Tye Tribbett: God Is Greater Than Adversity
These days, Tye Tribbett is a firmly established solo gospel star who just dropped his fifth album, Greater Than (Motown Gospel), on the heels of winning several Stellar Awards, plus scoring multiple GRAMMY and Dove Award nominations. And considering practically every album he releases rests atop Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart, chances are fans don’t even realize the singer/songwriter was well on his way to mainstream superstardom before the Lord called him exclusively to “kingdom music.”
From mainstream success to sacred calling
A mere flashback to the late 1990s/early 2000s found Tribbett (and his backing group at the time, Greater Anointing) touring with the likes of Faith Hill and Don Henley, collaborating in the studio with Justin Timberlake, Mary J. Blige and Jessica Simpson, plus landing a slot on the blockbuster soundtrack for “The Prince of Egypt.” Chances are, he could’ve walked even further down that road to become the next R&B-infused pop innovator, but God had other plans for the talented artist.
“The Lord spoke to me saying, ‘hey, I don’t want you to make this your source. I want to always be your source,” recalls the lifelong believer of one particularly life-changing prayer encounter. “He said ‘shut down for one year and don’t do any secular or mainstream music. Just do all kingdom music for one year and then see how I can be faithful to you.’ And that year, one of my biggest albums to date, Victory, was released!”
Even though his compass shifted so suddenly, Tribbett retains a faith-friendly style on Greater Than, which builds off the sonic smorgasbord of his past recordings. As unconventional as it may sound, the performer’s influence pool is as diverse as jazz giants Weather Report, gospel greats The Winans or The Hawkins Family, coupled with modern pop and rock recollections that could easily stand toe-to-toe with Timberlake or Bruno Mars.
“I love music. Period. And it kind of expresses itself in many ways, but always towards God,” he confirms. “I wanted to have a good time, to worship the Lord and [inspire the hearts] of this generation towards God. I wanted to present the whole message of God being greater than anything in an aggressive way, while having a good time and worshipping God.”
Similar to the prayer that redefined his career course more than a decade ago, the title for Greater Than was also birthed from another revelatory moment. “I was preparing for a Bible study and I came across a familiar scripture ‘greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world’ and it just hit me like a ton of bricks that day,” he continues. “[As the world] has grown darker and more evil, all these things are screaming. Stress is screaming loud, loneliness is screaming loud, boredom is even screaming loud, as is racism, violence and anger. All these things have a loud voice because of the social mediums and reality TV. People have a megaphone to the mouths of dysfunction, so it seems like the world is getting darker and darker. I want to say ‘wait a minute; let’s put things back in perspective.’ He’s even greater than anything in this world. Stress is strong, but He’s stronger. Same with loneliness and so on…”
Trusting through the trials
While it would be tempting to assume everything in Tribbett’s life behind the scenes has always flowed just as smoothly as his immensely successful career, he’s the first to admit those messages are just as personally applicable as they are evangelistic to others. Just because he’s famous doesn’t make him immune to life’s many avenues for strife, and while many of the blows have been absolutely crushing, it’s evident he practices what he preaches.
“As artists, it looks like everything is good because you don’t come on stage crying,” Tribbett observes. “We don’t always have the leisure of being human in the face of people, but there have been moral failures in my life, personal failures and there have been sicknesses and diseases in my family. There have been traumas like car accidents leaving family members disabled for life and stuff like that, but we call ourselves believers, so believing is what we have to do in every situation. It’s challenging and it’s not easy, but I think our only responsibility in those crashing down moments is to still believe that God is able, and God honors that faith and that belief. You’re not responsible for the turn around – He is – but you’re responsible for believing He can turn it around and He honors that. The situations vary, but my response to it is the same. I still believe that He is able and He’s always responded.”
It’s that very testimony which not only permeates redemptive and restorative songs like “Beauty for Ashes” and “He Turned It,” but is slated to develop all the more as Tribbett takes the stage supporting Greater Than throughout the rest of this year. Given his vast musical palette and equally diverse audience, this is certainly a concert people from any walk of life can feel comfortable attending, though make no mistake, the central theme is grounded in the gospel.
“I’m very high-energy, however, I’m very practical as well,” relays Tribbett. “I like to meet people where they are. Everybody doesn’t feel great when they come to concerts, so I try to come and be that point of contact where inspiration meets hope and belief is formed. I’m trying to be that person or that model that it can get better. Some people come to me and say, ‘hey, my life has gotten better’ and some come to me and say ‘it hasn’t gotten better yet, but I believe it can after tonight,’ so I always try to have a realistic presentation on stage. It’s never over unless God says it’s over.”
About the Writer
Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of “Access Matthews” (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s “Gospel Dream” (where he served as season one judge).