Chris Tomlin is arguably one of the most successful Christian artists of all time, having sold over seven million records and earning numerous awards along the way, all while having been referred to by TIME as possibly the "most often sung artist anywhere." With his latest project, Chris Tomlin & Friends, he's dipping his toes into country music, teaming up with genre superstars like Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett and others for an album full of universal and uplifting songs about faith that aims to bridge Christian and country music and bring Tomlin's message to even more ears than before.
"If you had told me I'd be making this record, this year or any time in my life, I would've just thought, 'You're crazy,' because a year ago, almost a little over a year ago, I did not know almost everybody that's on this album," Tomlin told PopCulture.com. "I'd never even met them." Chris Tomlin & Friends was co-produced by FGL's Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, who Tomlin connected with after a chance meeting with Hubbard at a hotel gym. Along with co-producer Corey Crowder, the group wrote a number of songs and pitched the project to some of their famous friends, including Brett Young, Cassadee Pope, RaeLynn, Chris Lane, Russell Dickerson, Lady A, NEEDTOBREATHE's Bear Rinehart, We The Kingdom and Blessing Offor.
"We didn't really have a list of people to go after. We just kept thinking, 'Who would work for this, who'd work for this, who feels this way, who believes this way?'" Tomlin said of finding his collaborators. "Some of the songs, not everybody fits every song. We sent it to these different friends, like Chris Lane, and said, 'Hey Chris, this, we feel like this song would be amazing. Would you be interested in doing this with me?' and it was just so cool. Because everybody was like, 'Man, I would just jump at the chance to do this.' And everybody was so fired up about it. There was no game, there was no big white-boarded game plan. It was just like, 'Okay, let's just see how organically this happens.'"
After earning arguably every accolade possible for a Christian artist, Tomlin shared that he is "excited to step into different places that my music has never gone before." He explained, "I've written songs my whole life for the church, for people to sing, for people. It gives people a voice to worship God on Sunday morning or whenever they're in their car, what's a simple song you can sing that people can just express their heart to God? That's what I've always done."
While this is the 48-year-old's first official foray into country music, Tomlin shared that he's always had a place in his heart for the genre. "When I was a kid, my dad put a guitar in my hand and said, 'Son, there's three people you need to know about. Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash,'" he recalled. "That's who my dad loved. And so it started with country music for me. And so it's really cool to be able to have a record that's in this genre even a little bit more and to walk into places my music would have never gone."
"Maybe a lot of people will discover a lot of my music that they haven't before," he continued, recalling a conversation he had with Hubbard and Rhett when they told him, "Man, we're so excited that we get to do a whole record full of songs that we love, that really can share our faith and be a light in an incredible way to our fans."
"I think they're going to make an incredible, they're going to make a lot more fans," Tomlin added. "I think my genre of people are absolutely falling in love with these artists like never before. And I think that's really cool." You can stream Chris Tomlin & Friends here.