Matt Redman, TobyMac and Jason Crabb were the top winners at the 44th annual Gospel Music Assn. Dove Awards held last night (10/15) in Nashville at Allen Arena on the campus of David Lipscomb University. Amy Grant and Kirk Franklin hosted the show, which was taped to air on Up! Oct. 21 at 8 pm EST.
Redman, who was on tour in Europe, won six awards including song of the year for “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” which also earned him the Dove for contemporary Christian performance of the year and pop contemporary song.
TobyMac, who opened the show with a high-energy performance of “Eye on It” won four Doves, including pop contemporary album for “Eye On It” and artist of the year. “I’ve always been about diversity, not only color of skin, but musical diversity, and I think the show flexed the gospel/Christian music muscles of diversity tonight,” he told Billboard backstage, noting the mix of performances that ranged from rap and rock to Southern gospel. “Seeing the guys from the One Sixteen clique to Southern gospel to us jumping around up there with a drum line. We flexed our muscles tonight and we showed the world that Christian music isn’t stodgy. It’s filled with life, not only life in the lyrics we sing, but in the style of music that we make.”
The Doves included performances from Lecrae, Amy Grant, Tamela Mann, Big Daddy Weave, Colton Dixon, Rhett Walker Band, Tasha Cobbs, needtobreathe and for King & Country, the brother duo who won the new artist of the year award.
Crabb, last year’s artist of the year recipient, performed the title track of his winning album Love is Stronger. Crabb took home four Doves, among them inspirational album of the year for “Love is Stronger” and both Southern gospel performance and Southern gospel song of the year for “That’s What the Blood is For.”
Crabb posed for photos backstage with his three producers on “Love is Stronger” — Ed Cash, Wayne Haun and Jay DeMarcus, of the multi-platinum country trio Rascal Flatts. DeMarcus has won numerous awards during his country career, but told Billboard he was excited about winning his very first Dove Award. “This one is particularly special for me because this is where I started,” says DeMarcus, who began his career in the Christian duo East to West. “My foundation has been in gospel music and Christian music. I really feel good to be back home and be contributing in some small way and to be part of such an amazing project with two wonderful producers. It’s a special moment for me and I’m grateful to Jason for giving me the opportunity.”
After two years in Atlanta at the Fox Theater, the Doves returned to Nashville and it was a celebratory homecoming. “What an amazing night of music,” commented GMA Executive Director Jackie Patillo. “Tonight’s performances were all a testament to why we are all here. On behalf of membership of the GMA, we are proud to present this year’s Dove winners and congratulate each of them and the nominees on their achievements. We would also like to thank the city of Nashville for welcoming us back home and to the wonderful host for the evening, Lipscomb University.”
“I loved it being back in Nashville for a lot of reasons,” says TobyMac. “It’s where we do what we do. It’s where we record. It’s got such a great musical heritage and it’s my home. It’s been my home for a long time. It feels more like home to me.”
Crabb was also among the artists who were happy to see the Doves return. “I’m glad the Doves are back in Nashville. This is where everybody is,” Crabb tells Billboard. “It needs to be here.”
Dove Awards were presented in 42 categories, recognizing faith-based music from a variety of genres including Southern gospel, rap/hip hop, rock, bluegrass and worship music. The celebration began with the pre-show at 3pm where the awards not being presented on the telecast were handed out. The pre-show was hosted by Chris August and Jamie Grace and included performances by Aaron & Amanda Crabb, Jonathan McReynolds and One Girl Nation. Four special awards were presented during the pre-show including the Impact Award, which went to SoundExchange. Alan Jackson, who has recorded two top-selling gospel albums was this year’s recipient of the Mainstream Contribution to Gospel Music Award. New Day Christian Distributors founder Dottie Leonard Miller accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of her company and Bone Hampton received the Grady Nutt Humor Award.
During the pre-show, the Gaither Vocal Band’s Pure and Simple tied with Canton Junction’s self-titled collection in the Southern Gospel album of the year category. “It’s getting harder and harder the older I get to get up on stage before the applause stops,” Gaither quipped as he took the stage to accept the award.
Later during the main broadcast, Gaither’s legendary career was saluted in a special segment that featured the Isaacs, Karen Peck, Dailey & Vincent and Signature Sound performing his classic “He Touched Me,” which earned a Grammy for Elvis Presley.
The evening also included a tribute to acclaimed evangelist Billy Graham featuring Michael W. Smith and the Newsboys. Comedian Chonda Pierce was taking the podium backstage in the press room as the tribute to Graham was beginning. When the technical crew turned the monitors down for Pierce to speak, she said, “We’re all going to hell in a hand basket cause we’re talking over Billy Graham. Lightening is gonna strike!”
Click here for the full list of Dove Awards winners.