Rupp Arena hosts a lot of acts that have had No. 1 albums on Billboard — Taylor Swift in April, anyone? But we don't usually look for those artists on the Winter Jam tour.
Yes, there are a lot of very accomplished, commercially successful acts in Christian rock, but a No. 1 album overall is rare for the genre.
So it was a big deal in August when TobyMac's Eye On It topped the charts, besting the mainstream hip-hop collective Slaughterhouse.
"It's nothing, no pun intended, that I had my eye on by any means," says TobyMac, which is the stage name for Kevin Michael McKeehan. "I wasn't looking thinking, 'Maybe this record's going to go way high on the Billboard charts.'
"But just the fact that it did it, it felt good to know that people were ready for something from me. But the number means more to me because I know what I put in that record. ... I know there are good things for people in that record that will, hopefully, make people think about how they're living and make them want to love each other better and love God with all their heart and reach out and serve others.
"So that's what makes me happy about it going No. 1."
When he looks at the calendar, TobyMac can see factors that helped boost Eye On It to No. 1. It was a late summer release just before a lot of big releases geared toward the holiday market like Swift's Red and Mumford & Sons' Babel dropped.
Eye On It also had a strong leadoff single in Me Without You, and as TobyMac sees it, a strengthening genre from which to work.
"This music is building, you know, music with a message; whatever you want to call it, gospel music, Christian music," TobyMac says. "It's one of the few industries that's maintained or grown over the last few years."
More evidence of that came earlier this year when his fellow Christian pop star Chris Tomlin hit No. 1 with Burning Lights.
"People want music that moves them in a certain direction or reminds them of things they want to be reminded of," TobyMac says. "I'm not saying that's everybody, but there must be more people than over the last 15 years, because they're making that statement just by the numbers.
"I'm not saying that music is the answer. I'm not that naive. But I know what's in my record, I know what's in Chris' record. And it is entertainment, I know that. But the thoughts that I put in there are thoughts that could work for anybody."
At 48, TobyMac has seen a lot of Christian music history, having formed dc talk when he was a Liberty University student in the 1980s. The 21st century saw the groundbreaking band's three core members go their separate ways, Toby enjoying the strongest career as solo artist. But the past few years, he has enjoyed seeing his former bandmates settle into gigs fronting other iconic Christian acts: Michael Tait with Newsboys in 2009 and Kevin Max with Audio Adrenaline last year.
"It makes me happy," TobyMac says. Speaking of Max and Audio A, he says, "It's good to hear his voice on that first single, Kings & Queens. I was driving down the road and I heard it, and it was just a rush of great memories.
"They're doing it right. They didn't just step into the boots of Mark Stuart and Peter Furler," he says referring, respectively, to Audio A and Newsboys' former frontmen. "They came up with great songs that let them stand on their own two feet with the bands."
He notes that dc talk never formally broke up. In 2000, the band members recorded solo records, "a little intermission," TobyMac says. "Sometimes you start to climb a new mountain, and it becomes what you're doing with your life."
And by the numbers, TobyMac is doing very well.
IF YOU GO
What: Christian rock tour featuring TobyMac, Red, Matthew West, Jamie Grace, NewSong, Royal Tailor, Sidewalk Prophets, Jason Castro, OBB, Capital Kings and speaker Nick Hall.
When: 6 p.m. March 16
Where: Rupp Arena, 430 W. Vine St.
Tickets: $10 at the door.
Learn more: Jamtour.com/shows/lexington-ky
Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @copiousnotes.