September 2, 2008 / 3:11 AM / 10 years ago

Christian star Tomlin brings church hits to radio

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - With inspiring lyrics and easy-to-sing melodies, Chris Tomlin creates music that has saturated church worship services and Christian radio airwaves.

Singer Chris Tomlin performs during the Creation Christian music festival near Mount Union, Pennsylvania, June 28, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Segar

His widespread appeal has made him one of the most successful worship leaders in Christian music. His 2006 release “See the Morning” has been certified gold, and he has reigned as the Gospel Music Assn.’s top male vocalist for three years in a row.

With his September 2 release, “Hello Love,” he wants to keep affecting those listeners as well as increase his international presence.

“I think about the audience and the people who will be singing the songs when I’m writing the songs,” says Tomlin, who recently returned from an international tour that included stops in the Philippines, Indonesia, South Africa, Britain and Sweden.

“I think about the church in general: ‘How can I write this so people can sing this song? How can I write this to where it can really translate through different cultures, different age groups?’ “

Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God” was named worship song of the year at this year’s Dove Awards and is ranked No. 1 on the Christian Copyright Licensing International chart, which monitors the use of songs in churches. Such Tomlin songs as “Forever” and “Holy Is the Lord” are also mainstays in the chart’s top 10.

Tomlin says the idea behind the title “Hello Love” is “pretty simple. When you boil worship down, to me it’s about love. The Bible says, ‘Love the Lord, your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength’ and ‘to love your neighbor as yourself.’ That’s why ‘Hello Love’ seemed appropriate.”

There was a time when worship songs were generally relegated to church services or conferences, but Tomlin helped make such music palatable to radio.

“In Chris’ case, the songs got so popular through the church route and people were singing them so readily at every turn that it almost demanded that radio put them on. It was (as if radio) was missing the biggest thing and I think it finally awakened to that,” says Shelley Giglio, chief strategist/director of label operations and artist management at sixstepsrecords, which is releasing the album through EMI.

To aid churches anxious to have their congregation sing Tomlin’s new music, there will also be a special-edition CD featuring additional content aimed at teaching worship leaders how to utilize these songs. It will include sheet music and an instructional video from Tomlin.

Though Tomlin’s sales have increased exponentially the past few years, he refuses to feel pressured to top himself with each new release. “I just try to be me and hopefully people will continue to be inspired by these songs,” he says. “I’m always blown away by how much people love the music, and it’s incredible to me. I’m always thankful.”


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