Christian-pop superstar TobyMac returns to Valley
Originally published 12:04 a.m., March 7, 2019
Updated 08:44 a.m., March 7, 2019
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The cover of TobyMac’s latest album shows the artist braced against the cold and wind, braving the elements.
While Youngstowners can certainly relate, harsh weather is only a metaphor for the realities of life that can erode character.
That battle is the framework of the Christian-pop superstar’s latest album, aptly titled “The Elements.”
What: TobyMac ‘Hits Deep’ tour, with Jeremy Camp, Jordan Feliz, Ryan Stevenson, We Are Messengers and Aaron Cole.
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Covelli Centre
Tickets: $21, $31.75, $41.75, $72.75, $92.75 (fees may apply) at ticketmaster.com, by phone at 800-745-3000 and at the Covelli box office
Released in October, the album has spawned the hits “Everything” and “I Just Need U” – both of which will be on the set list when TobyMac comes to Covelli Centre on Friday.
The concert is part of his “Hits Deep” tour, which draws from his decadeslong catalog of chart-topping songs. The tour – which grossed more than any other contemporary Christian act in 2018 – features seven-time Grammy winner TobyMac plus Jeremy Camp, Jordan Feliz, Ryan Stevenson, We Are Messengers and Aaron Cole.
The current tour features two stages – the main one and a satellite stage – with TobyMac and his proteges keeping both busy.
“We bounce back and forth,” he said in a recent phone interview. “It’s a nonstop show. We call it ‘Hits Deep’ because we want it to be deep in hits. We want the fans to know every song they hear. We made a list and then started choosing songs and wound up with a great lineup.”
“The Elements” is TobyMac’s first album in three years and its message comes from a personal level.
“I look at it as sort of the things that I’ve been going through,” he said, “the good, bad and ugly of my journey, and my determining who I want to be no matter what is coming at me.”
Finding the positive is part of the journey. “When the elements come at me, I feel beat down at the end of the night but there are also beautiful interactions, and I just want to write about all of that, “ he said. “I didn’t want the record to be all rosy, but real, and with something being said throughout.
“It’s about hope and faith,” he continued. “I’m a believer at the end of the day, and all of my songs are going to resolve in that. Faith in God is the belief that I stand on.”
TobyMac loves to collaborate with other artists, and one standout song on the new album is “Starts with Me,” which he made with tour-mate Cole. It’s lyrics tell of breaking the chain of bad behavior to that it is not passed down to the next generation.
“That song is near and dear to me,” said TobyMac. “It came out of my diverse world, from family to band to the organizations I support. I wanted to look into my past, the way I was reared and look at what I was taught. Aaron [Cole] did the same. He’s an African-American, and both of us are from Virginia. [In the song,] we come to grips with how to let go and step forward, and then pass it on.”
TobyMac’s sound remains cutting-edge on the new album, with songcraft and production that guarantee crossover into mainstream pop.
The former DC Talk artist makes certain of it by staying heavily involved in all aspects of recording.
“If you went around Nashville and got the 411 on Toby, you would know that he is a lab rat, a studio guy,” he said. “I am in there all the time. I don’t like having people doing things on my behalf. I am deep in the trenches and I feel that is what makes my stuff. A track has to feel like me, as well as the vocals. It’s built from the ground up.”
Friday's concert at Covelli is only the latest in Youngstown for TobyMac. He has played many shows in the Mahoning Valley in his long career, starting from the earliest days, well before DC Talk, and he remembers them.
“Youngstown has been good to us from the earliest days,” he said. “We were touring in a Chevy Citation in the beginning, and we had friends there who put us up.”