Chris Tomlin: And the Greatest of These Is Love
- Tuesday, September 09, 2008
As fast as Chris Tomlin’s ride to multiple Dove Award winner, double GRAMMY nominee, regular radio chart topper and the undisputed title as the most sung Christian artist on earth may seem, it’s actually been a slow build for the singer/songwriter/worship leader.
In fact, the release of the brand-new Hello Love (sixsteps) has the Texas native turned Atlanta-bound artist feeling a bit nostalgic, recalling his very first professional interview was with CCM Magazine in 2001 (with this very same journalist no less), while also pondering an extraordinary career ascent.
“The progression was quite a slow process at first for me with radio, and my first two records didn’t have that much play at all,” says the tunesmith, who first found fame in the Passion worship movement (a praise collective he’s still very much a part of today). “But then when Arriving came out [in 2004], everything started clicking with songs like ‘How Great Is Our God’ and ‘Holy Is the Lord.’ I loved following my songs around. The songs were way more popular than me, which is good; and I still like it that way!”
These days though, it’s hard for Tomlin to stay as anonymous with literally millions of listeners finally putting a face with a name and escalating his celebrity status of sorts. Nonetheless, the troubadour keeps a particularly low profile within the public eye, always gives credit to any album/concert contributor and is never boastful of global achievements. Instead, he gives thanks to God for the platform and hopes the music from Hello Love makes much more of an impact than the messenger.
“We’ve been really intentional with sixstepsrecords—the little company we started awhile back—and that was to write songs for the church, not just for radio hits and record sales,” he asserts. “My heart is to see these songs go to the church, and I’ve always felt the responsibility for that and also felt like God’s given me a gift for that. So I write in such a way that hopefully bridges the gaps of generations and different cultures. I always say, ‘The Holy Spirit is your best publisher,’ and He’s the one who takes these songs and puts them in the hearts of people.”
And there’s plenty of potential to move the masses on the new project, which updates Tomlin’s anthemic, modern worship aesthetic over a concept that revolves around the Lord’s greatest commandment. As the title implies, adoration is indeed at the album’s epicenter, from the joyful praise of “Sing, Sing, Sing,” to the outreach oriented “Love” to the prayerful “Praise the Father, Praise the Son” and even the re-tooled hymn “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”
“The album boils everything down to the simplicity of that word, which is a very common word used in our language that can be used when we say something as simple as ‘I love ice cream’ or as deep as ‘I love my wife,’” suggests Tomlin. “But when we [apply it] to the way we live our life and what it means to be followers of Jesus, we have to look at it from the perspective of loving the Lord with all your heart, your soul and your strength, but also, to love your neighbor as yourself. [Those ideas apply] when you talk about worship as well. When you talk about worshipping God, it’s all about love—God’s love for us and our love for Him. And our capacity [for] worship is usually pretty equal with the way we love each other.”
Though he’s in the midst of the Passion World Tour in support of the project, Tomlin can see those seeds being sewn firsthand. Beyond being one of Tomlin’s most uplifting offerings to date, Hello Love is also amongst the most ambitious, with his razor-sharp backing band sounding at a cohesive peak, producer Ed Cash twiddling the knobs with deft precision and acclaimed co-writers (like Louie Giglio, Matt Redman, Cary Pierce and Matt Maher) adding additional inspiration. The experience also benefits from a tag team with Irish indie act Bluetree throughout “God of This City” and the Watoto Children’s Choir from Uganda on the above referenced “Love.”
“Hopefully we’re just making great music, and for us, we’re never on cruise control, and we’re never dialing or phoning it in,” he affirms. “We worked as hard on this record as we did on my very first one, and I think that shows. I feel like God’s given us favor on this music, and we’re getting lots of amazing feedback from people, which is exciting and why we make the records in the first place. I can say all I want about them, but it’s what the people think about the music that really matters, and it seems like they’re loving it!”
Insight aside, a conversation with Tomlin can’t be complete without asking him about future plans outside of the music industry, and he’s quick to oblige with the scoop on an exciting new ministry endeavor. Though he’s been a worship leader at Austin Stone Community Church, there’s a new body of worship in the works alongside some of his most frequent collaborators.
“It’s called The Passion Church, though we don’t know when [it will open] or where, other than we know it’s gonna be in Atlanta,” he adds. “My friend Matt Redman is with me on this, Nathan and Christy Nockels; and Louie Giglio, of course, is going to be the pastor. We’re very excited, and it’s something we’ve been wanting to do for quite a while!”
Visit Chris Tomlin's official website here.
© 2008 CCMmagazine.com. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
**This interview first published on September 9, 2008.
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