In the Round: The Stories Behind This Year’s Dove-Nominated Songs

By Christa A. Banister | senior editor,
Posted: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 16:30

If you’re ever visiting Nashville, one of the most rewarding, not to mention thoroughly enjoyable, musical experiences anyone can have is stopping by the famed Bluebird Café for a songwriters-in-the-round evening – even if the bold-faced names on the poster aren’t advertising anyone you’re already familiar with.
In addition to hearing some fabulous songs from seasoned and brand new artists alike, typically accompanied by nothing more than an acoustic guitar and the occasional harmonica or mandolin, you’ll also be treated to some intriguing insight into what circumstances actually inspired the lyrics as well.
Yes, behind every great song is a story, which is precisely why we tracked down a few of your favorite artists who are nominated for “Song of the Year” at this year’s GMA Dove Awards. Per usual, this year’s list of nominees is incredibly diverse with everything from worship to pop to Southern gospel represented.
And then there are the artists who don’t fit neatly into any category, something that’s been the crown jewel of TobyMac’s storied career. Nominated this year for “Get Back Up,” the second track from Tonight, Toby was inspired by the story of a close friend whose life was falling apart because of some bad choices.

“He felt like he was worthless before God and before his fellow man for the choices he’d made.The main thing I wanted him to know: that I love him and I’m there for him. He’s not cast out. He’s not shunned,” TobyMac shares. “Anybody that makes those tragic mistakes, really awful choices – even in Christian music and in Christian leadership – the message they need to hear is, that love is calling out to the broken... I’ve shared the lyrics to the song with my friend, and I told him it’s not a judgmental song; it’s a beautiful song, and it’s what I would want you to know.”

Also inspired by a friend – and a theological conversation they shared – MercyMe’s Bart Millard penned “All of Creation,” the lead single off The Generous Mr. Lovewell.

“I had a conversation with a friend of mine who has been an evangelist for years ,and I was reminded about how not a lot of songs address the foundation of what we believe in the whole idea that Christ was born of a virgin he died on a cross and he rose again and the basic principle of Christianity,” Millard shares. “The song takes us there…the first verse talks about how we were completely separated until the cross basically and how we’ve been given a chance. The second part of the first verse is ‘captivated but not longer bound by chains,’ and we loved the idea that we are held captive by something but we are free just the kind of irony of it. Then it says ‘these chains are laid in an empty grave’ We just kind of address the different parts of our core beliefs.”

Another scenario where friends played a key role in writing a song was for Tenth Avenue North on its nominated song “Hold My Heart.”

“I wrote ‘Hold My Heart’ with two friends, Phillip LaRue and Jason Ingram. Phillip and I were both going through a really rough time, but in separate situations. [We were] just grappling to understand why God would let certain things happen,” says Tenth Avenue North lead singer Mike Donehey. “The conclusion we came to is really what the bridge says. It says, ‘There’s so many questions without answers, but your promises remain.’ Sometimes we aren’t going to get the answers we want, but we still have God’s promises. The tough part of that is when Jesus said to us, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you,’ although in tough moments, your whole world feels like he’s done exactly that. It is no small thing to hold onto the truth and cling to that truth.”

Experiencing God’s grace and comfort during life’s most harrowing circumstances is also what inspired Sanctus Real, MIKESCHAIR and Jason Crabb’s respective “Song of the Year” contenders “Lead Me,” “Let the Waters Rise” and “Sometimes I Cry.”

“I was on the phone with my Dad [songwriter Gerald Crabb] one day, and I could tell he was going through a tough time,” Crabb recalls. “After listening and talking to him, I thought to myself, ‘Hmm...these are the moments when God often gives Dad a song.’ And wouldn’t you know a few weeks later he called me back and had written ‘Sometimes I Cry.’  It had me from the start.  Most of us don’t want others to see us hurting. We don’t want to be weak or let others see our pain and struggles, especially us men at times. But as Dad says, ‘It’s ok to cry. Jesus cried at the tomb of Lazarus, His friend who had died.

And sometimes the best songs have the ability to encourage their listeners with a universal truth, whether it’s the call to love people – exactly how they are in Triumphant Quartet’s “Love Came Calling,” the powerful portrait of redemption that’s painted in Francesca Battistelli’s “Beautiful, Beautiful,” Chris Tomlin’s worshipful declaration of how God is always for us in “Our God” or Chris August’s colorful reminder that with God, second chances are available in “Starry Night.”

“When I wrote Starry Night, I was at a place in my life where I really wanted to rededicate everything I was doing and living for to Jesus. I wanted to return to the place I was when I first became a Christian, the tender and unrefined moments of just getting to know the strongest love one can possess,” Chris shares. “The beginning of a new chapter is always exciting and I had forgotten just how awe-inspiring it can be. I've always been fascinated with creation and as I was writing the lyrics, that passion naturally came out. The lyrics do have a more universal sense to them, but the story behind them is very personal. There is nothing more important than someone giving his or her life to Jesus, and it really is something special to sing about.

For more information on this year’s GMA Dove Awards, check out Airing exclusively on gmc Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011, the GMA Dove Awards begin at 7 p.m. EST.

Copyright 2011, For permission to repost or reprint, click here.


About the Writer

After graduating with a B.S. in Journalism from North Central University in 1998, Christa Banister moved from Minneapolis to Nashville, Tenn. and eventually started working at CCM Magazine/Salem Publishing in various editorial capacities as an editor, columnist and website guru for five and a half years. After that, she launched her own Dallas-based freelance writing company and writes for numerous clients including Salem Publishing, (she review movies for them each week), Christian Single, Christianity Today, Threads Media,, and also helped kickstart the first Christian music blog for MTV. In addition, she also writes bios for professional recording artists and authors and penned her first two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers for NavPress.

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