Multiplatinum winning contemporary Christian band MercyMe has had over two decades of career success. And just hours after their ninth album “Lifer” was released last week, Faithwire sat down with the group to discuss the inspiration for their latest album.
The band’s album release party took the form of a bold concert that was held in New York City the night before our interview. The showcase was set up by MercyMe band members: Bart Millard, Nathan Cochran, Barry Graul, Robby Shaffer and Michael Scheuchzer to share their new songs with a real crowd. An experience that Millard, the lead singer of the band said was an “interesting challenge” because it was the first time their new 10 song cd was being played in front of a live audience.
It is clear from the rave fan reviews and the positive social media responses, they hit their special performance out of the park and even better, the father of five, Millard tried something new and rapped on stage.
As all the men including Millard chuckled and joked about his rap performance done to go with one of the song’s on the album during the interview, it became crystal clear as an outsider looking in, that the happiness, joy and camaraderie shared amongst all the members, is one of the main reasons for their longevity.
Twenty-three years ago, Millard founded MercyMe. He calls the origin of the band a “process of God” which began shortly after the young man’s dream of playing football was shattered after he broke both of his ankles in a football game.
Now when it comes to the band’s enormous success, they all agree that the credit really belongs to the fans and their decision to prioritize their personal passion for music above all else.
MercyMe became a household name after their single “I Can Only Imagine” become a crossover success, and since then they’ve have had a slew of popular singles. But for many years, the big name the song gave them made them feel stuck in terms of their musical making power. Even causing them to feel hesitant about changing directions and exploring new things. Millard explained that, the album…”Welcome To The New” released three years ago in 2014, was a turning point for the group. Saying to Faithwire that, “we kind of hit a point right before making that album that (made us) almost (call) it quits” because “I think ‘I can Only Imagine’ is one of our first big hits and there was a long season of making sure we didn’t derail this machine that is MercyMe.”
You know, “(we worried) about messing things up rather than (covering) new ground and …so before our last album recorded, we said we can’t do it like this anymore, we either fix what’s broken or call it quits because there are parts that kind of lost its soul in a sense.”
As the world can see, the band chose the first option and decided to stop worrying about what radio said or the next logical best step for their music career. Instead, they decided to fall in love with the music again. An excellent strategy that earned them Gold Certification, two Grammy nods and multiple GMA Dove Award honors, according to a press statement released by the media collective in 2016.
So this latest album is focused on the same type of principle and making music with a message. In previous albums before “Welcome To The New” and “Lifer”, Millard said, “we were more of the spiritual police telling people stop doing this, don’t do that or whatever.” And honestly, “we just got tired of being that. Instead of telling people to stop sinning, we should tell them who they are in Christ. That’s way more fun and I think that (that message) is more lasting for sure.”
The songs filling up this new worship album provide listeners with insight into some of the band members personal family struggles. Millard explained that the lyrics behind their first single “Even If” is one of them. The power ballad is lyrical commentary about his 15-year-old son’s lifetime struggle with diabetes, a common chronic condition that impacts roughly 200,000 children every year.
At the age of 2, Millard said his son was was diagnosed with it, and since that day, the family has had its fair share of “ups and downs” because “You have moments when you want to act normal and pretend like its not there but there’s always harsh reminders. Insulin is life support for (Sam). Unless there’s a cure nothing changes.”
So far in Sam’s life, “He’s had over 37,000 shots”. And this is “tough for me as a dad because I want to fix things but you can’t.”
Millard explained that when he found out his oldest son had diabetes, the first thing he did was question himself. But now Millard and his wife regularly say that, “Sam will just change the world as a diabetic.”
And when it comes to what he would say to other families in a similar position, he would state that, “There is nothing wrong with it (even though) a lot of people beat themselves up over it.”
It truly is important to keep in mind that, “lives revolve around Christ…It doesn’t mean we get it all right…but it doesn’t change the way Christ sees us.”
Earlier this month, Faithwire reported about what’s up next for the MercyMe band members and that includes a faith-based film about their popular song “I Can Only Imagine”. A musical release that changed the members lives forever by putting them in front of mainstream music fans in 1999.
The movie directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin will come out in the spring of 2018 and star well known actors like Dennis Quaid, Trace Adkins and Cloris Leachman.
Millard, who hasn’t yet seen the film, explained that it will focus on his childhood years and the story behind the creation of MercyMe. “I had an abusive father growing up who turned his life around when I was in high school (when) he was diagnosed with cancer. I mean, to see Quaid and the other actors standing there acting out my life in front of me. It’s just surreal.”
Now he says that he has “no idea what to expect” when it comes to what the feature film will actually be like.
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