MercyMe ... 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.
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.
For the men of MercyMe - Bart Millard (vocals), Jim Bryson
(keys), Mike Scheuchzer (guitar), Nathan Cochran (bass),Barry Graul
(guitar) and Robby Shaffer (drums) -- worshipping the Lord and leading
others in praise is very much a life-long calling. That commitment has
guided the band through the creation of six independent projects, their
major label debut ALMOST THERE which has song an excess of 500,000 units
making it RIAA Gold Certified, and now their sophomore release SPOKEN
FOR. Lead singer Bart Millard says the band's goals for the ministry
of MercyMe are still quite simple.
Propelled into the mainstream spotlight by the smash hit
"I Can Only Imagine", MercyMe is conquering unchartered areas for a Christian
The soaring song "I Can Only Imagine" delivered an unabashedly
strong message about what heaven might be like. It quickly became apparent
that it was a message the post-September 11 nation needed desperately
The No. 1 song, which nabbed several Dove Awards including
the prestigious Song of the Year, garnered heavy airplay at pop, country,
and adult contemporary radio stations nationwide. Millions of radio
listeners who may not have ever considered themselves fans of Christian
music suddenly found themselves singing along to the song's irresistible
The million-selling album Almost There on INO Records
took its rightful place along such pop acts as Justin Timberlake and
Jennifer Lopez on the Billboard Top 200 pop charts for months.
MercyMe followed Almost There in 2001 with 2002's
Spoken For, which was certified gold and produced two more No. 1 hits.
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."
Says drummer Robby Shaffer, "It's titled Undone and
that's exactly what it is. This is very different for us as far as music
goes. It challenged us, it pushed us and I think it ultimately made
us better musicians."
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
"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."
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.
One of the album's most poignant songs is "Homesick", one
of eight songs on the album written by Millard, who penned "I Can Only
Imagine" after his father died of cancer in 1991. "'I Can Only Imagine'
took the focus off of what you are going through and was comforting
because it put the focus on where they were going," he says. "Homesick"
is the opposite because it completely addresses us that are left here.
I don't think as a Christian that it's right for me to say, 'I
wish you could've stayed here,' because truthfully, we're getting
the raw end of the deal if we really believe what we say that heaven
is as great as we want it to be. The whole idea is that we're the ones
who have to wait."
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."
For the group's latest release, Undone, the band added
a second lead guitarist, Barry Graul, in hopes that it would help them
get back to their first love - rock music. "I Can Only Imagine" labeled
them as the "band of ballads," but what they really want to be, what
they have been for 10 years, is a rock band. They hope Undone makes
Meet the Band...MercyMe
musical influences: U2, E.L.O., Stephen Curtis Chapman, Russ Taff. and
Larry B. Russell
how long have you been playing: Been Singing since I was 5...well
not the whole time, but on and on and off mostly. I mean, you gotta
take a breath every once in a while right?
hobbies: Being with family and friends
pets: 2 Dogs- George (he's deaf) and Pluto
been playing: about 12 years
hobbies: Spending time with Amanda and William, buying old books,
writing songs, pretending I am an outdoorsman, looking at guitars
that I can't afford
Michael John Scheuchzer
pets: Lulu, (mix between undetermined dogs) Suki, (kitten).
musical influences: U2, Delirious, Peter Kipley
been playing:12 years
hobbies: music, golf, hanging w/ Abby
Robin (Robby) Troy Shaffer
wife: Margaret (Maggie) Shaffer
pets: 2 - cat named Digit, dog named Carter
musical influences: Integrity Hosanna, Delirious, dc Talk, Seven Day
been playing: 20 years
hobbies: golf, watching movies with my wife
James Philip Bryson
musical influences: The Beatles, Coldplay, pretty much everything
else that is good.
been playing: 28 years
hobbies: Watching racing (NASCAR, F1, CART, IRL) and collecting racing
pets: 2 dogs-Eddie & Jake
musical influences: Great songs and or great guitar playing (generally
been playing: 28 yrs.
fav. food: Sushi