Thu, Sep 08, 22

For three decades, Christian musical artist Chris Tomlin's been as much a faith leader as a songwriter, able to parlay his faith in spirituality into influential and popular music. Via "Always," his seventeenth album out on September 9, he surges forward from leader to legend in the worlds of gospel and contemporary Christian music.

"The songs that I've written are as easy to play with an acoustic guitar at worship with friends around a campfire as they are in a church filled with 500 people or at Madison Square Garden," says the 17-time Billboard Christian Airplay chart-topper. "These simple songs help people see God's goodness and mercy," says Tomlin.

Tomlin succinctly highlights the longevity of his songs-as-ministry as "a neverending stream of songs that help people encounter and worship God." To that end, 13-track "Always" features its already-released title single, plus a trio of pop-aimed duets and ballads with frequent country music collaborators Lady A, friend and notable praise and worship singer- songwriter Steffany Gretzinger, plus breakout Christian music star Brandon Lake.

He describes the process of pulling together the album as "magical." Time spent during COVID-19's quarantine doing Sunday church services around his home piano with his family allowed him to "re-connect " the dots with previously written material (Lady A backing vocal- aided "The Answer"), covers of classics (Gretzinger joins for a new take on Keith Green's 40- year old "O Lord, You're Beautiful"), and material he had yet to record (soulful vocalist Lake and Tomlin pair for "I See You"). 1/3

9/8/22, 8:36 AM Chris Tomlin's new album 'Always' honors his dedication to worship, service

Insofar as "The Answer," Tomlin offers that the title comes from his own belief that he's never been one to "have all the answers" when it comes to how people should practice their faith and fellowship -- "but my music does the work of someone who does," he adds.

"It's so easy to follow trends, but accepting the way God made you as a creator and staying in that lane allows an album like 'Always' to feel like a gift," says Tomlin.

In an era where Christian music is all-encompassing of many styles, Tomlin feels strongly about lyricism as the facet of the industry that remains ever-important to the success of not just his new album but music in general in the genre.

"The lyrics in these worship songs are simple enough to inspire fans to remember them and want to sing them nightly, weekly, or whenever they want," says Tomlin. He realizes the sheer number of top-selling artists currently back on the road. However, he says that by attempting to connect his fans' souls directly with the essence of spirituality, he's creating an "eternal" emotion that he respects as an "incredible, humbling privilege" greater than his ability to make hit songs.

The Grammy-winning artist's belief in the powers of community and collaboration has driven his career to unparalleled heights. Intriguingly, at present, the contemporary Christian music space is driven by collectives.

These include Brentwood, Tennessee-based Capitol Christian Music Group, where he
is signed alongside Jeremy Camp, Amy Grant, Mandisa, and TobyMac. Plus, he's a member of Atlanta, Georgia's globally-renowned Passion Conferences. The 25-year-old group attempts to "change the climate of faith around the globe" via music-driven ministry.

Notable as well in the CCM space are "Always" album partners Elevation Worship -- the worship ministry band of Charlotte, North Carolina-based and multi-site Elevation Church. As well, Atlanta-born ensemble Maverick City Music (with which the previously-mentioned Lake often performs) is among the leaders in nominations for 2022's Dove Awards with seven.

Tomlin feels that the success of creative spaces with unprecedented depth and scope in Christian music boils down to the governing influence and importance of developing "spaces that feel like church."

The singer-songwriter feels that this moment expands far beyond the church being defined as a brick-and-mortar worship building. Instead, he thinks that "church" can be best described

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9/8/22, 8:36 AM Chris Tomlin's new album 'Always' honors his dedication to worship, service

as "people discovering the power of gathering together to help each other by spurring the worship of God."

"It's all about being with whoever, whenever. We all want more people to share God's grace and mercy. I'm proud that [Christian music] is doing this work," Tomlin adds.

When asked about "the work" that Christian music is excelling at doing of late, he relates a story regarding his meeting with a Syrian pastor.

"[The pastor said] that his life was threatened daily, and he started his day by playing an Arabic version of my (2013-released) song 'Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)' as a lifeline."

"Tears were flowing down my face when he said that," says Tomlin. "I wrote a song in my bedroom, and for this guy, it represents his faith and life in the face of death."

When thinking about his forthcoming album and career in total, he is grateful for a life defined by worship and service.

"My success is as big a surprise to me as it is to anyone. It still blows me away how my songs have stood the test of time with all of the constant touring and concerts. Beyond that though, the fact that my songs have become timeless without me even having to be present to sing them — that means the world to me."