dc talk Member Influences Culture for God

Jun 11, 2003 11:34 AM EDT

Considered a creative force behind the Christian group dc talk, Toby McKeehan is passionate to influence culture with a sound all his own. Through Gotee Records, the Nashville, Tenn.-based label he co-founded in 1995, McKeehan is credited with helping the Christian music industry embrace racial and cultural diversity.

"I want to be a guy that impacted the industry and moved it to the next level with integrity," the artist, producer, writer and record mogul told "Charisma" magazine for a July issue profile, out next week. "I want to make art that moves people toward God."

McKeehan was already a member of dc talk -- which also features Michael Tait and Kevin Max Smith -- when with his cousin Joey Elwood and close friend Todd Collins he formed Gotee in the mid-1990s to shake up the Christian music industry's conspicuously homogenous sampling of artists.

They set out to find a label for their prot??, three young, black sisters called Out of Eden. The search yielded little success, despite the timeliness of Out of Eden's sound, comparable to the mainstream's top female urban groups -- TLC, SWV, Jade and others.

"Gotee originally came out of a frustration for people not understanding Out of Eden," McKeehan said. "Labels wanted to give it to their gospel division, or they didn't know what to do with it. But it was pop-R&B. It didn't register with people. It blew our minds, so we decided to start a label."

In just its eighth year, the label has fronted 3 million-selling artists -- Out of Eden, Jennifer Knapp and the original Jeff Deyo-led SonicFlood. It has garnered seven Dove Awards, 45 Dove nominations, two Billboard Music Video Awards, two Grammy nominations and more than $40 million in gross-revenue sales.

The label has also made its mark on mainstream pop culture. TV programs such as "Felicity," "Party of Five," "The Real World" and "Boston Public" all have used its music. Gotee artists have appeared on stage with the likes of Monica, Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow and LL Cool J. It remains one of the few independent labels in the Christian music industry.

Raised in a Baptist home and a student at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, McKeehan credits much of his spiritual growth to his relationship with his pastor, Ray McCollum, former pastor at Bethel World Outreach in Brentwood, Tenn., which is now pastored by Rice Broocks.

McCollum founded the nondenominational charismatic congregation as a home Bible-study group in 1988 and today is attended each week by more than 3,500 people. Bethel is now part of the Morning Star church network, led by Broocks. Many leading voices in the Nashville music scene attend, including Out of Eden and the Katinas.

"In my growing up, sure the Holy Spirit was mentioned occasionally, but to really learn about the Holy Spirit has come later in life for me," McKeehan said. "I didn't grasp the intimate side of knowing Jesus Christ. Maybe because I wasn't taught ... This Jesus loves me and shows me mercy time and again. I didn't feel like I knew that Jesus. But I do now."

By Charisma Staff