TobyMac is bringing a few friends with him on has latest visit to the University of Illinois Assembly Hall.
The singer, who co-founded Christian hip-hop band dcTalk in the late 1980s, is an elder statesman of contemporary Gospel: dcTalk existed even before Winter Jam, originally aimed at youth, started.
As a solo act, he'll be the big finale of this year's Winter Jam tour stop Saturday night in Champaign. Other acts include Skillet, Sanctus Real, Peter Furler, Kari Jobe, Building 429, Newsong, Group 1 Crew, Dara Maclean and We as Human. The featured speaker is Nick Hall.
TobyMac is particularly hot now, coming off "Eye On It," which earned the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album.
"I was definitely honored," he said. "I've been up for (the Grammy) several times but never won it. It's been really fun."
TobyMac said he tries to "focus on making a great group of songs for each record, to be as passionate as I can for each one."
The new one is his favorite, but that's a familiar story.
"I feel like I fall in love with the newest one" each time it comes out, he said. "In my body of work, 'Eye On It' is probably my most cohesive work."
He said he never actually planned to go solo, but other dcTalk members put out solo albums, and he followed their example, recording a song for a movie soundtrack.
"Mine came out last," he said, whereupon he went with Gotee Records, which now has a large digital component at http://www.gotee.com .
His style has changed over the years, but TobyMac said he's "gone back to hip-hop a little bit on the record."
He's had the same backing band for 11 years.
"There's a lot of family up on that stage. They contribute to the songwriting. We create the live show together. It really is a team effort," he said.
The Winter Jam tour is 44 cities.
"It works for my family; I'm usually gone three, four days a week and then back to family for a few days," he said. Working weekends, "I miss the kids' football and basketball games, but I try to make up for that time when I'm there."
As much as he might miss family, he still loves the concerts.
"It's great when you get to share your music on a really massive tour, arenas packed every night," he said. "The live show for an artist is the ultimate, hoping (the songs) will serve people.
If you go
What: Winter Jam 2013, featuring TobyMac
When: 6 p.m. Saturday (doors open at 5; Jam Nation, for members only, starts at 3:30)
Where: University of Illinois Assembly Hall, 1800 S. First St., C
Tickets: $10 at the door
More info: Specifics for Jam Nation are at http://www.jamtour.com/jam_nation