Christian pop band MercyMe has lived through quite a dizzying career.
In the time since their 2001 debut record, the four-time Grammy Award nominated group has sold more than 7 million records worldwide. They have racked up 26 No. 1 Christian radio singles while also enjoying a number of mainstream radio hits including “I Can Only Imagine,” “Here With Me,” “Homesick” and “So Long Self.”
Their enviable track record makes the fact they were ready to call it quits in the time leading up to the release of their eighth album, Welcome To The New, all the more surprising.
“Before this latest record, we did a lot of soul searching with respect to how much longer we wanted to keep the band going,” MercyMe bassist Nathan Cochran explains. “We are all growing older, of course, but our families are growing. Each of us want to be present husbands and fathers; there was a consensus that we were perhaps missing out on life at home. We had to take a step back and ask ourselves if being away from our families to pursue our calling is what we were supposed to be doing.”
Cochran says that while modern technology has made it arguably easier than ever to see and chat with their loved ones at almost any given point of the day, nothing can serve as an appropriate substitute for spending time with those they love.
While families weighed heavily on their minds in the time since their last studio album, 2012’s The Hurt & The Healer, Cochran says the band was also cognizant of not wanting to reach a point in their careers where they were simply going through the motions for their fans sake.
“We have always taken music seriously. So when we sign on to do a tour or make a new record, we want to go out there and give people what they deserve.
“It is a rare thing to be a part of a band that has lasted the better part of 20 years. We have always treated the band like family, but the ‘machine’ of keeping things moving forward has never been more important than anyone as an individual, however,” Cochran says.
Cochran says, somewhat relieved, that having those frank discussions prior to embarking on the process of recording and promoting Welcome To The New actually served to alleviate some pressure the band had been feeling.
“We felt a certain freedom when it came to the approach of these new songs,” he says.
Taking new approaches to their music and performances have been a key attribute to MercyMe’s impressive longevity.
This will be on full display at their show at the Moncton’s Wesleyan Celebration Centre on Wednesday night, as they interpret their vast catalogue of song into an acoustic style.
“Performing acoustically is something that we have done once or twice in the past, but it is something that we thoroughly enjoy doing,” Cochran says. “The songs lend themselves well to this kind of low-key format, plus it creates more of an intimate bond with the audience. Any time that we have the opportunity to present our songs in a new way is an exciting venture for us.”
Although MercyMe has experienced a handful of mainstream hits, their success has otherwise been largely relegated to the Christian community, a rare feat achieved by only a handful of other artists.
Many of MercyMe’s songs bear the hallmarks of pop music that regularly receives mainstream attention and airplay. Asked if the group has ever felt frustrated by being seemingly “boxed in” to the Christian music genre, Cochran expresses gratitude that the band has found success in any realm.
“I feel that certain songs of ours have the potential to transcend genres and could find a home in the mainstream market. Whether you’re of Christian faith or not, many of our songs centre on themes found in a lot of pop songs that people can ultimately identify with,” he says.
“One of the only things I feel that sets us apart from the mainstream is our lyrical content. I have always found it amusing that we have the freedom to write about whatever we want, but because we choose to write about our relationship with Christ, something that we are passionate about, the message doesn’t appeal to everybody. At the end of the day, music is a universal language. Some days, you just want to be entertained by it, and other days, it serves as something to make you think. We don’t worry about mainstream acceptance of the band. We just want to continue being honest about what we are doing.”
What: MercyMe: An Acoustic Night With MercyMe
When: Wednesday Apr. 29, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Moncton Wesleyan Celebration Centre, 945 St. George St., Moncton
Tickets start at $25. Advance tickets are available at Frank’s Music (245 Carson Dr., Moncton), by phone 1-877-700-3130 and online at ticketwindow.ca