TobyMac Digs Into Hits Deep

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

TobyMacSinger-songwriter TobyMac suggests that the name of his "Hits Deep" tour has a double meaning.

"It's supposed to be 'hits' all night long," he said of his long catalog of top-charting Christian radio tunes. "But it's also songs that have hit listeners in a deep way – that's always the hope for my songs," he added during a recent phone interview.

At age 53, Toby McKeehan (his given name) has the luxury of a rich musical history, with seven solo studio albums to his credit. The latest is the Grammy-winning "This Is Not A Test," which offers a half dozen hits for his current concert set list.

"We've really maximized that record," said the artist of the project originally released in 2015. Songs such as "Beyond Me," "Love Broke Thru" and "Feel It" all performed well on various Christian music charts.

But his brand new song, "I Just Need U," is actually from a forthcoming album expected in late summer. "It's written from that place of weakness, when I look for fulfillment in things that ultimately won't fulfill and then recognizing my need for God," he said.

The song has already risen high on Christian contemporary hit charts.


The "hits deep" tour features another advantage – a shared approach that shows itself both on the recordings and on stage. Joining Toby on the tour are fellow artists Danny Gokey, Mandisa, Finding Favour and Ryan Stevenson. Most participate in a song or two during Toby's portion of the concert.

"It's a night of collaborations," said Toby, who duets with Mandisa on her song "Bleed the Same." "I know on a multi-artist tour people can watch each act separately. But the memorable moments that people treasure are those where artists come together and do something special that (music fans) can only see that night."

Toby has shepherded the music of several of the artists such as Stevenson and Finding Favour on his Gotee Records label.

"A bigger share of my time now is spent developing artists, and there's something special about writing songs for them," he offered. "But watching songs I get to perform resonate with people – there's still a lot of drive and desire in me and it's something I absolutely love."


The father of five has fashioned a family where music is a mainstay. "I grew up in a home where no one played any musical instruments," said the Virginia native. "So my hope was that music would be ringing in the rooms and halls of my household."

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His oldest son, college-age Truett, has a home studio in the basement and loves creating music. (He has a writing credit on Toby's song "Lights Shine Bright"). His daughter Marlee and son Judah both play piano and sing.


Toby has won seven Grammy Awards – three for his solo albums, four with his former band dcTalk. The dcTalk trio formed when Toby met Michael Tait and Grand Rapids native Kevin Max Smith as students at Liberty University. They began their musical journey in the late 1980s and sold millions of albums until their hiatus in 2000.

Last year the three reunited for an ocean "music cruise" that many fans initially thought would be something more.

"I think the announcement of it (the cruise), was a little bit mishandled," admitted the artist of the suggestive hints leading up to the official news release. "I didn't like the fact that some people wanted to see us and couldn't afford a cruise. But I will say it was more fun that I thought it would be...and more nostalgic, too."

Toby noted the interest still shown in dcTalk's music, most of it more than two decades old. He continues to be open to some kind of future endeavor or tour with his former band.

Meanwhile, the middle-aged musician still finds active challenges in his current artistic pursuits. "It doesn't feel like work to me – it feels like passion," he said. "As long as I feel that way I'm gonna keep stepping through the doors that God opens."


TobyMac and the "Hits Deep" tour with special guests Danny Gokey, Mandisa, Ryan Stevenson and Finding Favour
7pm Sun. March 4
Van Andel Arena, 130 West Fulton St. downtown Grand Rapids
Tickets: from $15 to $70, plus fees, available at Ticketmaster outlets, on line, at the Van Andel Arena or DeVos Place box offices, or 800-745-3000.
Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Author: Terry DeBoer
Terry is a journalist/feature writer for newspapers, magazines and websites, with a background in radio broadcasting. His usual beat is arts and entertainment, specializing in Christian/gospel music. A married father of two, he is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan Contributing Writer: West Michigan Christian News August 2011 – Present Feature writer: (website and various newspapers) 1988– 2016 -Spotlight New Christian Music Magazine 1997-2008 -Church News Editor, Church Herald Magazine 2004-2009

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