BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
The Portable Sounds of tobyMac
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director
To sit down with contemporary Christian music artist tobyMac, you would think you would be subjected to the bravado and brass that comes with a multiple Grammy winner, self-proclaimed party starter, and one third of DC Talk, a group that redefined the CCM genre in the 1990s. Instead, you find someone much deeper, an individual who would be just as comfortable discussing displacement theology as he would the relevance of the disco era.
With his solo success derived from the combination of rock, funk, pop, and hip-hop, all pushed through a musical blender, tobyMac releases his long awaited third album, Portable Sounds. But unlike his first two albums, the gold certified Momentum and Diverse City, this recording is as much about prayer as it is about getting the party started.
“With [ Portable Sounds] I was thinking about music going everywhere from my iPod, being on an airplane with it, to running with it, to having my little iPod player at my house and at my studio,” tobyMac tells CBN.com. “We take music everywhere with us now, and it is an opportunity to be lifted up. It is an opportunity to be taken to a higher place.”
The album’s first single "Made to Love" debuted at No. 3 on the Soundscan Top Singles chart (retail sales). With such buzz, it is not a stretch to think Portable Sounds could experience some mainstream crossover success. This suits tobyMac just fine -- the more people that can hear the songs message the merrier.
Says tobyMac, “I was literally just wailing away writing these verses. I began to imagine, what if I am made to love and I recognize that at some point I have forgotten it. This song is sort of me pulling back from life and saying, ‘Oh yeah, that’s right. This is what I am made to do. I am made to be loved by God and made to love Him. That is why He created me.’”
While he is certainly enjoying the success, "Made to Love" is not his favorite song on the album. That distinction belongs to “Lose My Soul”, a track where he shares vocal duties with gospel great Kirk Franklin and Mandisa of American Idol fame.
“It is a melody I wrote a few months back and is a really simple thought,” shares tobyMac. “It is right from the Bible. It is, I don’t want to gain the whole world and lose my soul. I wanted it to be a sentiment about crying out to God, saying, ‘This is what I want’. Now, I obviously need Him to help me with this. It just feels like a special song, one of the more special moments for me since 'Jesus Freak'.”
And what about Mandisa?
“She really killed it,” exudes tobyMac.
In recent years, tobyMac has carved much of his musical identity from being the consummate entertainer – an artist striving to ignite the party, consistently blasting through traditional social structures, and most importantly, providing a message of peace. Portable Sounds certainly features an abundance of the tobyMac you know and love but it also digs much deeper. This album is purposefully more prayerful, spiritual, and in step with his relationship with God.
“I think there are several songs on this record that are me just vulnerably laying myself out there,” tobyMac explains, making special note of the song “All In”. “These are my prayers. These are my daily prayers. These are the things that I am laying out before God and saying, ‘God, I am struggling in this area. Can you help me? Because I have the world coming at me and it’s (career) going well. And I do not want to lose my soul in all of this.’”
tobyMac is widely considered the most fresh and innovative artist on the scene today. Yet he turned 42, an age when many artists attempt to re-invent themselves for the next phase of their career. As someone who has been in the CCM mainstream for nearly 20 years, will there come a day when the music is finally over?
“I haven’t really pondered that,” tobyMac admits. “I think that I am going to keep making music as long as it keeps moving through me -- as long as God keeps moving through me. I’m sure there are some people out there that I can’t relate to right now. But I think music is a universal language that crosses generations. I just want to be true to who I am and what God is moving through me and whoever it reaches.”
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