Chris Tomlin guests on Country Faith Radio with Chrissy Metz on Apple Music Country and talks about making Chris Tomlin & Friends, meeting Tyler Hubbard in a gym, writing with Lady A, and much more on an all-new Country Faith Radio.
Chris Tomlin on How “Chris Tomlin & Friends” Came to Fruition from Meeting Tyler Hubbard from Florida Georgia Line in a Gym
CT: We met in a gym. My tour just ended last May, May 2019. My tour had ended, and I went down to Florida on vacation with my family down at the beach. I went to the gym to work out and exercise one morning, and Tyler was in there. It was just me and him, and I didn’t know him. I’d not met him, but we had so many different … I knew I could at least make some connections of people he might know, and I had no idea if he knew me or anything like that. So I just walked up and said, “Hey, man. I’m Chris Tomlin. Just want to say hello and meet you. We have mutual friends. Yada, yada, yada.” I remember he just looked at me. He’s like, “Are you kidding me?” I was like, “No, no, no. No.” He goes, “You’re Chris Tomlin?” I was like, “Yeah.” He goes, “Oh, my goodness, bro.” He said, “This is full circle in my life.” And I was thinking, “What?” I said, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Man, you’re one of the reasons I got in music.” And I was like, “What?” That’s exactly what … I could not believe that. And we began to just chatting. He’s telling me his story of starting to hear my music when he was in 8th grade, which made me feel really, really great.
CM: Please. You’re not that much older than he is. Please.
CT: I know. I know. He’s like, “Aw, man. I started listening to through high school, and I wanted to be a worship leader and do all these kind of things.” And he said, “I was leading all your songs in my youth group in church.” And he goes, “I loved your song. I loved your music.” He goes, “I got to college. I went to Belmont University in Nashville.” And he goes, “I got to college.” He goes, “There was this conference called Passion that you were leading at.” And he goes, “I was a college student.” And he goes, “I can tell you where I was standing in this arena in Nashville when I saw all these singing. I thought, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’” And then he began just saying that the week after he meets BK at Belmont, who’s leading a worship at a Bible study. BK is. Tyler goes up to him and he says, “Hey, man. I think we’re supposed to do something together. I think we should do this together.” So they started doing it together. He said, “We were making about a hundred dollars a week at a church on Wednesday nights and writing country songs.” He goes, “We’re singing your songs at these churches, and we’re writing country songs. And then the country songs explode and we change our name to Florida Georgia Line. It just starts exploding and everything starts … and our lives have changed.” He said, “I walk in this gym, and you’re standing here. I thought, “Man, this is really full circle. This is kind of where it started.” He said, “I think we’re supposed to hang. I think we’re supposed to like …”
After that, the next day we started hanging. Just dreaming about, “Man, what would it be like to smash up our genres together, smash up our worlds together and write some songs?” Never thinking we’re going to make an album. Never thinking I’m going to make a record. Just like, “Well, let’s try some songs. What would it sound like to his world and my world coming together?” So we started connecting just shortly after that, writing some songs. It soon turned into something that was really special. I thought, “Man, I’m not written this way. I’ve not had the chance to say things like this musically.” Because my songs are usually for Sunday morning and more like that kind of thing, and so you write a certain way for that. So bringing our worlds together was really fun, and I just instantly thought, “This is something special.”
Chris Tomlin Talks About Having an Influence on the Creation of Florida Georgia Line
It shows you never know the effect of your life, or you never know the effect of your music or what it’s doing or how it’s reaching. I would never think … I mean, this is the country party band of party bands, right? FGL. And I’m thinking, “They were listening to me, I mean, in the younger days?” And I was like, “Oh, my goodness.” But the friendship just started quickly. I met BK just shortly after that. I mean, these guys, you get behind. You think of something because there’s a persona, right? You see the music. You see the videos. You see the award shows. There’s this persona, right?
And you’re like, “Oh, I think that they’re probably like this.” You get to meet the real guys and you’re like, “Wow, these guys, they’re …” I mean, you talk about heart of gold and just incredible people. Yeah, we’ve become such good friends. Oh, just more than just making an album together, which is … Let’s pause for one second. Thinking about this. I didn’t know these guys. A little over a year ago, I didn’t know these people, and we just put a record out together. That’s crazy.
And I love it. It wasn’t labels getting together and think, “You know? I think if we put you guys together, this would be a smart idea,” or managers or anything like that. It was just built out a friendship, and all of these friendships started coming from it. It’s, yeah, so cool.
Chris Tomlin on Writing a Country Song with Florida Georgia Line
There’s a song on there called “Forever Home,” and it’s FGL. It’s Florida Georgia Line and me. It’s one of my favorites because it’s the most country song on there. That was like a dream, doing something country, because I grew up in country music. That’s how I started in Texas. My dad was in a little country band. I’ve always loved it. My dad loved it. He loved the Outlaws. He loved Willie and Merle and Johnny and Wayland. That was who he loved. But I thought, “This is the most country song on the record. I really want to sing on there and on this song.” Tyler and BK would sing the whole song. It just sounded amazing. I just kind of sing some at the very end. So when they would leave, Tyler had left, I went to Corey, who was producing the record. I was like, “Hey, man. Can I sing that? I want to sing that first verse, just see if I can beat it.” So I would sing, I’d sing the first verse. I went through a few times, and I was like, “What do you think?” Corey looked at me and he goes, “I think we’re going to leave Tyler on it.” I was like, “Got it.” I was like, “Got it.”
