The contemporary Christian artist kicks off his annual "Chris Tomlin Christmas: Christmas Songs of Worship" tour on Monday

By Brianne Tracy
December 02, 2019 10:00 AM
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Chris Tomlin is ready to get fans in the Christmas spirit.

The contemporary Christian artist — whose latest album, Holy Roar, is nominated for best contemporary Christian music album at the 2020 Grammy Awards — kicks off his annual on Monday with a stop in Augusta, Georgia.

“This tour, in particular, is one of my favorites,” Tomlin, 47, tells PEOPLE. “Part of that is because it is full of surprises and some of my favorite holiday traditions … so you will definitely see a few new elements as well as all the ones we love from the past few years.”

The tour — which is in its third consecutive year — will continue through the month of December before coming to a close at New York City’s Beacon Theatre on Dec. 20. Tomlin says he keeps coming back to do the tour year after year because the “joy and energy amongst the different crowds and cities each night is contagious.”

“There is something special about the Christmas season,” he says. “Truly, I think one of my favorite parts of this time of year is all the traditions that happen, both in my own family and out on the road and I can’t help but look forward to these shows.”

Chris Tomlin
Chris Tomlin’s Christmas Day EP album cover

Tomlin’s Christmas Day: Christmas Songs of Worship EP was released last month and includes four songs: three originals and the classic “Little Drummer Boy.” Among his originals, Tomlin says “Hope of Israel” is one that sticks out the most.

“This song was a collaboration with Ben Fielding, Jason Ingram and Reuben Morgan, who to me, would be hall of fame songwriters for the church,” he says. “The chorus sings so right to me. [It] feels so worshipful and classic Christmas. Plus, Ed Cash singing opera in the instrumental section may be my favorite thing on the album. Christmas is my favorite time of year and there is nothing more satisfying than writing new music for the reason we celebrate this season.”

Though Tomlin has been busy recording and touring, he found time to spend on vacation with his family over the summer in Florida, where he happened to run into Florida Georgia Line‘s Tyler Hubbard while at the gym.

“When I got [to the gym], there was just me and one other guy,” he says. “It turned out to be Tyler Hubbard.”

“It was pretty much an instant friendship,” he continues. “It was pretty crazy for me to hear how my music had made an impact on both Tyler and [his bandmate] Brian Kelley when they were in high school and through college. We started talking and dreaming what it could be like to smash the genres up and start writing some songs together and see what happens.”

Those dreams came to fruition last month when Hubbard, 32, came out during Tomlin’s concert in Troy, Ohio.

“A night I will never forget… having @tylerhubbard join me on stage tonight in Troy to share something we’ve been working on was one of the greatest moments ?? so much love for you bro… the best is yet to come,” Tomlin captioned several photos of the show posted to Instagram.

Hubbard also shared a message about the experience to his own Instagram account, captioning several photos of the night, “[My wife] @hayley_hubbard and I went to Ohio last night for an incredible night of worship with our good buddy and one of my heroes @christomlin.”

“I ended up getting to live my teenage dream and share a stage with him,” he wrote. “We played a song we wrote and some of the best throwback worship songs ever. It wasn’t the first time and definitely won’t be the last. Thanks CT for having us. Love you my brother. Also, thanks @patbarrett for being awesome and @makmultimedia for the pics. For sure a night I’ll never forget.”

Two months prior, in September, Tomlin shared the stage with Hubbard and Kelley, 34, at their FGL show in Atlanta to sing his 2004 hit, “How Great Is Our God.”

Tomlin says his friendship with Hubbard “has been a highlight” of his year and “so inspiring.”

“I am so grateful to God for our paths crossing,” he says. “I believe some exciting things are coming in 2020 and beyond. It’s now been around six months or so since we first met in that gym, and we’ve written several songs together, and have both been at each other’s concerts. The experience and response has just been unbelievable.”