Chris Tomlin & Friends

Chris Tomlin & Friends

“I didn't ever think I would make an album like this,” Chris Tomlin tells Apple Music, referring to this 13-track project gathering the languages, styles, and stars of contemporary worship, Christian, and country pop. “It just happened through, I feel like, divine circumstances of connection, starting with Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line.” To underscore just how unplanned Chris Tomlin & Friends was, the author of countless songs embraced not only by Christian radio but churches all over the globe explains that he happened to meet FGL’s Tyler Hubbard “in a gym working out on vacation.” Tomlin says, “I introduced myself, and he began to immediately go into how much my music had meant to him through his high school years and into college. It was just an incredible connection that we had.” In no time, they were sitting down to try writing together. Collaboration came so easily that Hubbard and his FGL partner Brian Kelley were ready to get behind a full-blown album with Tomlin, who himself grew up listening to his dad’s local country band in Texas. Tomlin found that many of his new singing and songwriting partners from Nashville’s country ranks shared his worship-leading background, and he welcomed the give and take between his anthemic approach to turning people's eyes upward and country’s more subtly spiritual, time-tested themes of gratitude and contentment. “I just made some friends and started writing some songs,” Tomlin says, “and then it turned into what it's turned into.” Here Tomlin explains the inspirations and collaborations behind each of those songs. Thank You Lord (Intro) “We brought in this choir—Shannon Sanders is the leader—for a song called ‘Power,’ and then we were playing around with ‘Thank You Lord,’ a song with Thomas Rhett and FGL, and everyone was dancing and having a great time. Shannon said, ‘Do you know the gospel song the African American church always sings? You can't even leave a Sunday morning without singing this song in our church, this little chorus.’ They just start singing it, and I looked at our engineers and said, ‘Record this.’ That was unplanned. I thought, we've got to make this the intro of 'Thank You Lord.’” Thank You Lord (feat. Thomas Rhett & Florida Georgia Line) “Midway through this project, I was out on tour and Tyler sends me this song and says, ‘We've had this demo, me and Thomas, for a little while. We wrote this together and wanted to get your thoughts.’ I just loved that chorus. I did some tweaks on the lyrics, for me, that I thought would make it a little stronger, but the song was already there. What I love about this song is that it has a great summer turn-it-up feel to it. It gave me a real excuse to sing in a language that I usually don't. It's definitely not something that is a Sunday morning call to worship. ‘For my mama, for my friends,’ all those kind of things, it's definitely more in that country language, which I absolutely love. When it gets to the bridge, ‘Praise up, eyes closed/One thing I know/I just want to thank you, Lord,’ definitely takes it more to that praise kind of moment. I think it's the perfect collaboration, because it is Thomas, it is FGL, and it is me, together. You’re hearing our worlds smash up.” Reaching for You (feat. We The Kingdom) “When I was out on tour with Florida Georgia Line for a few nights, opening up for them was Dan + Shay. I connected with Shay [Mooney] about where he comes from and his faith, his music and his upbringing and all those kind of things. I had this thought: ‘I'd love for me and Shay and my [writer-producer] buddy Ed Cash to get together.’ This song definitely has Chris Tomlin's DNA on it—the anthemic chorus, everybody collectively singing together and worshiping God. Ed pulled up an old text that a friend of ours had sent from being out at a Bon Jovi concert overseas. He was like, ‘Man, look at this.’ It was a stadium, probably 70-80,000 people, and it was ‘Living on a Prayer’ and the whole place has their hands raised. I said, ‘That doesn't look really much different than one of my concerts. It's just the difference is who you're reaching for.’ And instantly the song just started, about reaching for God. That's an incredible expression, to lift your hands to God and surrender in celebration and victory. In my songs, I'm always trying to point people to God and not to myself. Shay, he's got incredible melodies, and you hear that throughout this song. It's [recorded] with We The Kingdom, which is Ed's family.” Who You Are to Me (feat. Lady A) “I've known Charles [Kelley] a little bit, but I knew Dave [Haywood] and Hillary [Scott] pretty well. When this started coming together, I thought, ‘Man, they'd be great. I know their hearts. I know where they're at, where they're coming from.’ Especially Hillary; she's done music in my genre as well. It really started with Charles being so vulnerable: ‘When I think about my faith and the faith of so many, for so many of us, it is just these Sunday school stories [we heard] when we were growing up, these Bible stories, these crazy stories, Noah and the Ark and David and Goliath. Yet, in these last years, I've been in a really hard place, and it's amazing to see God meet you in a very personal way.’ So we just started it with ‘Some people think you're just some words on a page/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.’ That's the essence of this song. I think people can relate to this. I'm just floored how it came out. When they start singing, it just sounds so good.” God Who Listens (feat. Thomas Rhett) “We got together to work on a Christmas song that [Thomas Rhett] was working. That was what we were really there for, but as we were just connecting, Thomas brought this other idea: ‘I heard a pastor say that the difference in the God we pray to and all the other so-called gods out there is that we pray to a God who listens and who hears and who answers.’ I love that idea. The song paints this picture of the grandness, the greatness, the complete otherness of God—how the creator of the stars and the galaxies and all these wonders would draw close and listen and hear and care. That's just incredible.” Power (feat. Bear Rinehart of NEEDTOBREATHE) “I've had this song for a few years, and tried to record it on a previous album and it just never felt right. I thought it could transcend all kinds of congregations and cultures and ages and generations. Having the right voice with me on this song and also having the choir was as much of a collaboration as anything. I'm so grateful that I waited for this record to put it on, because I love hearing Bear’s voice. We've been good friends for a while. He's an incredible singer and so it just seemed to work out perfectly. What the song speaks to is that we can put our trust in so many things in this world—in wealth, in power, in military, and in our things and our jobs. The root of the song is I'm going to trust in the name of the Lord.” Be the Moon (feat. Brett Young & Cassadee Pope) “I had this idea I've been carrying for a while: The moon lights up the dark, but the moon does not emit any light on its own. When it is in the right place, it reflects a greater light, and that is, to me, the essence of our faith. It's the simplest way I can say what it means to really walk out this life of faith, and that is to be a light of the greater light. Think about the Instagram world that we live in. I love that lyric, ‘Everybody wants to be somebody, and I want to be somebody too/But if I'm going to be known for something, I want to be known for you/I want to be the moon.’” Sing (feat. Russell Dickerson & Florida Georgia Line) “This is a beautiful example of the smash-up of our worlds together and what a song can be. When you love something, it comes out. Music is God's idea, a way of expressing our hearts and a way of connecting. It's one thing to say, ‘I love you,’ but to sing it is another special thing. This is a real love song that is to God. It started with that real, simple little guitar and drum [pattern] that grew.” Chase Me Down (feat. RaeLynn) “Tyler sent me the demo of the song and I was floored, instantly. What an incredible, emotional, haunting lyric this is. RaeLynn’s cousin is Leeland, who is one of the great worship artists in our genre. I've done stuff with Leeland for years. And it was just, ‘Okay, this is making more and more sense.’ I cannot wait for people to hear this, because the idea is the relentless love of God. There's a line in the song, it knocks me out every single time I hear it, and I've heard it a thousand times now, after working on it so much: ‘When I'm lost and I'm low in a place that I think you won't go, you chase me down.’ That is a picture of the gospel. That is what grace is about.” Gifts From God (feat. Chris Lane) “This is special to me, because this is the first song we wrote when Tyler and I got together and connected. I just love this idea. It’s kind of like Garth Brooks in ‘Unanswered Prayers’ a little bit. Just remembering what it's all about, the simple things of life and the blessings that we've been given, to remind ourselves that every day we wake up is a gift. If we've got the ones we love beside us, it's a gift. If God's given us a family, it's a gift. If he's given a beautiful place to raise our kids, it's a gift. These treasures of family and time and breath, money can't buy that. And it's a beautiful thing to sing about.” Forever Home (feat. Florida Georgia Line) “Tyler and Brian Kelley and Ashley Gorley—probably one of the best songwriters ever in country music—and Corey Crowder had written this song together, and I just instantly said, ‘Man, could you just put this on our record? If you just let me sing something at the end, that's all I care about.’ Because I just love this song so much. Talk about forever home, I love taking that spin, which country can so brilliantly do—take an idea and spin it. This is a simple little thing, but I love the end of the chorus: ‘When we get to our forever home, me and you will be forever home.’ I think that's just a brilliant turn of phrase, and that just always meant a lot to me.” Together (feat. Russell Dickerson) “Russell is obviously a superstar now and doing so well. Well, he was my guitar tech for three years on tour, before he ever got his toes wet doing his own thing. It was really fun reconnecting, because it's been a while and I've cheered him on. Russell and I wrote a few songs together for this project, and we decided to put this one on there. I had this idea like, ‘This whole album is about doing this together’—it was the word that kept coming to mind. And the funny thing is, this was before COVID, ‘together’ home concert series, everything ‘together.’ It's not just about us being together, but it's about being held together by God. Through everything, through the ups and the downs, through the bends in the road, through the valleys and the highs and the lows, God holds us together.” Tin Roof (feat. Blessing Offor) “‘Tin Roof’ is definitely the mystery of the record. I'd heard this song a couple of years ago and it just knocked me out. I thought, ‘I want to find out who this Blessing Offor is.’ Blessing is from Nigeria. He's lived in Nashville for a while now, and he's blind, and he's an incredible singer, a songwriter, a musician. He's just got it all. In the midst of this album that's full of superstars, full of all these big-name people, to have someone that no one's ever heard of and it be the best song on the record, I think that would be so interesting to people and make people want to find out more about him. I asked him about this song. He said, ‘In Nigeria where I grew up, I would lay at night and those African rains would hit the roof. That rain on a tin roof reminds me of home and I think of heaven. That's what heaven is, is home.’”

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