How the pandemic gave MercyMe an appreciation for being in the moment – San Bernardino Sun

The pandemic changed several things for MercyMe. It altered the highly popular Christian band’s plans for releasing a new album. It torpedoed touring, keeping the band off of the road during what was supposed to be a busy schedule of live shows. Perhaps most significantly, it brought a different appreciation for what MercyMe does to frontman/main songwriter Bart Millard and the rest of the band.

“COVID forced me to slow down and appreciate the moment more than ever. And I’m still kind of in that mindset. So we treat these tours like they’re our last,” Millard said in a recent phone interview. “And we’ll sit in the dressing room for a solid hour afterwards.

“It’s enjoying everything that happened that night and laughing about it,” he elaborated. “Even if it’s you forgot the solo or messed up, it isn’t like ‘Come on, get it right.’ We’re just laughing, going ‘That’s the funniest thing I ever heard.’ It’s a different attitude and we’ll never take it (MercyMe’s career) for granted from this point out…It’s like when somebody’s like when are you guys going to call it quits? I don’t think we will. We’ll just kind of maybe do less shows. But I don’t see any value in doing the ‘We’re retiring.’ It’s like the mafia. We’re in this thing until we die, probably.”

That’s reassuring news for MercyMe fans, especially considering there was a point before the group made their 2014 album, “Welcome To The New,” where all five members, Millard, bassist Nathan Cochran, guitarists Michael John Scheuchzer and Barry Graul and drummer Robby Shaffer, seriously pondered whether they had run their course as a band.

Instead that period of reflection and assessment brought about a sense of renewal to the band, which is now in its 28th year. MercyMe comes to Honda Center in Anaheim Saturday, March 26, and Toyota Arena in Ontario on Sunday, April 3.

But it’s not like MercyMe hadn’t enjoyed considerable success before then. The breakthrough came with the song “I Can Only Imagine.” It was released on the 2001 MercyMe album, “Almost There,” and went on to cross over to mainstream pop in 2003, reaching No. 5 on “Billboard” magazine’s Adult Contemporary singles chart. The group has gone on to release nine more albums, six of which have gone gold or platinum, while notching 17 No. 1 Christian singles along the way. Billboard magazine named MercyMe its Christian artist of the decade for 2000-2009.

Now, after some two years of pandemic-induced uncertainty and adjustment, MercyMe are touring to promote the group’s new album, “Inhale/Exhale,” whose songs are prominently featured in the show alongside earlier hits.  While the guys in MercyMe weren’t sure ahead of time how tickets would sell, the band didn’t hold back anything with the shows.

“It’s our biggest production, the biggest show we’ve ever done,” Millard enthused. “We just wanted to give the fans, if they were willing to come out, to give them something really special. So we’re pulling out a lot of tricks and a lot of things we’ve never done.”

If you go

Anaheim: 7 p.m. Saturday, March 26. Honda Center, 2695 E. Katella Ave. $29-$150. 714-704-2400,

Ontario: 7 p.m. Sunday, April 3. Toyota Arena, 4000 E. Ontario Center Parkway. $29-$150. 909-244-5500,

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