The band behind the popular song "I Can Only Imagine," which is also the title of the movie inspired by its frontman's life story, just released its new album.
MercyMe recently released "inhale (exhale)" on April 30, comprising 16 tracks. The album's track, titled "Say I Won't," the song inspired by their friend Gary Miracle who lost both his arms and legs to an infection, now ranks No. 4 on multiple Billboard charts.
Speaking to The Christian Post, band members Bart Millard and Michael John Scheuchzer detailed their experience on the making of their latest album.
Millard said that the pandemic inspired the title of their album, "to just take a breath," remembering what really matters in life.
"You say it long enough, [then] it kind of happens. And so we decided to go with the title inhale (exhale), and we always thought it felt so fitting with everything we've gone through," he added.
The movie "I Can Only Imagine" earned $17.1 million in United States alone and more than $83 million in total sales.
After touring and the success of their film, Millard said that it took a while for him to return to songwriting. But the pandemic has hit them on their senses, pushing them to write songs again, free of deadlines.
Scheuchzer said that having no deadline to complete their songs has "good and bad" sides. But the ample time they had in making songs without having to rush allowed them to "pursue things that [they] probably wouldn't have felt like [they] could."
"There were songs that wouldn't have happened had we not had that extra time. So I think in the end, it really turned into something," he further explained.
Millard said that the success of their movie was "overwhelming and surreal." Today, whenever he performs in other places, people would flock to him and speak about the song, as well as the movie. He also met their current album's two vocalists, Gloria Gaynor and Gary LeVox, because of the film.
Scheutzer shared that the "I Can Only Imagine" song "took on a whole new life" because it is relatable with individuals who have lost their loved ones. He also revealed that the band even gets emails from people who are moved with the song.
Millard stated that each track was chosen to fit "the flow of the record," noting that they can still use the others which "didn't make it" on their next album.
He also disclosed that a pastor who stepped down from church was the inspiration of the song "Bright Side of Broken." It tells about the beauty of "being broken," believing that "suffering is a gift" because one can only "understand grace or forgiveness" during the time of hitting rock bottom.
"Brightside of broken is heart busted open with every break the light will chase the darkness away," the lyrics says.
"I know me at my worst and I can have a real hard time recognizing that anybody could ever forgive or love me as I am and that's what Jesus does," he said.
"I think it's just a great reminder to anybody. Because we all look in the mirror some days and are like, 'yeah, you're not that great.' Having that encouragement and that reminder that Christ sees us. If we can love ourselves the way He loves us, and He sees us, it'll change everything!" Scheuchzer continued.
For Millard, it was the song "A Little Love" that hits him.
"We're in such a polarizing society right now and this perfect storm of politics and pandemic, and all the crazy stuff that was 2020 to be able to say, 'a little love goes a long, long way.' It sounds so simple but so profound at the same time. It is absolutely a message, probably one of the most relevant messages on the album right now," Millard said about the song.
With "MercyMe" being named as Billboard's Top Christian artist of a decade and achieving a lot of success, Scheuchzer said that they are grateful of people's recognition for their craft. He added that they do not take anything for granted, especially with what happened during the pandemic the other year, when they could not perform on shows.
Millard is grateful as well.
"We've been in the band for 27 years. We've definitely seen the highs and lows, and we just can't believe that people still remotely care that we make music and that we're still able to avoid hard labor. So it's been a win-win all the way around. There's never been a how much longer do we do this? It's like, 'We still get to do it.' They're gonna have to take it from us, I guess, because we love making music so much," he said.
For their "Live and Outside" tour, the band plans to perform on baseball stadiums where people can have a spacious place "to spread out" for safety.
They are also facing a new challenge of selling their tickets and are waiting for availability of the venues since those are currently understaffed.
"[But] If 10 people show up, I will play like it's a million. I'm happy to be doing it. So we are adding shows whenever they'll tell us throughout the summer. Hopefully, we get a lot of them out there. The challenge is that every state's a little bit different in what they say you can and can't do," they added.
In consideration of their fans, the band is also gauging on safety concerns and appropriate protocols for their performances, which they said is a challenge.
"Not just when venues open, but the idea that baseball stadiums don't have enough staff and they're trying to hire people back or the safety stuff and everything you got to factor. In some of our meetings, we feel like adults having to make decisions and it's awful but it's worth it. We're just ready to do shows," Millard and Scheuchzer concluded, excited to return performing on shows.
"inhale (exhale)" was produced by Tedd T., Jordan Mohilowsji and Brown Bannister. The album was completed in more than two years. It features the songs "A Little Love" by Gary Levox, "Brand New" by Gloria Gaynor, and "Almost Home" and "On Our Way" featuring Millard's son Sam, among others.
For further information on their latest album and the new tour, visit mercyme.org.