CHRIS TOMLIN & Friends
There’s something special that happens when worlds collide and that’s divinely evident on Chris Tomlin’s new Chris Tomlin & Friends album which finds the acclaimed worship leader/songwriter collaborating with some high profile artists, including several in the country music community, bringing them into his musical world.
The project includes 13 tracks with Tomlin featuring super stars Florida Georgia Line, who also executive produced the album, Lady A and Thomas Rhett as well as several of today’s biggest country music artists including Russell Dickerson, Chris Lane, RaeLynn, Cassadee Pope and Brett Young in addition to Bear Rinehart of NEEDTOBREATHE, Blessing Offor and We The Kingdom.
Perhaps the most unexpected collaboration is the one that inspired the project. Tomlin admits it even caught him by surprise. “I just had to step back and say, ‘Lord, what are you doing? This is not what I saw coming,’ Tomlin says of working with Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley.
The origin of this intriguing project couldn’t have been more organic. It all started with a morning workout. “Last spring I came down to the beach and went to a gym to workout. There was only one other person there and I realized it was Tyler so I just walked up and said hello.”
Hubbard was eagerly as thrilled for the introduction, explaining the impact Tomlin’s music had on him and BK’s life and decided it was more than coincidence that they met. The two hit it off and started writing together.
That co-writing session evolved into one of the most lyrically substantive and musically adventurous albums to emerge from Nashville, featuring a blended community of Christian and Country artists that define Music City.
“These artists are making this music with me to bring glory to God,” shared Tomlin. “The project feels like a labor of love from everyone involved.” The album was executively produced by Hubbard, Kelley and Tomlin and produced by Corey Crowder, David Garcia and Ed Cash.
“Everyone brought their own unique experiences and talents to the table and it’s what made the songs and their message so relatable and powerful,” shares Chris “One of my personal hopes for this album is to take a step towards bridging Christian music and all other genres. I believe themes about faith and God are relevant and needed regardless of the style of music or streaming platform genre classification. Since I was young, I have felt a calling on my life to help give people a voice to worship God. I want people to have the opportunity to worship every day of the week not just on Sundays; while they are in their car, at work, running, or just listening to whatever shows up on their playlist. For me, this record is a step towards breaking down the walls of the Christian genre and allowing the music to be accessible to a wider audience. That’s my understanding of the Gospel. Music about faith, God, salvation and forgiveness doesn’t belong to anyone’s genre…it’s for the whole world.”
Among the highlights are “Who You Are To Me,” the project’s first single, with Lady A’s Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood. Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line join Tomlin on the infectious anthem “Thank You Lord,” and Thomas Rhett also teams with Tomlin on the compelling ballad “God Who Listens,” a potent reminder that the power of God is only a prayer away.
Tomlin was also excited about working with his friend Dickerson, now a rising star who has notched three No. 1 country hits. “Russell was on my tour crew for three years. He’s always had this heart of worship, but he was the worst tech in the history of the world because he’d be side of stage worshipping God the whole time,” Tomlin recalls with a laugh. “I remember at one festival an amp was on fire and we were trying to get Russell’s attention, but he had his hand raised praising God.”
Tomlin connected with other like-minded artists looking to be a light in the world, and many had been heavily influenced by Tomlin’s music for years. 20-30 million believers all over the world sing his songs every week in church services in nearly every language. His music has inspired and uplifted an entire generation of believers. Along the way, as he is about to launch his thirteenth album, he’s scored 16 Number one singles at radio, sold more than nine million albums, earned a Grammy, three Billboard Music Awards, 21 Dove Awards and two time BMI Songwriter of the Year honor.
Time magazine heralded Tomlin as the “most often sung artist in the world.” In 2016, he was named one of only four artists ever to receive the Sound Exchange Digital Radio Award (to confirm the only winners still) for over 1 Billion digital radio streams, alongside Justin Timberlake, Pitbull and Garth Brooks. Tomlin is also the first Christian artist to reach the Billion streams threshold on Pandora and was presented with their BILLIONAIRE award. His tours have sold-out venues everywhere, including New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and Red Rocks.
It would be easy for him to sit back and rest on his considerable laurels, but instead Tomlin is taking his fans on a new adventure with his latest project Chris Tomlin & Friends to share God’s goodness and mercy which knows no musical boundaries.
“I’ve always loved country music. I grew up on it,” the Texas native says. “The cool thing is my dad put a guitar in my hand when I was nine-years-old and said, ‘It’s all about Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard.’ That’s all my dad cared about and that’s how I learned how to play my first song. It was Willie’s ‘Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.”
Not only has he enlisted some of today’s top country artists on his new project, they’ve been engaging Tomlin too. Thomas Rhett asked him to be on his latest chart-topping single, “Be a Light,” which also features Hillary Scott, Keith Urban and Reba McEntire. Tomlin was also a special guest last year on Florida Georgia Line’s shows in Atlanta and Las Vegas.
Accepting their invitation resulted in one of the most memorable moments Tomlin has ever had on stage. “Towards the end of the concert Tyler just turned it into a beautiful moment of worship,” said Tomlin. “Tyler said, ‘BK and I grew up in the church singing about God and we thought we’d be worship leaders. We found there’s a great power when we lift our hands. We’re going to praise God for a minute,’ and he brings me out and we do ‘How Great Is Our God’ right in that moment. I was shaking. It was so powerful.”
These days as Tomlin continues to revel in the power of music to move the masses, he’s also come to appreciate the power of a playful lyric to express his joy.
In a career already studded with accolades, Chris Tomlin is enjoying a very fulfilling creative chapter. “God gave us music to enjoy. I’ve never met anybody who doesn’t love some sort of music,” he says. “You can bring glory to God in whatever place you’re in. What a joy it is to write songs and tell stories with new friends that can hit people in such a special way.”