Arts & Entertainment

TobyMac & friends mix music, faith on West Coast tour

TobyMac had his wedding ring tattooed on his left hand as reminder that his love and commitment to his wife is forever.

"My wife is a godsend," he said in a recent phone interview. "She helps me keep the faith."

TobyMac -- whose real name is Kevin Michael McKeehan -- is an award-winning rocker/rapper whose music is fueled by that faith.

He brings his Winter Wonder Slam tour to the Tri-Cities on Jan. 30 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

TobyMac broke into the music business in 1987 when he formed the group DC Talk with his friend Michael Tait.

The group went on to earn Dove and Grammy awards, then disbanded in 2001. TobyMac went solo, earning a Grammy Award in 2009 for best rock/rap gospel album.

"I try to write songs that touch me," he said. "I write songs about my own struggles with friendships and faith."

In the end, it's always been his faith in God that keeps him going, he said. His fourth solo album, Tonight on the ForeFront record label, is a selection of songs that appears to have broken through the barrier of sacred to mainstream music.

Accomplishing that crossover and selling albums that have gone gold and platinum didn't happen from radio play, but from touring, he said.

"I like gutsy songs about truth," he said. "And though I have vision, I'm also a collaborator who relies on people around me. It's just the way I roll."

TobyMac tours with his band Diverse City. And though he claims to be a perfectionist when making records, when it comes to family life his is as normal as it gets.

He makes sure his concerts are spread thin enough so he isn't away from home for too long. He lives in Tennessee and has five children.

"The hardest weeks are when we're touring the West Coast (for two weeks each year) because that's so far from home," he said.

"Touring is the tough part of this job and why I like to spread my concerts thin enough so I can be home with my wife and kids more than I'm not," he said. "I want to be a daddy in the mix."

Even though he's known worldwide for his music and inspirational books, when he gets home he's just Dad.

"My wife still makes me take out the trash," he joked. "I will only do four shows in a row and then I'm home being a daddy."

Tickets to the Tri-City show are from $27 to $42, with a limited number of VIP passes for $77, and are available at www.ticketmaster.com or the coliseum box office. Tickets purchased at the box office avoid service charges.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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