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Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014
Arts & Music

TobyMac talks music and love before Tampa concert

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The awards just keep coming for TobyMac. Last month, the gospel hip-hop artist took home his second Artist of the Year honor from the Dove Awards, adding to an already impressive lineup that includes five Grammys.

Though his success in the recording industry may be predictable, his music isn’t.Count on this innovative songwriter (real name: Toby McKeehan) to keep on surprising his legions of fans — and helping grow the presence of rap in the Christian music world.

He brings his TobyMac Hits Deep Tour to the USF Sun Dome Friday at 7 p.m., and he will be featuring some of the music from his new release, “Eye On It.” In an interview, he talks about the secrets to a long marriage, how to survive in the music biz and the darkest moment in his life.

TBO.COM: Twenty years married, five kids ages 6 to 15. That’s not easy these days, especially in your profession. How do you do it?

TOBYMAC: It’s true when they say opposites attract. Amanda is a morning person, I’m a night person. She grew up in Jamaica; I grew up outside Washington, D.C. Those differences aside, we make our love the most important thing. That’s the greatest gift we can give our kids. When problems arise — and trust me, they do — we come back to this place of why we got together in the first place. We also believe you have to be honest with each other, no matter how much it may hurt.

TBO: You’ve been in this biz for a long time, which means you’ve gone through some drastic changes in the industry. How do you roll with it?

TM: As an artist, you have to keep evolving to keep it fresh. Here are my two rules: When I walk into the studio for a new project, I don’t depend on anything that worked last time, and I don’t fear anything that didn’t work last time. My band (Diverse City) plays a huge role in this process. This is a team effort. We concentrate on the art, and we don’t get caught up in the politics in the industry or how the music is delivered. Make great art that resonates, and the audiences will come.

TBO: What advice would you give to an up-and-comer?

TM: Surround yourself with amazing people. That is so important. When you write, express the deepest feelings about what is happening in your own life. When we tell our own stories, that makes such a bigger impact. And when a door opens for you, be prepared to walk through. You have to grab those opportunities when they come your way, or you may not get another chance.

TBO: You seem to have a pretty good life. What was the darkest time for you?

TM: I had been dating Amanda for over four years. I was on the road a lot and yes, I took her for granted. She finally got fed up and told me it was over. I desperately tried to win her back, including a trip to Jamaica where I showed up on her doorstop unannounced. That was my romantic leap across the sea, and it didn’t go well. It took about six months to win her back, and I learned some great lessons about learning to be less self-absorbed and to wake up to other people’s needs and to cherish them.

TBO: Fill in the blank. If I wasn’t a musician, I would be …

TM: Working with kids in some capacity. Maybe a coach, which combines my love of youth and sports. Or maybe I would be a youth pastor. What I wouldn’t be is a politician, even though I majored in political science at Liberty University. But the truth is, nothing compares to what I do now. I’m passionate about writing, music and performing. Most definitely, I’m living the dream.

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