Singer-songwriter, Bart Millard, met keyboardist, James Bryson, through his youth group's worship band. Following a successful show in Switzerland, the pair decided to pursue music full time. They joined up with guitarist, Mike Scheuchzer, and moved to Oklahoma, whereabouts the trio set up a studio in an abandoned day care center. Bassist, Nathan Cochran and drummer, Robby Shaffe soon joined and in 1995, MercyMe released their debut independent album, Pleased to Meet You.
The band name came from Millard's grandmother, who, during Millard's time as a youth ministry intern, would humorously ask him: "Well mercy me, why don't you get a real job?"
Millard had planned to follow in his father's and brother's footsteps and become a professional football player, but he broke both of his ankles in high school and was consequently forced to choose another elective class: choir.
MercyMe released six albums independently before they signed to INO Records (now known as Fair Trade Services) in 2001. The band's major label debut album, Almost There
, was released that same year. The album included the song "I Can Only Imagine," which was a major crossover hit for MercyMe, peaking at #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart and cracking the Hot 100 at #71. It was also the first ever song by a Christian band to tally 1 million downloads. In our interview, Millard
said it felt as if God spoke through him when he wrote "I Can Only Imagine": "I felt like I was a spectator watching the song being written, it went so fast and with no mistakes and stuff like that. God just kind of used me in a big way. You write 'em and say, Man, you have something special."
Millard told us his two favorite hymn writers were Fanny Crosby and Bill Gaither: "Fanny Crosby has written some unbelievable songs. And I kind of grew up as a kid with the Bill Gaither 'I Am A Promise' and little kids' songs."
In 2003, the guitarist, Barry Graul, formerly of the Christian rock band, Whitecross, joined MercyMe.
On August 8, 2009, MercyMe's tour bus collided with a car in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The band were uninjured, but the car's two passengers, driver and the driver's unborn baby were all killed in the crash. MercyMe released the following statement after the tragic incident: "MercyMe would like to express their incredible heartache over this horrible accident. They are praying for the families of all who this will affect, and are asking others to please pray as well. The band and crew sustained minor bumps and bruises, however their hearts are heavy. They appreciate the concern they have received from people all over the world."
Millard's cousin, a firefighter from Dallas, was killed in the line of duty. His death inspired much of the material on The Hurt & The Healer, which was released in 2012. Millard spoke to us about said album: "It was written a few weeks after my cousin, who was a firefighter in Dallas, was killed in the line of duty. And I found myself speaking at the funeral. Just a few minutes before I got up to speak, I realized, Man, I've got to stand here and explain to 3,000 firefighters how somehow God is still in control. It did come out of a really difficult time, and I'm just hoping that it connects with people that are going through similar situations."
Millard is married to his childhood sweetheart, Shannon. The couple have five children - Sam, Gracie, Charlie, Sophie and Miles. Sam was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes when he was two years old, prompting Millard to launch Imagine A Cure, a charity which supports research into finding a cure for the disease.