While most of us thought we were watching the entire 56th annual Grammy Awards from beginning to end this past Sunday, one winner we didn't see was already out dining with close friends and family. Hit gospel recording artist, Tye Tribbett celebrated his 38th birthday that Sunday with his first ever Grammy wins for Best Gospel Album and Best Gospel Song.
No, he didn't see Beyonce & Jay Z open the show or Daft Punk win Album of the Year... he skipped all of that to be with his loved ones.
The Grammys have over 80 award categories and before the televised show, all of them are given out except the ones we get to watch live. Tribbett was one of the earlier winners during the pre-telecast and was even one of the presenters and as well. When the Grammys asked him to be a presenter, he assumed he had already lost. "I felt it was their way of saying you didn't win," he would tell me during an interview.
After being nominated several times before and having a career that has spanned 10 years, Tribbett had won possibly every gospel award under the sun except for the Grammy. But that night, his hit album "Greater Than [Live]" bested the likes of Charlie Wilson and Erica Campbell for Best Gospel Album. And his chart topping single "If He Did It Before... Same God [Live]" surpassed favorites Deitrick Haddon and Percy Bady for Best Gospel Song. But for all the newfound buzz over his wins, don't expect to hear him talk about anticipating this moment.
After 10 years in an industry that is becoming more competitive each year with younger talent and more autotuned vocals, Tribbett is more invested in the long run than the temporary hype from the accolades that follow. "I do it for the love of the music... the disappointment lies in doing it just for the Grammys," Tribbett told me as he discussed making the trip to the Staples Center in Los Angeles in the past and walking home empty handed. And perhaps this humble spirit comes from his upbringing.
"All that glitters isn't gold," Tribbett spoke about when discussing the lessons he has learned throughout his career. The Camden, New Jersey native who grew up in a strict Pentecostal household felt that the principles taught by his parents in ministry grounded him today. "Their love for God and music taught me that a career in gospel music was larger than life and inspired me to carry that message," Tribbett reflected upon.
But what makes his story interesting is that before he decided to go full out gospel, he spent a great deal of time earlier in his career being a background singer and working with big names such as Sting, Will Smith, Usher, and Justin Timberlake. Back then, he admits that there was pressure and temptation among his camp to do secular music, but he found that a career in gospel was more fulfilling.
"There is a message that is already there. It's inspirational... one doesn't have to dig deep to find messages of love and salvation in the music," Tribbett says when discussing the differences between secular and gospel music. And in an era where secular artists have to go to great lengths to redefine their image and message, Tribbett applauds his genre for maintaining a level of variety and substance within it. "Whether you are older or younger, there is a place for you in gospel music," Tribbett says.
But don't expect him to take a hiatus anytime soon. This year, he plans to do two tours (one notably with Kirk Franklin), publish a book, possibly television, and still write music. And at age 38, he doesn't feel as if he should cut back. "My crew is very young, early twenties, and when some of them are getting a little tired after the first three songs... I'm just getting started," Tribbett joked when discussing his signature youthfulness on stage.
But for all of his hipness and swagger, the married father of two prides himself on doing everything he can to not water down the message of his music. "Never downplay the gospel. It's the part of the music that moves people," he says of finding balance within the performance.
Tye Tribbett is one of those artists that serve as a template for an accomplished career that continues to grow and flourish from faith and consistency. In an age where music artists blow up and burn out in the blink of an eye, Tribbett's Grammy victory this past Sunday proves that doing what you love and know best might be the greatest achievement in the end. Because when it is all said and done, with or without the accolades, you still have a gift that is worth sharing to the world.
Tribbett is now blessed with both.