Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

TobyMac gray stocking cap225     This tour is different for multiple Grammy-winner TobyMac.

     “The idea is like a more intimate setting rather than in an arena,” said the inspirational artist by phone while on a tour bus traveling to Louisville, Ky.

     It’s really about having things a little more broken down and allowing yourself the time to tell the stories behind these songs,” he said.

     Toby will still have his full band complement with him when he visits DeVos Performance Hall on Nov. 23. Even his turn table DJ. But with a smaller drum kit, scaled down lighting and stage sets and a simpler approach, the artist will have a little more space and time to spill out the origins of many of his chart-topping songs.

     Through his five solo albums, Toby (aka Toby McKeehan) has produced music in various styles – rock, pop, soul, hip-hop – you name it. And he’s selected songs from each of these collections for his “Worship, Stories and Songs” tour.

     And to revisit them in an “unplugged” style will give fans a fresh take on his memorable melodies.

                     SPELLING OUT THE MUSIC

     One of those featured songs is “Lose My Soul,” a selection from 2008 he recorded with Kirk Franklin and Mandisa on background vocals.

     “I struggled and struggled to write the verses to that song,” he recalled. “I had the chorus first – this big, anthemic thought about not wanting to gain the world and lose my soul,” he noted of the familiar saying of Jesus.

     “That thought was so big that I was intimidated and I would try to write and just rip up the paper and throw it away.”

     Finally Toby decided not to try to be overly artistic or poetic, but to let the first verse simply spell out a prayer that he prays most mornings asking God to be his guide.

     The album (“Portable Sounds”) that featured the song won both Grammy and Dove Awards.

     Toby said he will also debut a new song (“Beyond Me”) that will be on his next CD to be issued next spring.

     The “worship” part of the night is headed by singer-songwriter Matt Maher, writer of worship standards such as “Your Grace Is Enough” and “Lord, I Need You.”

                             SEEING THE SPIRITUAL

     To many music fans outside of Christian music, Toby and similar artists may appear to be offering just another form of entertainment - nothing beyond the lights and the hyped-up sounds of any secular artist or band.

    But Toby says it all starts with what’s on the inside.

     “I’m writing songs about the things I’m experiencing in my life, and I’m a guy whose faith is in God – that’s what’s important to me,” he said. “I want things to revolve around that – not (faith in God) to revolve around other things.

     “So when I’m writing a song or have a mic in my hand, I’m sharing about an integral part of my life. And at some point I have to look at it in the eye from that perspective.”

     Many of his song titles reveal that perspective: “Burn For You” (a prayer for a passionate faith), “Made To Love” (finding life’s purpose), and “Me Without You” (how lost he would be without God).


   Toby celebrated his 50th birthday last month at a party with family, colleagues and friends in the Nashville area.

     “My wife threw it for me,” said Toby of the gathering.

     “When you’re a music artist, you have friends from every facet of your life – the road, the studio, your last band, your ‘free time’ friends – and they all came together. I felt blessed to have that many great people around me.”

     Toby’s “last band” was the trio dcTalk which had a 13-year run before going on hiatus in 2001 when he, Kevin Max and Michael Tait all went on to other endeavors.

     There’s occasional talk about some kind of reunion tour, and longtime fans have not given up hope. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to the idea: (dc Talk: Fan Petition To End The Intermission)

     “There’s nothing planned right now but the door is always open,” hinted Toby, the father of five.

     “Kevin (a Grand Rapids native) moved back to Franklin, (Tenn.) and we stay in touch with each other more. It’s nice to know that now we all live within a few miles of each other.”

If You Go:

7:30 p.m. Sunday November 23, 2014                  
DeVos Performance Hall, downtown Grand Rapids, MI
Tickets; $43, $33, $23, available at Ticketmaster outlets,
www.ticketmaster.com, 800-745-3000 or at the box office

Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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