Artist Profile: MercyMe

( [email protected] ) Jun 08, 2004 09:00 PM EDT

Ever since the smash hit "I Can Only Imagine" inspired by the touching story of lead singer Millard, MercyMe from Greenville Texas has been garnering top Christian music areas, changing popular Chrisitan music, and introducing to the Christian music industry an intimate blue-rock style of Worship.

"I Can Only Imagine" soared up the Christian charts and won several Dove of Awards, singing of a beautiful depiction of the characteristics of Heaven, significantly released after the September 11. The hit-single won Song of the Year, and gained slots on pop, country and adult contemporary radio stations nationwide. The success of the band was so incredible that it attracted vast audiences including devout Christians to music fans who read Rollingstone. MercyMe was the band that stepped out of the category "Christian Band" over the past years. They also made way to claim their places with their million-selling album 'Almost There' on INO Records along such pop acts as Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Lopez on the Billboard Top 200 pop charts for months.

The laid-back band from Greenville, Texas, quickly evolved from being Christian music's fastest-selling new act in 2001 to one of the most successful bands in all musical genres, selling more than 2 million records in only three years and earning an American Music Award nomination. MercyMe followed Almost There in 2001 with 2002's Spoken For, which was certified gold and produced two more No. 1 hits. Now the band, which has been together for about ten years, has grown beyond its label as "a Christian band" and become nationally known as a great rock group that tackles such serious themes as God and love. Their music is appealing to both devout Christians who study the Bible and young teens who devour Rolling Stone.

And now comes Undone, the most anticipated Christian release in recent memory. "The best way to describe it is that it's a new progression for us," says bassist Nathan Cochran. "It's not a sharp left turn; it's a step beyond what we've ever done. We feel like our message and calling are the same," he says. "We're still worship leaders; we're just on a different scale."

The album's debut single, Here With Me, is a catchy rock worship song with a Coldplay vibe. With the recent addition of second lead guitarist Barry Graul, Undone unveils a more textured, passionate sound. "We've been a rock band for 10 years," says lead singer Bart Millard. "Before we ever signed, it's what we wanted to be. Then we became known as the band of ballads when I Can Only Imagine came out. On Undone, we focused quite on bit on some of the up-tempo songs on this record to make sure we're still enjoying what we do.

"We've been freed up to be a little more creative," he says. "If you see any kind of success, then you have freedom on the next record to do your own thing a little more."

As the band toured nationally, radio DJs constantly peppered them with the question, "What's next?" Although MercyMe greatly appreciated the excitement, they didn't want to rush anything and refused to release a new CD until they were satisfied that they'd created the best music they could possibly make. "We're trying to be responsible enough to send them something that has meaning," Millard says. "We don't want to water down anything. They've told us, 'If you say it, we'll play it.' What an incredible responsibility and privilege to have."

Undone is much different than what would be expected following such monster success as Almost There. Rather than attempting to recapture the highly appealing magic of I Can Only Imagine, MercyMe's newest guitar-driven studio effort is more mature, thought-provoking and musically experimental. Obviously, each member has grown a tremendous amount, both personally and professionally, in the last year. All six are married and three are now fathers. "Musically, we've grown probably twice what we grew between Almost There and Spoken For," says guitarist Mike Scheuchzer. "And none of us expected it."

Indeed, Undone includes a few songs the band hoped they would never have to make. Although the band has experienced success beyond their boldest dreams, the last year has also delivered some of the worst blows of their lives. For instance, Millard had nine close friends and family members, including his 20-year-old brother-in-law, his uncle who was like a second father to him, and Bryson's father, pass away between December 2003 and March 2004. The result is the most personal album of MercyMe's career.

The CD's title track, Undone, describes our never-ending quest for self-improvement. "We get so many different meanings out of it," says Shaffer. "We're undone from our freedom side of it or you could say we're undone as far as we're not quite to where we're going yet. We're constantly striving to get where God wants us. I don't think that we'll ever become 'done' until we're in heaven."

Discography -

Undone (2004)

Spoken For (2002)

Almost There (2001)

Look (2000)

Worship Project (1999)

The Need (1998)

Traces of Rain Vol. 2 (1997)

Traces of Rain Vol. 1 (1996)

Pleased to Meet You (1995)