tobyMac has had a very successful career: millions of albums sold, many awards won, and thousands of concerts performed, but he does not let this define who he is or why he makes music in the first place.
"The music is a labor of love that I create for people to enjoy and hopefully be inspired by, it's not a self-indulgent thing. It's my way of serving the listener," he says.
He hopes all his albums point people toward something deeper... something more hopeful. His latest album, This Is Not A Test, drives listeners to connect with God in a whole new way.
Family Christian: What’s the meaning behind the new album title, This Is Not A Test?
tobyMac: This Is Not A Test falls right in line with trying to pursue God in this crazy world. It’s sort of reminding us that there are no practice runs in life ... so I’m reminding people: Let’s use this time wisely, let’s use this time to bring glory to the King.
Family Christian: Is there a common theme theme seen in this album?
tobyMac: I think the theme comes from my life. I feel like I'm not living a life different than anyone else. You know, I live in a house with 5 kids and a wife, but I also travel on the road with a band of brothers, just doing life. I am a member of a church, but it's almost like it's a little church on our bus. It's about trying to pursue God and stay faithful to Him in this crazy world. That's what these songs are about.
Family Christian: “Beyond Me” was the 1st single off the new album. What does that song mean to you?
tobyMac: The heart of the song came from a prayer that I stayed really faithful to over the last 3 years. Literally as I walk into the studio I say, "God, hollow me of all my junk. Hollow me of my insecurity, my pride and my doubt. Make me hollow enough that you can breathe something through me that would turn eyes to you." And whether that's a song or a conversation you're going to have with a co-worker, or whatever you're facing, that's for everybody.
Family Christian: Tell us a little bit about the tour this fall and which artists are joining you out on the road for it.
tobyMac: I'm really excited about this tour. The lineup is incredible. I can't believe Britt Nicole and Colton Dixon said yes. I'm this guy doing pop, with a little bit of rock & roll and a little bit of hip-hop, and then I see Britt on my left and Colton on my right. I think the styles just work together. They're two of the best artists in our industry. They're about ministry and about art, and about putting on the best show they can put on.
FamilyChristian: How do you stay grounded while out on tour? Do you have a daily bible study/devotion routine? Or a time in the day you block off just for “quiet time?”
tobyMac: I set rules for myself. Sometime when I get going too fast, I lay down my little blanket rule of 'I'm not allowed to leave my bunk until I get in my Word.' So childish, but I'm still a kid at heart. Sometimes you just want to get up - you hear everybody in the front lounge having coffee and talking, or watching the football or basketball game, and you wake up and you want to get out there. You know if you get out there though, you won't look in that mirror of God's Word and spend a little time with the Lord.
And we're gone many times on Sundays, so we will have worship service every week where someone teaches, usually me, but I open it up. But we are always talking about the Word. The Lord is just in our conversation. It's about Him and serving Him out there.
FamilyChristian: With a wife and 5 kids, how do you maintain a healthy balance between family life and your music?
tobyMac: I don't mean this in a cliche way, but my family comes first. If they need me, I'm running. I think I make that clear even with my record company, and my management supports that.
I've set some things in place that are important and it's just the way we do things. I record from 10 in the morning until 6:30 at night. A lot of artists will start at noon, and if they're not married, they can work until 2 in the morning. I finish at 6:30, go home and eat dinner with my family. We sit around the table and talk about the best part of our day, then turn on the clean up song and go at it in the kitchen!
We tour a little bit differently than others. We only tour on the weekends and don't go out for weeks at a time. I don't want to be that dad or that husband that wasn't there. I want to be there.
Family Christian: Alright wrapping up, the first day of school outfit was crucial to get right as a kid... do you remember one epic tobyMac outfit you rocked for the first day of school?
tobyMac: I do unfortunately. This is in kindergarten. We were deep into sports and my favorite guy on the Washington Redskins was Chris Hanburger. I think he was an outside linebacker. It was my dream to get his jersey, and they were hard to find, but I found it in the D.C. area. I knew that was going to be what I wore on the first day of kindergarten.
I had the Chris Hanburger jersey on, number 55, with these chocolate brown and orange pants with light blue stripes. They might have even had a little bell at the bottom - I'm not sure. And I had on what we called Puma Clydes back then. I was looking good. I was as trendy as can be to an embarrassing level, but my soul was feeling good that day. I was walking on air.