While MercyMe's "I Can Only Imagine" was inspired by the death of lead singer Bart Millard's father, it provided hope, healing and comfort to a country that was still fresh with the scars caused by the attacks of September 11th. Since the world was exposed to MercyMe over a decade ago, they still continue to create music that helps a world in pain.
Their latest single, "Shake," off their album Welcome To The New (April 8, 2014), is a song of joy and celebration.“This is about enjoying the fact that we’re changed,” Bart says of the new tune. “This is about having the joy and living life that way – Christians are supposed to have joy.”
Before MercyMe became a prominent name across the country though, lead singer Bart Millard was a youth ministry intern in Florida. His grandmother would always call to check up on him, and was always disappointed when Bart picked up the phone. She blatantly voiced her disapproval by saying, “Well, mercy me, why don’t you get a real job?” Little did she know, Bart’s grandmother’s words would play rather prominently into Bart’s future career and become his band namesake.
Getting his start in music by taking choir as an elective when his football dreams didn’t pan out, Bart started working with his youth group’s worship band behind the scenes, mostly doing video and sound. God opened a door for Bart one day when the youth group’s lead singer didn’t fare so well on stage, and Bart stepped in and aced his audition.
The gig ended up going so well that Bart, along with MercyMe’s future pianist Jim Bryson, eventually traveled to Switzerland to play a worship gig. It was during that particular trip that Bart and Jim seriously considered pursuing music full-time.
So Bart, along with his pal, Mike Scheuchzer, who plays guitar, moved to Oklahoma City to form what would end up being MercyMe.
While living in an old, abandoned daycare center that also served as the band’s makeshift studio, MercyMe wrote “I Can Only Imagine,” which reached far beyond the confines of Christian radio. It was aired widely on pop and country radio stations, and in 2010 became the first song in Christian music to exceed 1 million downloads according to Christianity Today.
However, even with all those accolades straight out of the gate, MercyMe was certainly no one-hit wonder. With the release of the album Spoken For in 2002, both the title track and “Word of God Speak” were huge successes. In fact, “Word of God Speak” was not only named the Christian Song of the Decade in 2009 by Billboard Magazine, but MercyMe was awarded with the “Christian Adult Contemporary Songs’ Artist of the Decade” honors, as well.
Since then, the band has continued to make albums that reflect whatever season of life they’re in. Its 8th album released in 2010, The Generous Mr. Lovewell, featured a wide array of both solemn and upbeat songs including "Move," “All of Creation” and "Beautiful." The band followed The Generous Mr. Lovewell with The Hurt & The Healer in 2012- featuring the song, "You Are I Am."
MercyMe was also honored with two nominations at the first annual K-LOVE fan awards, in the categories of: "Group/Duo of the Year," and "Artist of the Year," and recently received the same nominations for the 2014 show. The band also received nominations for the Billboard Music Awards for "Top Christian Artist" and "Top Christian Album."
“We are so honored to be recognized for the work we put into this last project, however it cannot go without saying we don’t do this alone,” says Mike Scheuchzer. “If we did anything worthy of praise it was due to an incredible team of humble & extremely talented people who surround, encourage & push us to be better. We and those who helped create this record hope it draws the listener further from their hurt & closer to the healer.”
Steven Curtis Chapman