RezFest headliner MercyMe discusses changes in band, Christian music

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

March 20, 2013 at 1:04 p.m.
Updated March 19, 2013 at 10:20 p.m.



MercyMe, one of Christian music's most celebrated bands, will give its third performance at RezFest this weekend at Brackenridge Main Event Center in Edna.

Michael Scheuchzer, who has been with the band since its start, caught up with Get Out about the band's ups and downs, the evolution of the Christian genre and making a career out of music.

With MercyMe headlining RezFest again, do you have any surprises in store?

We are going to be there. We're playing a lot of new songs off our latest record, and we're excited about these songs. We had a fresh wind this season just coming off The Roadshow. It's a really great time not just playing songs on stage but the camaraderie backstage.

We've had some ups and downs. Maybe we're coming out of the downs. A year ago, it was work. It's becoming a joy again.

When we first started, I was way more nervous to get on stage. I had a massive lack of confidence. Probably six to seven years into it, I had a really false confidence and was arrogant. Now, I'm truly grateful to get to play music.

There are people who understand what we're trying to do, and they're excited and singing along.

Even when you're having a bad day and don't feel like playing, you play that one song, and it doesn't matter anymore that you're having a bad day because it's bigger than you. It's bigger than the fans. It's an act of worship.

We're excited to be part of music again. We're in a really good place.

What mark do you hope the songs leave on your listeners?

Hopefully, we write songs that people like and are catchy and maybe their kids want to dance to it. More than that, we hope it helps them reach through in their lives.

There's nothing wrong with music that has no point. We hope to leave people asking questions. We hope the songs don't go in vain, that they'll help someone else when they're dealing with something like the loss of a loved one.

It edifies us, encourages us and helps us to grow. It's for a lost and dying world.

How has the Christian rock scene evolved since MercyMe started nearly 20 years ago?

It started with Bart and myself, and Jim, the keyboard player, just retired from traveling. Our drummer's been with us almost the whole time.

I don't know if I have seen it change?

Really? It seems more available than it was.

It seems there's always people who are on the fringe of the Christian music scene. They're believers, but their music rides the fence of Christian and secular - like Switchfoot. I think there's more of that happening without the attitude that it used to come with: "Oh, we're Christians, and we're in a band, but we're not a Christian band."

It's more to the point where we as artists are going to write about what influences us and consumes us. For us, that happens to be Christ. That music will speak more to the church than outside the church, but I think fewer and fewer artists want to be pigeon-holed that we only write songs for the church.

The attitude toward the fence between Christian and secular music has gone away.

There was a point where our industry didn't seem to keep up. We were stylistically behind everybody else. If there was a rock band that came out in mainstream, there was one that came out five years later in Christian. We've had a lot of artists, like The Afters off their first record, that didn't sound like anybody else out there.

Is there a line anymore between secular and Christian music?

We had "Imagine" cross over, it was an anomaly before - it was well done. It didn't sound like we were copying whoever in mainstream. We just wrote a song that connected with people.

We're not that different. LaCrae has more scripture in his lyrics than anybody in Christian music, and he's opening for T.I. at South by Southwest.

The lines are being blurred in a good way. There's valuable art in the Christian realm. The Sistine Chapel was painted, and it's world famous - it was a church. It wasn't a bar.

What was the deal with protestors at the Louisiana show last month?

We don't really put too much thought to that. There's nothing that gives the church as a whole a bigger black eye than us pointing fingers at each other. One of my musical influences is U2. They protested us because of that one little blip on our website.

For them to stand out there and say I'm going to Hell because of that, what does that say to a lost and dying world? If I'm hurting, alone and looking for help, I'm not going to the help that says everybody on that stage who played for Jesus is going to Hell.

It's frustrating for sure, but we don't lose any sleep over it. They're just confused and misinterpreting the gospel.

With MercyMe's success, how do you balance expenses with the desire to share the message with people?

We have no idea. We started the Rock and Worship Roadshow that played at American Airlines Center in Dallas for $10 a ticket. We had a $20 advance sell. We offered that, and it seemed to work really well in Dallas, and we may try it in other cities.

It costs a ton. We're in a bus. It can cost us up to $1,000 to fill it up to drive to the next city. There are real costs involved, and I have a mortgage. Bart has a mortgage. We all have bills to pay to take care of our families.

We're entertainment, but we're also sharing the gospel, and it shouldn't be an extravagant thing for people to hear the gospel.

What's your journey with the band been like so far?

Long and tiring. It was '94 when we started the band. It's a weird thing - you start out and dream of being a musician when you're a kid. I'd dance around with a tennis racket and pretend to be Donny and Marie from the Hawaiian Punch commercials.

You dream about it, but you don't really tell a lot of people because they think it's silly.

When it started to happen and it was four of us living in an abandoned day care center barely making ends meet - that's all a part of our early day stories.

You soak it up because you never know when it's going to end. The fact I've been able to do it 18 years is pretty overwhelming.



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