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Fall came a bit too suddenly for Brandon Heath.

"I was out doing shows, which is the worst time to get a cold," he said.

The Christian pop star was missing summer during a recent phone interview. But he admitted he has a lot to look forward to this season.

He'll get to sing new material from his January release "Leaving Eden" on his corresponding tour, which stops Thursday, Oct. 13, at Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center.

Joining him is fellow Christian artist Britt Nicole, with whom Heath will collaborate during the concert.

"I want people to think about what their Eden is . . . and what is the thing that takes them out of that place," Heath said. He hopes to inspire people to trust their hearts instead of biting the proverbial apple from the biblical parable.

But Heath didn't find his faith until he was a teen.

"I didn't grow up going to church," he admitted. "I was lucky to get there at Christmas or Easter."

He credits his grandparents for encouraging him to attend church.

"I think my faith made me feel as though I could take some more risks than I would normally," he said.

The risk came in pursuing his dream to write music - another passion he discovered as a teen, even though he was reared in Nashville, Tenn.

"As a kid, I had no idea that it was Music City," he said. "It was home."

His dad was a cop. His mom was a hairdresser. So, Heath didn't think about singing much as a kid. He didn't even like country music.

Then, while in high school, he started listening to Garth Brooks. Heath had a friend whose father worked as Brooks' sound engineer.

"I think that was the first realization of . . . why Nashville was so special," he said.

Heath saw that Brooks was not only a great entertainer, but also an authentic person. He was inspired to pick up the guitar himself.

Joining a band didn't work out, so Heath decided to stay solo. As an only child, he was used to that. His guitar skills never took off, but his songwriting ability did. He started writing songs for other artists to play.

He didn't hit the stage himself until he attended Middle Tennessee State University.

"Before that I didn't want to be the person up front," he said. "It was kind of a scary thing for me." An English degree solidified his writing roots, which he used to blend his faith into his lyrics.

"I wanted to write about . . . what I was learning from God," he said. "Those things were important in the beginning and still are."

His single "Give Me Your Eyes" hit No. 1 on the Christian charts in 2008. Since then he's been named Gospel Music Associations' Male Vocalist of the Year for two consecutive years and scored a Grammy nomination for Gospel Album of the Year.

Now, Heath said, the only time he gets nervous is when he's invited to play his single "Love Never Fails" at weddings.

"It's somebody else's day," he said. "I just want to do it right."

That seems to be Heath's mission in all things, including soothing his sore throat.

He never stops writing. He's collaborating on a project with a dozen other Christian artists. And after his tour wraps in December, he might work on a side project that strays from his pop roots.

"I've been writing country music," he said. "That's just fun for me. That's kind of a side project."

- Erin McCracken, FlipSide staff

If you go

WHAT: Brandon Heath's "Leaving Eden Tour" with Britt Nicole

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13

WHERE: Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center, 1031 Edgecomb Ave., Spring Garden Township

COST: $19.50 and $15.50; Admission to a 5:30 p.m. sound check session is an additional $10

DETAILS: 505-8900; thepullocenter.com

ONLINE: brandonheath.net

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