You could say gospel music star Jason Crabb was living the dreams — plural — last week.
The night of Feb. 21, the Beaver Dam native and lifelong University of Kentucky Wildcats fan was in Starkville, Miss., to sing the national anthem and watch his Cats pull out an exciting win over Mississippi State. After the game, he got to meet Coach John Calipari, who tweeted a photo of the two of them.
Then, on the way home the next morning, he got the news that he had been nominated for eight Dove Awards, including artist of the year and male vocalist of the year by the Gospel Music Association.
"I couldn't believe it," Crabb said.
Crabb's surname is familiar to Southern gospel fans because of the chart-topping and award- winning Crabb Family, which he led until the group retired in 2007. He then struck out on a solo career with his self-titled debut album in 2009. The Crabb Family has since reunited, toured and released a new album, Together Again, last month.
"Our solo ministries, solo careers are mainly what we do," Crabb says. "But around November through January, that's the holidays, and we decided we're just going to travel together over the holidays. So we get on the bus and go out together."
For Crabb though, the eight Dove nominations are tremendous affirmation that he's on the right track with his solo career, especially after winning a Grammy Award for best Southern, country or Bluegrass gospel album for his debut effort.
He says his latest album, The Song Lives On, nominated for Southern gospel album of the year, came from music executive Bill Carter when Crabb sang for a benefit Carter was presenting in Arkansas.
"He said, 'That record doesn't do you justice,'" Crabb recalls, referring to the debut. "He said, 'You need to do something live, you need to let people feel you live. You're a live singer instead of a studio guy.'"
So Dunn got together with gospel legend Bill Gaither, they picked out songs — "Mostly what I grew up singing in church," Crabb says — and they recorded the album at Nashville's iconic Loveless Cafe.
Last week, Crabb was accomplishing another live performance goal.
"Growing up in Beaver Dam, my dream was to play for the Kentucky Wildcats," Crabb says. "Later on, I thought I'd love to sing the anthem at a game, but I didn't know the right people to go through."
Friends at Mississippi State got him the gig there.
"I said, if I have to go down to Mississippi State, I can still see the Cats and sing for them," Crabb says. "Then I got to meet the coach and he said, 'Take a picture,' and he tweeted it out. I said, 'I'm just loving life right now.'"
The Dove nominations include country recorded song of the year (Why Me), Southern gospel song of the year (If There Ever Was a Time with the Crabb Family), traditional gospel recorded song of the year (I Saw the Light), contemporary gospel recorded song of the year (I'd Rather Have Jesus) and long form music video of the year (The Song Lives On). Who Am I, which is on The Song Lives On, was nominated for song of the year, but the nominee is the songwriter, the late Rusty Goodman.
The Mississippi State experience still leaves a big goal for Crabb: singing the anthem at a Cats game in Rupp Arena. But Crabb is understandably confident.
"God gives you dreams to go after," he says. "He doesn't give them to you to wish — I wish I could do this.' He gives them to you to go after and pursue, and we're having the time of our lives.
"I like to tell kids that: Go after your wildest dreams."
And your Wildcat dreams, too.