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Christian musician Chris Tomlin says he went into music to spread his religious beliefs.

Country music and church — those are the main influences in Christian musician Chris Tomlin's life.

"Growing up in Texas we couldn't help having Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard playing in the house," Tomlin said by phone from his home in Austin. "And I loved the music that played at the church. When I got old enough, I would play music during church. In fact, once I learned how to play guitar, I did a lot of shows at church."

Tomlin was 11 when his father gave him a guitar. Three years later, he wrote his first gospel song.

Now, at 35, Tomlin is a Christian-music award winner. Not only has he taken home the Gospel Music Association Artist of the Year award this year and last, but his most recent album, "See the Morning," was awarded the Pop/Contemporary Album and Praise Worship Album of the Year, and his song "Holy Is the Lord" — a gold-selling single from his previous album "Arriving" — was named Worship Song of the Year.

"The awards are very nice recognitions," said Tomlin. "But they aren't what I set out to do. I didn't go into music because I wanted to win awards. I wanted to go into music to spread my beliefs about God and Jesus Christ. I feel, though, that the awards are a good gauge to measure how effective I am at accomplishing my mission."

Although Tomlin went to college, initially to become a doctor, he was always drawn back to music. "I was called to do what I'm doing. It's important to me to relay God's messages, especially in this day and age. When I first started doing this, I didn't know very much. I just sang what was in my heart. And, now, I'm working on a new CD that will hopefully come out next year.

"Whenever I write music or play music, I keep images of people I know in my mind. I keep my church in mind. There are many people out there who have an idea of who I am because they have seen me at one of my shows. But I make sure that the person they see on stage is the same person they see off the stage. That, to me, is a huge responsibility.

"I live in hope because of the sacrifice that Jesus made for me. And I want to let people know about it, and music is a great way to do it."

If you go

What: Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio

Where: Abravanel Hall, 123 S. West Temple

When: Monday, 7:30 p.m.

How much: $18 and $25

Phone: 355-2787, 888-451-2787


E-mail: [email protected]