CHAMPAIGN — After MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard’s Dove Award win for Songwriter of the Year, the band has another hit on the charts that comes from Millard’s own experience.
The concert is at 7 p.m. Sunday at the State Farm Center.
The multi-platinum band won the 2018 American Music Award for Favorite Artist — Contemporary Inspirational. Their new single, “Almost Home,” just came out.
Songwriter Millard writes from the heart.
It’s about passing on, and what a friend told him.
“We are running a race, and we’re almost home, and a friend told me we just have to go a step further, even if our legs are getting tired,” Millard said. “Heaven is almost home.”
Just released, “the radio started playing it two or three weeks ago, and we thought the label would wait until spring,” Millard said. “It’s had a really cool response.”
A new album will come out then, but the songwriter admitted “we’ve got about 10 more to write before that,” he said.
A tour is ending soon (another starts in February), the holidays will settle things down, and then he promises to knuckle down.
“My therapy is to write songs, some about me,” he said.
MercyMe’s best-known song, “I Can Only Imagine,” was inspired by Millard’s real-life family story.
“It’s surreal, I never expected it to be a movie,” he said.
The 2018 film is the true story about his father dying of cancer. It starred Dennis Quaid, Trace Adkins, J. Michael Finley, Cloris Leachman and Priscilla Shirer. The film is about the 10-year-old living with his mother and abusive father in Texas.
When he finally forgives his father almost too late, they form a deep bond.
The film grossed over $83 million.
“I’m ready to work on a list of songs that aren’t about me,” Millard joked.
His bond with other MercyMe musicians has never been stronger, he said.
“We’ve been a band for 25 years. We’ve done it the wrong way and the right way, and we’re the best we’ve ever been,” he said.
That includes some time apart.
“We cut back 60 or 70 shows a year to be husbands and fathers,” Millard said. “For years, we had the mentality that if we didn’t stay in the spotlight, we’d be forgotten. Social media helped with that. We’re cutting our shows in half — and still keeping working,” he said.
And the name?
“I was in college and about to take that fatal semester off,” he recalled. “My grandmother said, 'Iif you take a semester off, you won’t come back.'”
And “She said, ‘Mercy Me!’”