TobyMac soaring high ahead of visit to Toledo

TobyMac will be one of several Christian artists who will perform in the Hits Deep Tour at the Huntington Center on Thursday.
TobyMac will be one of several Christian artists who will perform in the Hits Deep Tour at the Huntington Center on Thursday.

Get ready for a Christian-oriented pop concert at the Huntington Center: TobyMac is at the top of the bill for the Hits Deep Tour that comes to Toledo on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Other artists onstage will be Chris August, Jamie Grace, Group 1 Crew, Brandon Heath, Mandisa, and Britt Nicole.

“It’s like a Motown revue,” said Toby McKeehan, 48, who uses the stage name TobyMac, “focused on artists who have hit songs on the radio now.” There will be one band that all the performers use, and the artists “do their hits, three or four hits,” TobyMac said. Tickets are $15 to $40.

“I look forward to getting back to Toledo,” TobyMac said. “It’s going to be sort of a rare night because of all the different artists that are on this tour. It’s not going to be the normal concert. It’ll be a unique night that I hope serves the audience. I want to feel sweaty because people rock the room.”

This is an especially good time commercially for TobyMac. He just received the American Music Award for Favorite Artist Contemporary Inspirational, and his latest album, Eye on It, was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in September.

With TobyMac seeming to reach a next level of fame, “a lot of unexpected things are sneaking out,” he said. But he keeps his religious focus. “On my best days, God is right in the center of my life where you want him. On my worst days, I’m about me; there’s a daily surrender. I think, first of all, by the people in my life that love me well, the people that tell me the truth about myself — I’m definitely drawn to people that are really honest, not what I want to hear — I’m opening my heart to accountability. There’s also the Holy Bible, God’s word — you’re looking into the mirror of who you are.”

TobyMac is a member of Strong Tower Bible Church near his home in Franklin, Tenn. Strong Tower is a large and multiracial “elder-led, evangelical, nondenominational church,” according to the church’s Web site. “I’m in a small group [there],” TobyMac said. “It’s harder for me to be in a massive role, but it serves a mighty purpose in my life. I do think that if you had asked me what my church family is [rather than my church], it’s my band and I on the road living life together, worshiping together, opening up God’s word together.”

When he is traveling with his band, frequently the worship is with those on the buses, not at a local congregation. Worship is self-organized and not led by a pastor. “Usually we have our own church service on Sundays. If we’re on the road, usually we have a tour church [service]. We’ll worship and sometimes we’ll hear the word and that might happen on a Thursday or Friday.”

TobyMac said he meets his religious needs “by trying to spend time each day in prayer, and open up God’s word or the Holy Bible, however you want to say it. It’s a time when I’m with God, a devotional time. It’s a time to stop and think about what matters, not let the needs of this world take you.”

TobyMac shared his salvation story, the moment he accepted Christianity as his religion.

“I was 13,” he said, living in the District of Columbia suburbs, “and a youth pastor at church, I didn’t know him well, invited me to a camp.” The campers “played sports and went swimming and did all this stuff, and each evening we would sit on the floor of the cabin and he would open up the Bible and read it. I remember one of the nights wanting to react to that [reading], getting into my sleeping bag, zipped up to the top, lying there. I finally walked into the other room, woke [the pastor] up, he led me in prayer and asked Christ into my life.”

TobyMac kept that orientation, so when he became a pop artist, religion was a core value. “It’s nothing stepping on that stage,” he said. “It’s never been about that to me, it’s nothing I wanted. When I got out of college [at Liberty University] and drove a U-Haul to Nashville, I was hoping God would use music to turn people’s hearts or warm people’s hearts or have someone come back to God. It really was always about that. It’s not about Billboard or Grammys, the American Musical Awards. It’s still about that.”

For what’s to come, TobyMac said, “I can’t change the world. I can’t make people turn to God, only God can do that. I’m sitting on the edge of my seat wondering what God’s doing next, whether it’s me making music or mentoring other artists”— like those on the Hits Deep Tour.

Contact TK Barger at: or 419-724-6278.