STORY WRITTEN BY GARY GRAFF
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“This Is Not A Test,” the seventh album from Christian singer/rapper TobyMac, has passed with flying colors.
The set, released during August of 2015, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Christian Albums chart (his fourth) and at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. It also won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Album, as well as a GMA Dove Award for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year.
Sporting the Top 5 hits “Beyond Me,” “Feel It and “Move (Keep Walkin’)” — as well as a collaboration with his former dc Talk bandmates on “Love Feels Like” — “This Is Not A Test” has kept TobyMac (real name Toby McKeehan) at the vanguard of Christian pop.
He’s still riding the wave but he’s also ready for what comes next…
• Whie TobyMac, 52, says that “you just never know” how any given song or album will connect with listeners, he had a sense that “This Is Not A Test” had great potential. “I did feel that way,” he says by phone from his home in Nashville. “I did look up and sort of pulled out a little bit and looked at it and said, ‘I really love every one of these songs. I think they’re saying rich things.’ But really what I noticed is watching Twitter or getting emails and texts from friends saying, ‘Man, this song just wrecked me.’ When you get that you know something is going on with the record.”
• The awards — especially the Grammy, TobyMac’s second ever — were nice, too. “I call the Grammy the shot heard ‘round the world,” he says. “Suddenly when you’re introduced in Belgium as a ‘Grammy Award winner,’ they sit up and take note. It helps you worldwide to be taken a little more seriously. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. It definitely helps.”
• The reunion with the on-hiatus dc Talk for “Love Feel Like” was a special moment. “Oh, man, it was rich. It was super,” says TobyMac. “That those guys would come on that song specifically was such an honor. It’s about a few hardships in my life — my dad passing away just over two years ago and my son Moses, who has Muscular Dystrophy. So the song was heavy; It’s probably the closest personal song I’ve ever written. So it was an intentional move to ask Michael (Tait) and Kevin (Max Smith) to be on it. For us to get back together meant so much to me, and to hear their voices on that song was very fulfilling.”
• TobyMac has already started working on his next album, and “This Is Not A Test’s” success has certainly put some pressure on its successor. “There’s always a little bit of pressure, y’know?” he says. “I want to do the best I can. I want to pour everything I have into a record. That still stirs in you. As long as the songs keep pouring through me I’ll have my pen to paper and be ready and willing to step through whatever door I’m supposed to.”