One of the most successful artists and activists within contemporary Christian music, Chris Tomlin is a Dove- and Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and worship leader who has sold over seven million records. Emerging in the mid-'90s, Tomlin began his domination of the CCM charts in 2004 with the release of Arriving, which included the compositions "Holy Is the Lord," "How Great Is Our God," and "Our God" -- three of the most popular contemporary songs in the world's churches, sung by millions of Christians at worship services each week. Subsequent efforts like Hello Love (2008), Burning Lights (2013), and Never Lose Sight (2016) went gold and platinum, solidifying Tomlin's reputation as both a commercial and cultural ambassador for faith-based music and modern worship.
Born in Grand Saline, Texas in 1972, Tomlin grew up listening to country music and learned to play guitar from his father (Tomlin has cited Willie Nelson's Stardust as a key influence). At the age of nine, Tomlin accepted Jesus Christ as his savior, and at 14 wrote his first song of praise. He enrolled at Texas A&M in the early '90s to study medicine, but as he heard the call to bring himself and others closer to God, he grew active in a campus Christian group called Breakaway. Tomlin was a worship leader with Breakaway when he began attending Bible study sessions with Louie Giglio, who led a Christian group at Baylor University in Waco called Choice. Tomlin and Giglio worked together at youth ministry camps, and Tomlin was soon performing praise songs regularly for Giglio's events. In time, Giglio's group evolved into Passion, a nationwide organization for young Christians on college campuses, and Giglio started a record company, Six Steps Records, to record youth-oriented Christian artists. Tomlin, whose songs had become mainstays at Breakaway and Passion services, became one of Six Steps' first signings, and The Noise We Make, released in 2001, was Tomlin's first album. The band Tomlin assembled while serving as a pastor at Woodland, Texas's Harvest Ministry -- Daniel Carson on guitar, Jesse Reeves on bass, and Ryan Sandlin on drums -- began touring, often appearing at Passion events around the country as well as headlining its own concerts. (In 2004, Ryan Sandlin left the group, and Travis Nunn took over behind the drums.)
In 2002, Tomlin moved to Austin, Texas, and became a pastor at Austin's Stone Community Church, where he helped guide a congregation of 1,500. As Tomlin's songs and recordings found a wider audience -- his 2004 release Arriving took home the 2005 Dove Award for Praise & Worship Album of the Year -- he was nominated for two Grammy Awards for his 2006 album See the Morning (which rose to number one on Billboard's Christian albums chart and number 15 on the overall Top 200), but the songwriter continued to emphasize that his mission was more important than his own music. Tomlin's fifth studio album, 2008's Hello Love, was certified gold. It was followed in 2009 by the holiday offering Glory in the Highest: Christmas Songs of Worship, 2010's And If Our God Is for Us..., and 2103's Burning Lights, the latter of which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Tomlin's tenth studio album, Love Ran Red, featuring the hit singles "Waterfall" and "Jesus Loves Me," was released in 2014, and in 2015 he appeared on the Passion release Even So Come. Also in 2015, Tomlin launched Worship Night in America. Held at some of the nation's best-known venues, including New York City's Madison Square Garden and Denver's Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the touring presentation of music and prayer was broadcast in hundreds of movie theaters nationwide.
His mainstream success continued in 2016 with a Grammy nomination (his eighth overall) and the release of a new studio album, Never Lose Sight, which reached number six on the Billboard 200. Following a 2017 holiday album, Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship, Tomlin issued the single "Resurrection Power" in January 2018. Still touring annually with Worship Night in America, his 2018 edition welcomed guests including Kim Walker-Smith, Matt Maher, and Tauren Wells. Later that year, Tomlin released the five-song EP Nobody Loves Me Like You, and in November he issued his 12th studio long-player Holy Roar. ~ Mark Deming