For Tomlin, “It’s All About the Songs”

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

tomlin2235Singer-songwriter-worship leader Chris Tomlin is still doing something he calls "chasing the songs around."

It comes from his early days as a relatively unknown singer in his native Texas. As his songs caught on and started being sung in various churches, he would be invited to come and lead congregations in worship. Thus he started "chasing" his songs.

"To be honest, that's what I still call it and I want to stay true to that," said Tomlin, 43, on the phone from somewhere near Nashville. "It's all about the songs for me."

Tomlin brings more than a decade's worth of songs, many of them sung in thousands of contemporary churches, to Van Andel Arena on Sat. Nov. 7 (details below).


"Songs are like the arrow shot out of the bow – they go way further into people's lives than I ever could," said Tomlin.

His latest CD, "Love Ran Red," continues his legacy of straightforward, sing-able tunes with truths (and often lyrics) gleaned from scripture.

Most notable is "At the Cross," a song that shot to the top of Christian radio and sales charts last year.

"I knew it was a special song when I wrote it," he said of the collaboration with producer Ed Cash and the "Ten Thousand Reasons" team of Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin.

It adds to his legacy of songs such as "Jesus Messiah," "Holy Is The Lord" and "Our God" which millions of Christians sing regularly in worship. In fact, it's estimated than in 2012, for example, Tomlin's songs were played in churches more than 3 million times, sung by more than 20 million worshipers. In comparison, the songs of pop-megastar Katy Perry aired on the radio 1.4 million times that same year.

He just may be music's "most sung artist" world-wide.


Tomlin says his songwriting approach is a deliberate one.

TomlinChris235"My inspiration almost always comes from scriptures, and I think any of the songs that have had lasting impact have started there," he said. "Most of the time I'll have an idea and I'll take it to friends that I write with on a regular basis – we're always working on songs together."

His songwriting is done with church/worship in mind. "Is it sing-able? Is it relatable to people? Is it something people can sing, want to sing and need to sing? That's always rolling in my head and in my heart," he said.

That guideline is one reason that his various CDs have not strayed very far musically or thematically.

"There's two ways to do it. An ice cream shop can be always doing something new or it can be the tried and true kind of shop that stays in the same lane and tries to do what it does with excellence. That's me - doing the very best I can and not trying to be something that I'm not."


Tomlin's latest project is a holiday CD, "Adore: Christmas Sons of Worship." The new collection features traditional and well as new Christmas songs, with special guests including David Crowder, Lauren Daigle and All Sons & Daughters.

The artist is featuring one of the new songs, "He Will Reign Forevermore," on the current tour.

"We tried to capture a live sound on this one, recording it in an old church which is now a studio with about two or three hundred of my friends singing the songs," Tomlin said.

Tomlin is also continuing his association with the annual Passion conferences, large gatherings of college-age young adults coordinated by author-speaker Louie Giglio Worship music is primary led by Tomlin and other artists. (The next Passion event is early January in Atlanta).


Earlier this year Tomlin and family moved to Nashville, so he is no longer as involved in Giglio's Atlanta-based Passion City Church. The singer's family includes wife Lauren, and daughters Ashlyn (4) and Madison (1).

His earlier albums often included at least one revamped older hymn ("Amazing Grace- My Chains Are Gone," "The Wonderful Cross" and "Crown Him (Majesty)" are examples.

He said his best-known song is probably "How Great Is Our God," which won a 2005 Dove Award as Song of the Year.

"I keep writing new songs because they are making a difference in people's lives and that's what I pray for," he said. "It's why I'm doing this and is a gift that God has given me and encourages me with."


Chris Tomlin – the "Love Ran Red" tour; with special guest Rend Collective
7 p.m. Sat. Nov. 7 at Van Andel Arena, 130 W. Fulton St. Grand Rapids
Tickets: from $40 to $13.50, group discounts may be available. Tickets at the Van Andel box office, Ticketmaster outlets, on line at or by phone at 800-745-3000.
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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