MercyMe is an American contemporary Christian music band founded in Edmond, Oklahoma. The band consists of lead vocalist Bart Millard, percussionist Robby Shaffer, bassist Nathan Cochran and guitarists Michael Scheuchzer and Barry Graul.
MercyMe’s beginnings can be traced back to Bart Millard’s football-hungry hometown Greenville, Texas. “My dad and my older brother were both football players,” Bart recalls, “so naturally, that’s what I wanted to do as well. But I broke both my ankles in a high school football game and that ended my career. Our football practices took place during the school days, sort of a substitute for Physical Education. So since I couldn’t dress out for practice, I had to move into another elective class, and choir was the only thing open at that point in the semester. I reluctantly joined the choir and as it turned out, I had a great choir teacher and also had a very encouraging music minister at my church, who both prodded me to get more involved, do solos and so forth.”
Prior to the band’s formation in 1994, singer Bart Millard lost his father to cancer during his first year of college. Seeking a fresh start, Millard relocated to Lakeland, Florida at the encouragement of his youth pastor and soon became involved with leading a local praise group.
“I felt like I needed to get away, start fresh,” remembers Bart. “My youth pastor had moved to Lakeland, Florida and asked me if I’d be interested in coming down there and working with his praise band. I moved there at the end of my first year of college. That was the first time I ever did anything with a band … just a local youth group who played for a Wednesday night service. But I fell in love with it immediately.”
After befriending keyboardist Jim Bryson in the summer of 1994, the two traveled to Europe as part of a praise team and began taking both ministry and a career in music more seriously. By the end of that year, Millard and Bryson had moved to Oklahoma City and added guitarist Mike Scheuchzer to officially form MercyMe at the Henderson Hills Baptist Church.
After a brief move to Nashville in 1997, the trio settled in Dallas, Texas where bassist Nathan Cochran and percussionist Robby Shaffer joined the group, who were now playing over 200 dates a year. In August 2001, with an impressive six independent albums to their credit, MercyMe signed with INO Records.
Watch I Can Only Imagine below.
Bart says that having enjoyed success as an independent act, it took an astonishing set of circumstances to convince MercyMe it needed to sign a major label deal. “We were literally fulfilling all the roles an artist usually hires out … management, booking, marketing. We finally realized that we had played for nearly 200,000 people during 1999 and were selling albums at the same pace as many nationally known artists. Administratively, we were in over our heads to the point where we couldn’t have CDs printed as fast as we were selling them. We knew we needed help in fulfilling what God had called MercyMe to do.” So MercyMe began charting its future course with INO Records and Brickhouse Entertainment.
The group first gained mainstream recognition with the crossover Dove Award-winning single, I Can Only Imagine which elevated their debut album, Almost There, to triple platinum certification. The album topped the Christian charts, made the Top 40 in the overall album charts.
A rootsier album, Spoken For, followed in 2002 and performed well on the charts; it also earned the band three more Dove Awards. In 2003, veteran Christian rocker Barry Graul of Whitecross joined the band as a second guitarist, making his recorded debut on MercyMe’s third album, Undone, a year later.
Thanks to the singles Here with Me and Homesick, the band earned airplay on adult contemporary radio, marking yet another new frontier for them. Their fourth album, Coming Up to Breathe, arrived in April 2006. With a sharper sound less indebted to soft rock, it earned more critical acclaim and hit number 13 on Billboard’s album chart. The church-focused All That Is Within Me appeared in 2007, also breaking into the Top 20 on the album charts.
Following the 2009 best-of collection, 10, MercyMe recorded a concept album titled The Generous Mr. Lovewell. Released in 2010, it was both a critical and commercial success, debuting at number three on the overall album charts with three number one singles on the Christian charts (All of Creation, Beautiful, and Move“).
After nearly a decade with INO Records, MercyMe signed a deal with Columbia imprint Fair Trade, and released a more straightforward worship collection called The Worship Sessions in 2011. The more introspective and searching LP, The Hurt & the Healer, followed in 2012, peaking at number seven on the pop charts.
Watch Flawless here
Returning in 2014, the band took a more upbeat, danceable approach on Welcome to the New, which incorporated bits of jazz, rock, and roots music. A Christmas album, MercyMe, It’s Christmas, arrived in time for the 2015 holiday season.
Lifer was released in 2017 and delivered another high-energy set of faith-based and hook-laden songs, including the hit Even If. A film adaptation based on the story behind MercyMe’s massive 2001 crossover hit, I Can Only Imagine, premiered in 2018. To coincide with the film’s release, the band issued the career-spanning anthology I Can Only Imagine: The Very Best of MercyMe, which featured an updated version of the title song recorded for the movie.
MercyMe has won 8 Dove Awards and has had many Grammy Award nominations.