TobyMac’s new album encourages listeners to battle life’s struggles
“This world gon’ leave some battle scars.”
These lyrics from TobyMac’s song “Scars” point to the themes of his new album, offering audiences a vulnerable, honest look at the highs and lows of life while pushing them to keep moving forward.
“The Elements,” released on Oct. 12, is TobyMac’s seventh studio album, after a three-year wait following “This is Not a Test.” The album features 11 songs, with four songs, “I Just Need U,” “Scars,” “The Elements” and “Everything” having already hit the airwaves.
The artist has claimed seven Grammy awards, and has paved the way for daring Christian artists to explore new stylistic ways to tell their stories through music.
The album excites movement, a staple of TobyMac’s music, with upbeat rhythms featured most strongly in “Everything” and “Overflow.” But the album’s lyrics are moving as well — TobyMac described the album as more vulnerable and reflective in light of his previous work.
“It’s not maybe as big a party as I try to throw,” TobyMac said. “Because I think there’s some gut-wrenching honesty in the record.”
That gut-wrenching honesty is a major characteristic in the song “Scars,” which TobyMac wrote for his son. The song surrounds TobyMac’s experience of watching his children leave the protection of home into unforgiving realities of the world.
“Everybody’s on this journey,” TobyMac said. “When it’s someone you love, and you see them getting banged up a little, or bruised up a little or cut, there’s scars that come with that.”
One of the most pressing challenges for TobyMac in the season of life surrounding the birth of the album was learning to let go as his children grew up, while continuing to encourage them each to, as the song “Scars” puts it, “lift your head to where your help comes from.”
“You just have to let them know that they’re not alone,” TobyMac said. “Those scars are going to come, but they’re not alone.”
The title song “The Elements” encourages audiences to go against the grain and press on in their pursuit of God.
“Everything I want to be, it feels like the elements are pushing against that,” TobyMac said. “I want to be a godly man, I want to be a good man, but the elements are telling you to be selfish. … I want to be a good friend, but it seems like it’s easier to look after myself than someone else.”
The album reflects this string of thought in each song.
“When I called this record ‘The Elements,’ I capsulated what all these songs are about, whether it’s “Scars,” or “It’s You,” or “Starts with Me,” TobyMac said.
“Starts with Me,” featuring Aaron Cole, is an anthem for unity amidst the unrest in society, challenging audiences to take that step themselves.
According to TobyMac, his season of life is not drastically different from his young audience.
“I’m still dealing with relationships, still dealing with trying to pursue God in the middle of this crazy world,” TobyMac said.
TobyMac spent his college years at Liberty University, graduating in 1988. It was in those years that he formed the group DC Talk with Michael Tait and Kevin Max Smith. TobyMac described those years at Liberty to be pivotal and the most important years of his professional life.
“I had always been a creative writer,” TobyMac said. “I’ve always written songs, but I had never considered it as something I wanted to do professionally until I was at Liberty.”
But not only was Liberty foundational for TobyMac’s professional career, it was foundational for his personal life.
“Other than my wife, there’s probably nothing on this earth that has had a greater influence on me,” TobyMac said. “My whole life changed when I was at Liberty.”
For TobyMac, “The Elements” encourages listeners to ask themselves if they are willing to keep striving, even when the world is pushing against them.
“I have to wake up every morning, and determine that I’m going to continue to fight,” TobyMac said.
“The Elements” is available now. More information about TobyMac’s new tour can be found on his website, http://tobymac.com/tour/.