Drawing from his own successes and failures, TobyMac says his music is meant to be personal because, often, he lived it.
WANT TO GO?Winter Jam 2013Featuring TobyMac, Red, Matthew West, Sidewalk Prophets, Newsong and moreWHERE:
Charleston Civic Center
7 p.m. FridayTICKETS:
At the door $10.INFO:
304-345-1500 or www.charlestonwvciviccenter.com
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- TobyMac
likes coming back to West Virginia. The Christian contemporary singer, who returns to Charleston Friday for Winter Jam, said, "Not everybody knows this about me, but my parents are from West Virginia."The 48-year-old grew up in Virginia, but he said his father is from Beckley. He's sure about that, but he was a little cloudy about where his mother was from. TobyMac said she grew up in the coal camps."Mom moved around a lot," TobyMac explained. "The one place I remember she talked about was War?"Coming back to West Virginia, he thought, was a kind of homecoming. He also thought it was nice that it was Winter Jam that brought him back.
"I like what Winter Jam does," he said. "They do it big and for $10 anybody can walk through the door, even if they're just a little curious about the music and the performers."He added, "I've never thought my music was a niche, that it was just for one kind of people. It's for everybody."The 7 p.m. show at the Charleston Civic Center, his first for 2013, kicks off a brand new year for TobyMac and maybe a continuation of the good things set in motion in 2012.
"Last year was well beyond my expectations," he said. "We released a new CD and it did very well. It went to number one on the overall billboard charts and the Rolling Stone charts, as well as number one on iTunes --and that wasn't something I was shooting for or expecting."Still, success is gratifying, but not just for the obvious commercial reasons -- the more records he sells, the more money he makes --but because success means he's getting through, his message is at least being heard.He said, "Music has never been this self-indulgent, creative process for me. It's to serve people and serve their lives."
TobyMac isn't looking to start the party so much as to help people evaluate their lives and draw them closer to God.He takes his inspiration directly from his own life, which, like anyone else, isn't perfect, he said."I write about my own situations. The good, the bad and the ugly of my life. The times I'm there for my friends and the times I've failed them and regretted it. I write about the times I've got God in the center of my life, right where I want him, and the times he's not."
TobyMac said he didn't always take so much from his own life and apply it to his music. But he came to realize that you couldn't connect with people unless you considered yourself as one of them.Like most people, TobyMac said he's affected by his relationships: his relationship to his wife, his relationship to his children, his relationships to his friends and the people he works with.He's also affected by what he sees going on around him: the atmosphere in the country, the economy, the politics and the tension."Of course, it affects me," he said. "I'm a human being, walking and breathing through this life, just like everyone else."The music he writes is meant to reach people and to make them think about how they're feeling because that's how he comes to music, too.Lately, he said the song that keeps coming to mind is Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle," a song about a father who laments missing out on his son's childhood.TobyMac's children are now approaching their teens.He said, "I want to be with them right now, but I can't because I'm out on the road a lot. When I'm home, I really try to be there and really dig in, but sometimes it's difficult. It's hard to jump right back in. It's hard, but it's important."Some of his lyrics deal with that struggle, particularly, he said, his song "Losing My Soul," which says, "I wanna be a daddy who's in the mix.""That was pretty easy when the kids were little," TobyMac said. "It's a lot harder now."But he tries to be a good father and he tries to stay grounded in his faith, which isn't as simple as it sounds even for a contemporary Christian artist. Sometimes, he said, he does good just to get a prayer on the run, but he always, finally, turns back to Scripture.The Bible, he said, is a kind of mirror, though a kind one."There's this promise of grace and love even though the mirror is reflecting some things that desperately need work."At least, this is some of what he gets out of it and part of the message TobyMac wants to share. Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.