Q&A: TobyMac brings his diverse band and sound to Duluth
By: Zachary Hansen
Published: February 23, 2017
Toby’s back. The Grammy-winning Christian artist is returning to Georgia with his “Hits Deep Tour” on March 9 at the Infinite Energy Center.
Toby McKeehan, known as TobyMac, is coming off the release of his “Hits Deep Live” album in November 2016, and he’s touring with an entourage of diverse opening acts and musicians, including Mandisa, Matt Maher, Mac Powell of Third Day, Capital Kings, Ryan Stevenson and Hollyn.
TobyMac talked by phone about the tour, his work-life balance and the importance of unity and diversity. This interview has been edited for length.
Q: You’ve been making music for pretty much three decades at this point. How does 52-year-old Toby approach music and life differently than 22-year-old Toby?
TobyMac: Oh man (laughs), I think I’ve learned to write songs about what I’m going through. The things I used to (write used to) be a little more fictional, and now I write about the things I’m experiencing — the things I’m going through. I found that people relate to those songs in a much deeper way than when you’re being fictional.
Q: Does that show itself on your latest studio record, “This Is Not a Test” (2015), because I know you’ve talked a lot about, the title track specifically, making every moment count?
TobyMac: Yeah, it absolutely does. I’m very aware that every moment counts in all aspects of my life, whether it (is) loving my wife well, being there for my kids as much as I possibly can be … and even the relationships backstage. I often judge how great a show is going to be or how great a tour is based on what is going on backstage.
Q: How are you planning on balancing your wife and kids and family life with the tour?
TobyMac: We just do it a little differently. I really only (tour) four days a week, and I’m home the other three. I don’t leave for months at a time. Those three days, I’m not running around. I’m a husband. I’m a dad. (I’m) trying, as one of the lyrics in one of (my) songs says, “I wanna be a daddy who’s in the mix.” I don’t want to be that dad who is always gone.
Q: Your shows typically involve a lot of choreography and a lot of planning. How was that for this tour and what was the preparation process like?
TobyMac: We worked really hard for five days in a row from the morning to the evening just really trying to come up with the right things. And I love that process, because we don’t hire outside producers or anything. It’s me and my band in a room getting together and being creative. After doing this together for 16 years, we kind of feel like we can do it — come up with our own stuff. I love the collaboration process. My band, they’re very active in helping us produce the show, and I’ve always been a believer in diversity. My band is diverse. My crew is diverse. I think there’s richness in diversity.
Q: Your music typically features a lot of diverse musical styles as well. How do you try to approach so many genres and make them meld together?
TobyMac: I guess ‘cause the diverse city band is so amazing (laughs). They make the complex feel simple, because they’re just a great band. And again, we’ve been doing it together for 16 years, which in itself is a complete blessing. There’s something special about that. And it shows on stage. (We’re) family up there. My music has always been a little bit of a melting pot, what I call a big ole pot of gumbo. Drop in the funk and soul and the hip-hop and the rock ‘n’ roll guitars and serve it up to the people. So it’s going to be a little bit schizophrenic, but to me, it all connects.
Q: My last question is on diversity and unity, since that’s always been something that seems important to you, whether it be back with DC Talk or now. Given the tensions that have arisen in the past two years, do you have any thoughts on how Christians, Americans or people should be moving forward and living their lives?
TobyMac: The most important thing we can do is love others — to treat people how we want to be treated. To me, those are golden rules that you can never replace and never dismiss.