Fans are used to tobyMac delivering The Word, or at least his interpretation of it, via rock and rap. But his new album, "This Is Not a Test," adds something else to his musical vocabulary.
"It's soul music," tobyMac (real name Kevin McKeehan), says by phone from Memphis. The key addition is incorporating horns into seven songs on the album, which came out during August. "That's really good for soulful songs. For me, it's always a big ol' pot of gumbo. It's all soul music."
tobyMac, of course, helped pioneer room for Christian content in the pop market with the band DC Talk and, since 2001, on his own. He's sold more than 10 million albums and launched five No. 1 hits on the Billboard Christian Songs chart. He's also only the third Christian artist to have an album -- 2012's "Eye On It" -- debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
So why alter a successful course.
"Well, I was writing songs that moved in that direction," tobyMac, 50, explains. "I definitely wanted to go sort of into the richness of what soul music is a little bit. When I go into the studio, I try not to relay on anything I worked on the last time I was recording and try not to fear anything that didn't work last time. That keeps the canvas very open.
"So I think I really achieved that on this album. There's a little mystery to it, some intrigue in the songs - like I said, a richness of soul music I wanted to try to get at."
"This Is Not a Test" also gets tobyMac back with his DC Talk mates, at least for one song, "Love Feels Like." But the reunion, he says, had more to do wtih subject matter than sound.
"It's a song that's very near and dear to me, a deeper song for me," tobyMac explains. "A few things have happened to me over the last three years; one of them was losing my dad about seven months ago, which was really hard, and then my son Moses has muscular dystrophy and caring for him and loving him with my hands and feet.
"So I've learned the richest love, the deepest love you can have is when you're really serving somebody with everything you've got in you. It drains you, but it's really rewarding. So I asked Mike (Tait) and Kevin (Max) to be on that track specifically because it was so close to my heart and they're two of the best singers I've ever worked with. They said 'yes' right away and they both slayed it and really captured the sincerity and the vision of that song, which just made it more special."
tobyMac, Britt Nicole, Colton Dixon and Hollyn
7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15.
Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center, 799 N. Hewitt Road, Ypsilanti.
Tickets are $20-$75.
Call 734-487-2282 or visit emu.emich.edu.
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