March 2, 2013 in Features

Faithful musicians

Christian rockers MercyMe to share music, message at Arena
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Grammy-nominated MercyMe is the organizer and headliner for this year’s Rock ’n’ Worship Road Show.
(Full-size photo)

If you go

Rock ’n’ Worship

Roadshow

What: Christian rock tour featuring MercyMe, Jeremy Camp, Tedashii, Kutless, Family Force 5, Luminate, Adam Cappa, Rhett Walker Band and Tim Timmons

When: 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Spokane Arena, 720 W. Mallon Ave., Spokane

Cost: $10 at the door; free-will donations will be collected inside

Now in its fifth year, the Rock ’n’ Worship Roadshow continues to bring big names and up-and-up-comers in Christian music together on one stage for one low price.

The tour, organized by the platinum-selling, Grammy- nominated rock band MercyMe, this year includes Jeremy Camp, Tedashii, Kutless, Family Force 5, Luminate, Adam Cappa, Rhett Walker Band and Tim Timmons.

The show, which comes to the Spokane Arena on Sunday, runs 3 to 3 ½ hours, all for $10.

“It’s a lot of music and it’s pretty nonstop,” said MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard. “We usually take an offering but make a really big deal about ‘look, not everybody needs to give if they can’t give.’ … But without the offering, we couldn’t do it.”

“It’s been amazing,” Millard added. “The shows keep growing. We’re selling out shows in different places, and it couldn’t be a better lineup, so we’re having a blast.”

Millard, speaking by phone from the tour bus en route to Salt Lake City, said the younger acts on the bill – Timmons, the Walker Band and Luminate – are all impressive.

“The Rhett Walker Band is amazing. They’re doing an amazing job,” he said. “Then Luminate, they’re gaining some pretty big momentum in radio right now.”

Millard and his MercyMe bandmates – keyboardist James Bryson, percussionist Robby Shaffer, bassist Nathan Cochran and guitarists Michael Scheuchzer and Barry Graul – know something about momentum. The group formed in 1994 and recorded a bunch of indie records before signing with INO Records in 2001.

Their INO debut, “Almost There,” sold 2 million copies. Four of their following releases went gold, with 500,000 copies sold. They’ve had 13 songs in the top 5 of Billboard’s Christian song chart and they’ve won eight Dove awards. Their latest record, “The Hurt & The Healer,” was released in May.

After nearly 20 years together, MercyMe is more than a band. It’s a family.

“I think U2 said, ‘Being in a band is like being in the mafia: They don’t let you out until you die,’ ” Millard said. “It really is like brothers on the road. It’s hard to explain because you see some bands implode not long after they start. … Lord willing, we feel we have another 20 in us, because everything’s been great and we get along so well and I think all of us agree we don’t want to get real jobs.”

Of course the real job of MercyMe is in spreading the word.

“We consider ourselves a ministry more than we are a rock band,” Millard said. “In that aspect, we want to make music that is relevant and appeals to people.”

It’s a ministry, however, that keeps the band on the road and away from family for long periods of time. Ultimately Millard said his work has helped remain strong in faith.

“I think the advantage is that (my faith is) something that I’m consciously thinking about on a daily basis and a lot of it is because of what I do. I stand on stage each night and talk about my faith, so sometimes it feels like I’m never 10 feet from it,” he said. “At other times, it’s a challenge to keep your faith sincere because you talk about it every day. You have those days where you don’t feel like talking about it yet people still respond in a great way, so you feel like you can phone it in. We’ve had seasons of going through that … where we felt in an unhealthy spot. In 20 years, you experience it all.

“Right now we’re in an unbelievable place,” he added. “Probably spiritually in a place we’ve never been in before, in a good way. It’s been quite a journey.”

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