For the past 15 years, singer/songwriter Chris Tomlin has been one of the top entertainers in Contemporary Christian music, with more than 9 million albums sold. Impressively, he’s had 17 number one radio singles, starting in 2005 with “How Great Is Our God.” Since then, the Texas native has topped the chart with the hits “Good Good Father,” “Made to Worship,” “Our God,” “I Lift My Hands,” and “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies).”
This summer (on July 31), Tomlin released his latest album, Chris Tomlin & Friends (on Sparrow/Capitol Records). For this album, he collaborated with many high profile artists, including several in the country music community. The album features contributions from Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Russell Dickerson, Chris Lane, RaeLynn, Lady A, Cassadee Pope and Brett Young.
Tomlin is one of only four artists ever to receive the Sound Exchange Digital Radio Award for over 1 billion digital radio streams. The only other artists to accomplish that feat are Justin Timberlake, Pitbull, and Garth Brooks. Notably, Tomlin has picked up 21 Dove Awards, 3 Billboard Music Awards, a BMI Songwriter of the Year award, an American Music Award, a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album (for And If Our God Is For Us) along with two platinum albums. In addition, he has sold out concerts in major cities including New York City’s Madison Square Garden, The Forum in Los Angeles, and Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
In March of this year, Tomlin joined Thomas Rhett, Lady A’s Hillary Scott, Reba McEntire, and Keith Urban for the release “Be A Light,” which has become a Top 5 country hit. For this record, he has been nominated for his first-ever Country Music Association Award in the Music Event of the Year category. He also has a new duet single with Lady A called “Who You Are To Me,” which is moving up the Billboard country chart.
In addition to his album, Chris Tomlin & Friends, he has just released a new holiday album, called Miracle Of Love: Christmas Songs of Worship.
Here’s the lyric video of Chris Tomlin’s hit “Who You Are
To Me,” featuring Lady A.
We are pleased to present this new Q&A interview with Chris Tomlin. He discusses his collaborations with Florida Georgia Line, Russell Dickerson, Lady A and other artists.
BC: For your Chris Tomlin & Friends album, how did you collaborate with the country music artists?
Chris Tomlin: It was quite a moment that I didn’t see coming honestly, and it wasn’t anything I was looking for. I think that’s the really cool fun thing about this project. It really developed out of relationships so when you hear this music, it truly was a beautiful collaboration. It started with me and Tyler Hubbard from Florida Georgia Line. We connected over vacation at the same spot in May 2019. I saw him and said, “Hey, I’m Chris Tomlin.” He’s like, “Are you kidding me! This is full circle of my life.” He started talking about how much my music had meant to him, and was a big part of his inspiration and why he became a musician. [Tyler said,] “Two reasons I’m in music is Garth Brooks and Chris Tomlin.” I was so floored. He said shortly after getting into college he met BK (Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line) and they were into worship music, and their country music career exploded. Around the same time, I connected with Thomas Rhett and it was a similar story of how much my music had impacted him. These friendships started coming.
So I thought…What if we brought our worlds together and see what could happen? We started writing songs, never thinking we were going to make a record. The songs kept coming so quickly and so easily, and we were having so much fun. It was like music all over for me again. It was like brand new. Oh, my goodness! This is so great! It’s a different way of writing. We started making real tracks and thinking…What if other artists would have a similar heart, similar story, and similar faith and would love to do this?
Russell Dickerson is on the record. He’s obviously a country superstar, but he was my guitar tech for years on the road before he was in country music. Lady A—I’ve had a relationship with them for a long time and love those guys. I know their hearts, and that this would be a perfect fit. Pretty soon, we thought we’ve got something special here. Let’s figure out how to put this out to the masses. The response has been incredible.
BC: How does the songwriting process normally work for you?
Here’s the lyric video for Chris Tomlin’s song “Together,”
featuring Russell Dickerson.
Tomlin: I’ve always had this heart and idea to write songs to give a voice to people that worship God. I’m always thinking through the lens of the congregation, the masses of people singing. What’s a way of writing a simple song? That’s not easy. Simple does not mean easy, but it means trying to get it down for the common person who doesn’t think about music all the time. He just sings something and lets his heart sing to God. I’m always coming from that place. For me, most inspiration comes from the scripture. I’m usually reading something and something pops out in a different way.
I want to write songs that people can sing, which means they’re simple enough for everybody to sing it, that they need to sing, which means something we need to say…important to say and that people want to sing.
BC: What’s the story behind your song, “How Great Is Our God?”
Tomlin: I wrote “How Great Is Our God” from Psalm 104. I was reading that scripture, and it popped out. I strung my guitar up and sang the full chorus. At the same time, I was connecting with Ed Cash to produce my music. It was the first song I brought to Ed. [I told him], “I don’t think it’s finished.” At that point in my life, I hadn’t really done a lot of collaborating. I had written most everything by myself. Ed said, “I hear this little part.” He started singing, “the name above all names,” that bridge to the song. And I thought…Oh, my goodness! This is really special. The beautiful thing about that song is that it’s probably my favorite song and definitely the biggest song of my music career, but also the first song that Ed and I have written together.
BC: You didn’t write “Good Good Father,” but it was also a big hit for you.
Tomlin: “Good Good Father” comes from my buddy Pat Barrett and Tony Brown, who wrote that song. It started with Tony Brown, and he’s never known his dad. I think it’s really powerful that a song that’s connected people to the heart of God the Father, came from someone who has never known his earthly dad.
I listened to it and immediately I thought this was special. Pat has been a friend for a long time. I said Pat this song is going to be sung all over the world, and I’d love to record it someday, and I did. It’s been a song that I’ll probably sing every night when I’m on tour, from here on out.
Here’s the audio of Chris Tomlin’s song “Forever Home,”
featuring Florida Georgia Line.
BC: In addition to your Chris Tomlin & Friends album, you’ve also released a Christmas album called Miracle Of Love.
Tomlin: One of the new songs is called “Miracle of Love.” I’ve said this for a long time, but Christmas is God’s great surprise to the world. In this lowly little town of Bethlehem, no one saw it coming. There was no fan fair. There were no parades. In a manger was born the Son of God, Savior of the world. The story is mind-blowing and unbelievable in so many ways, yet it is our story of faith. Christmas is packed with surprises. Well, this year, 2020 has been a surprise year for everybody’s life in many ways, but even more so for me because we found out we’re having our third child, and we were not planning on that. We thought we were long past having children. Surprise, surprise! I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock for quite a while.
As I sat down to work on music for Christmas for this year, it just hit me. We found out she’s going to be a girl, and she’s going to be born around December 14. I thought…I’m having a Christmas baby. I’d love to write something that parallels having a baby at Christmas and obviously the baby at Christmas. Just the idea of this surprise baby coming in the same way Jesus being the surprise baby coming. At the end of the day it’s a miracle. The lyric of this song is a parallel, and it’s a double meaning pretty much every line of the song. That’s the inspiration behind that song.
Bill Conger is a freelance writer for various publications including Bluegrass Unlimited, ParentLife, Homecoming, and Singing News and is currently writing a biography on The Osborne Brothers with Bobby Osborne. He can be reached at [email protected].