Chris Tomlin Talks About Working with Lady A on “Chris Tomlin & Friends”
When I started, we started thinking, “Okay, there’s a record here. We’ve been writing a lot of songs. There’s actually an album here that could be something. We could actually do something.” I went to Tyler and BK, and I said, “Would you guys help me make this? I don’t want to do this by myself. This started with the three of us, and would y’all help me do this together? Could we do this together? Would you produce the record with me?” They’re like, “Yeah.” And I said, “Could you bring someone in, maybe people you think have the like mind, like heart, like story, like faith in on this? Let’s see what happens.” So a lot of people I reached out to … I’ll give you a couple examples. I had been friends with Lady A for a while. Hillary and Dave were good friends. I knew Charles just a little bit. Loved those guys. I thought, “Man, if this is going to be an album, I should do something with them.”
We wrote the song “Who You Are to Me” together. I mean, that’s so special. I remember Charles walking in the room, and it was weird. I was at Dave’s house in his little basement writing room, and it was Dave and Hillary standing there. Charles came in and he said, “You know what? I have this idea.” He said, “I don’t know.” I think a lot of people listening will probably appreciate this. He goes, “When it comes to faith and things, I’m not sure exactly I am where you guys are.” He goes, “What I think about is …” This was really cool. He goes, “When I think about faith, I think about all the little …” He goes, “For me, for so long it was these stories I heard when I was a kid, these Sunday school stories, these Bible stories, these Noah’s Ark, and the Red Sea, and all these stories. I thought that’s what it was.” But then he said in the last couple of years … I mean, he got vulnerable really quick. He said, “In the last couple of years, I’ve been in a really tough place, a really hard place in my life.” And he said, “I felt God meet me in a personal way. It’s become more than just words on a page.” So these opening lyrics just started coming. “Some people think you’re distant, just some words on a page, that you’re nothing more than fables handed down along the way. But I’ve seen you part the waters when no one else could pull me from the deep, that’s who you are to me.” And I was like, “We are off to the races.”
Chris Tomlin Talks About Russell Dickerson Being His Guitar Tech and Creating Music for “Chris Tomlin & Friends” with Other Country Acts
Russell’s a country superstar now. Russell was my guitar tech for three years on the road with me. He left college. 19 years old, dropped out of college to go on the road with me. He was the guy setting up guitars and doing everything, and just wanting to be in music. He was on the bunk under me on the bus. I remember all the … for years. Just such a special guy. So things like that. There’s these natural relationships that started happening. And then Tyler and BK was like, “What about Brett Young? What about Chris Lane? These are guys that I think would have … They would have the same kind of story and same kind of feel.” So all these things started coming together. We wrote all the songs together. We’d get in a room and write together.
When we’re recording it … I think you probably know how this goes. But a lot of collaborations are like, “Man, I’ve got a good song. At least, I think it’s a good song. I’ve got some famous friends.” I email them, “Can you sing a second verse?” And I never see you. You’re in a studio somewhere, and I don’t even remember. I don’t even see you. This was done differently. It really was. We’d all get in a room together. We’d record the songs together. We’d sing them together. We made sure that when we’re doing vocals, we’re doing them together. We’re talking it out, playing off of each other. Like, “What really works? What’s the best thing?” You listen to some of the songs, I’m barely on any of this. Half the songs on the record, I’m barely … I’m singing harmony or something, just because it’s not about me. It wasn’t about, “It has to be my song.” It’s just like, “What works together? There’s no rules here. Just start it with no rules, and let’s just see what happens.”
Chris Tomlin Talks Lyrics From “Chris Tomlin & Friends” He’s Relating to Right Now
CM: So is there a particular song or a lyric that’s sort of defining your life right now in this moment, or what you’re going through, or what we’re going through?
CT: Oh. Well, two. I mean, the song that is the first track, “Thank You Lord,” is fun. To me, it’s the perfect mashup of what this is about. Thomas Rhett’s opening up, then Florida Georgia Line, and with all of the way they do their thing, right? And the way they sound, their DNA on it, their personality. And then you get to the bridge, and it’s that praise up, just more of a worship thing where I come in, where it feels like, “Okay.” It’s just like this mashup, but what the song is saying … It’s a fun little song, but I love just the thankfulness of the song. I’ve always thought that to live with a grateful heart, right? It comes from a grateful heart. It says to be thankful for the little things that you take for granted. Your mom, your wife, your kids, if you’re married. All the little things around you. Your friends, all of these things you have to be thankful for. And then the second verse says, “God, I’m thankful for the hard times.” You look back, no one’s thankful for the hard times usually when you’re in it. But as you look back, you’re like, “Wow, what kind of a person I am because of these hard …” And I think what we’re going through right now, these hard times, we’ll look back in a few years and go, “Wow, look at all the things that have shifted in my life that changed, that I didn’t see coming when I went through hard things.” So that’s a big one. I just think the gratitude of life, living your life with graduate, living life in a thankful place, it pushes out all the other stuff. I think when you’re thankful, all the other stuff, all the other anxieties and stresses of life, they just get pushed out. They can’t live in the same space. So I try to remind myself in these moments of trying to be thankful. That’s a strong one for me.
CM: I love that. You know I’m emotional, so I’m really trying to keep it at bay, trying not to not try not to tear on up. But no, I agree with you completely. So many of the things that we’re going through, you can’t see the forest for the trees. But looking back on it, you’re like, “Wow.” I believe that when you’re grateful for something, not only more comes to you, but you just get to live in that really beautiful space.
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