Orlando — MercyMe has no problem continuing to ride high on “Lifer,” their 2017 album. “This is like the post-movie tour,” said bassist Nathan Cochran.
The Oklahoma-based Christian band scored a Grammy nomination this year for the record’s single “Grace Got You.” They will be hitting the Amway Center on Saturday (7 p.m., 400 W. Church St. in Orlando, $25 and up, ticketmaster.com).
MercyMe has been a mainstay in the contemporary Christian music scene since their formation in 1994. They hit crossover success in 2001 with the single “I Can Only Imagine.” That track earned the band the first of several Gospel Music Association Dove Awards.
On the phone, Cochran shared stories of the changes in their lives and industry and how that hasn’t changed their faith. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Question: You’re going back into the studio soon to record a new album. Do you write from an idea of what you want the album to be about?
Answer: It’s kind of dependent on what is happening in life with us. The last two records are kind of like part one and part two. We don’t necessarily have a theme at the moment. We do have a working idea of what we want. We don’t set one idea and fabricate stuff to cope with that idea. It’s really the opposite. We just want to be honest about why we’re writing, why we choose to do what we do, and then see what kind of record we’ve got when all that’s put together.
Q: Over the 25 years of your career, have the struggles in your lives changed in regards to what you write about?
A: They haven’t changed in regards to our faith. When we started this, we were just entering the phase of our lives where we were all getting married. Now we’ve all been through that process. Then we started having kids and now our oldest kids are in their teens. So all those things have changed. Our families are changing, our parents getting older, just life stuff keeps happening. The faith stuff, that’s our worldview. So everything we write comes out of that worldview. As far as what we do as a band and the industry we’re in, nothing has really changed as far as why we do what we do. Struggles have changed because of things happening around us. Life has changed and we’re just trying to keep up.
Q: How do you balance the challenges of your industry with your faith?
A: We’re making records that we hope people want to purchase and we’re selling tickets to shows, so we always take that seriously. Because we can write about whatever we want. We just choose to be honest about the biggest deal in our lives being our relationship with Christ.
Our industry, we have watched it go from having people selling CDs and doing what they can to nobody buying CDs anymore and playing all the live shows. We watched it go from rock and grunge pop music when we started to candy pop stuff and back and forth. It mimics any other genre. The only thing setting us apart is lyrical content. We’re just grateful. We’re scratching our heads thinking, “Man, we said we could do this, and here we are, nearly 25 years later.” That’s unique for any genre.
Q: Have you ever been concerned that you’re tailoring your work to fit the trends?
A: The best way for me to answer that is, when our song “I Can Only Imagine” came out, we had about a year of doing our own thing and then it hit the mainstream market, which we had never had happen before. At the time, I remember the conversation came up of asking did we change what we’re saying to try to fit into the larger market. And what we heard … was, “Please, don’t change anything.” For some [mainstream DJs], it was the most shocking thing they could talk about ... that they had this overtly Christian band on the radio. It was the biggest thing they could do to surprise people.
Other than the fact of what we’re talking about in the songs, there was never any reason for us to try to be any different. We’ve tried to push the envelope musically a little bit, but we’re still the pop rock band we’ve always been. But we’ve never felt the pressure to be anything we weren’t.
Q: How have your audiences changed over the years?
A: When we first started, we were doing camps and conferences. A lot of youth. And then when “I Can Only Imagine” was released a lot of older folks started coming out. Now the last 10 or 15 years, you run the gamut at our shows. Families bringing their young kids, grandparents coming out, you see everyone at our shows.