TobyMac, bringing his Hits Deep Tour to the Nutter Center in Fairborn on Monday, March 20, is a contemporary Christian superstar.
Born Toby McKeehan in Fairfax, Virgina in 1964, the singer is a 21-time Dove Award-winner with seven Grammy Awards. He also has more than 16-million units sold and 17 top 10 singles, half of which hit No. 1.
But even stars face human tragedy. Mac’s seventh studio album, “Life After Death,” released in August 2022, chronicles the aftermath of his 21-year-old son Truett’s accidental overdose death in late 2019.
“That’s something I’ll be facing the rest of my life,” Mac said recently, speaking by telephone from his home in Franklin, Tennessee. “There’s a real empty spot in my heart. It still feels broken but we’re grateful for our community, our friends and families that surround us. People start stepping up and stepping into your life in a greater way. We really did feel surrounded by love through all of this, which we’re super grateful for.”
On the road
Mac is currently surrounded by music compatriots on his annual Hits Deep Tour. This installment of the traveling package show also features Crowder, Cochren & Co., Tasha Layton, Jon Reddick and Terrian.
“This tour is really great,” Mac said. “It’s an incredible lineup. All my friends and family came to Nashville, and they were like, ‘The lineup is amazing.’ I try to make moments in the night that are special, that you could only see if you came out to this tour. When there are a couple of artists touring together, it’s special for the audience when they do a song or two together. Everyone on tour will come do a song with me on stage, which makes it unique.”
Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO SARA D. HARPER
Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO SARA D. HARPER
“Getting a chance to do these songs from the ‘Life After Death’ has been great,” he continued. “I’ve been on this journey to figure out if there is life after death. You start out deep in the pit and end up sort of realizing that God is good and recognizing, in the midst of tragedy, in the deepest valley, it can be good. I’m heartbroken in some ways but in other ways my heart is being refreshed.”
As an artist that draws lyrical inspiration from his own life, Mac knows the importance of replenishing his creative well.
“I usually give myself three to six months of a break from writing songs and then I can jump back in,” Mac said. “I should probably keep motoring but it’s nice to get a little break. A little bit of life has to happen and then you can get back into being inspired again. I’ve always written about my life, what’s going on in my life and what I’m going through. Whenever I try to write a fictional song, it doesn’t work for me. I assume most people are like me. We might have different names and faces but we’re going through the same things. We struggle with relationships. We grow in relationships. If you write about things that you’re living, it’s going to connect with most people and that’s what I’m always trying to do.”
Mac admits he wasn’t sure how he would approach writing about Truett’s death.
“I immediately went and wrote this song, ‘21 Years,’ about my son and to honor his life,” he said. “Then, I just didn’t know if I would write about it again. I remember driving to the session a few months after Truett had passed. I was like, ‘Am I still going to walk in and write a song like everything is normal? This is heartbreak. It wasn’t a normal session, but I wrote this song called ‘Faithfully.’ I cried the whole time, but this all came out about God’s faithfulness.
“This whole record is my journey from the deepest darkest valley to where I am today,” Mac continued. “The turning point was probably when I read this scripture in Psalms that said God is rolling up his sleeves on our behalf and I couldn’t get over that thought of the God of all creation rolling up his sleeves to come to my rescue. I just learned so much about God’s love in the midst of tragedy. He didn’t change it, but He never left me.”
It has been 36 since Mac first emerged as a member of DC Talk and 22 since he launched his solo career, but he remains focused on creating new music and taking it to the people.
“I’m so grateful for the people that follow my music and that connect with my music,” he said. “They tend to stay with me. Sometimes we’ll have three generations together at shows. It’s crazy but they all kind of grew up with me, from DC Talk to TobyMac, and I’m just so honored when I look out and see all the people. They’re just people like me, trying to love God in the midst of a crazy world and staying true to that. When you’re singing songs about deep things and people are touched by them, they tend to stick with you. I’m grateful to be out there playing arenas and having an incredible time singing about something I believe in with all my heart.”
Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO GO
What: TobyMac’s Hits Deep Tour featuring Crowder, Cochren & Co., Tasha Layton, Jon Reddick and Terrian
Where: Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy., Fairborn
When: 7 p.m. Monday, March 20
Cost: Tickets start at $127
More info: 937-775-4789 or www.nuttercenter.com
Artist info: tobymac.com
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