne.

I’m a fan of hip-hop,” Toby­Mac said. “I don’t agree with (Kayne’s) mes­sage or his pol­i­tics at times, but he is push­ing the bound­aries. He’s inspir­ing. But real­ly I’m most­ly mak­ing music. Right now I’m lis­ten­ing to demos that I’m writ­ing with my 15-year-old son (Truett). We are down in the lab mix­ing beats and melodies. It’s fun to watch him grow as a musi­cian.”

This short “shed tour” that TMac is bring­ing to Reds Rock is sure to light up the sky over Mor­ri­son with some of the best live acts in the Chris­t­ian music world on the bill.

(Skil­let and Lecrae) are my favorite live per­form­ers,” Toby­Mac said. “I’m excit­ed about this tour. Lecrae is turn­ing hip-hop upside down. I applaud him, and I’m proud of him like an old­er broth­er. And Skil­let is the best live per­for­mance that I have ever seen. This tour is about the live per­for­mance.”

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