When MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard
talks about the band’s latest album, Welcome to the New,
it’s with the passion of an artist rejuvenated and reborn.
He’s proud of the lively, spirited rock vibe that drives
many of the 10 tracks and still basking in the glow of the
recording sessions, where he and his bandmates left their
comfort zone and stretched the boundaries of the MercyMe
And, since its 2014 release, it has spawned several hits including "Shake," "Greater," "Flawless," and the latest "Dear Younger Me."
But when he talks about the overarching theme of Welcome To The New (Fair Trade) Millard gets especially fervent. And here’s why: “New” is the fruit of his real-life embrace of grace. It all adds up to a musical, lyrical and spiritual turning point—that most rare of trifectas for a beloved veteran act that’s been at it since 1994, and has four gold albums and a platinum disc to its credit.
Simply put: If Millard asked big questions on 2012’s The Hurt & The Healer, then Welcome To The New steps out boldly with a bigger answer that he didn’t find so much as it found him. (More on that in a bit.)
“The last album was about needing a full-blown collision with the healer—when my family was hanging on by a thread, my cousin who was a firefighter died, and I wrote the title song in 10 minutes in a concert arena, in tears,” Millard recalls. “I was thinking, ‘Why we do we go though this mess, this junk in our lives? Is there any chance that what I’m going though is not in vain?’ And Welcome to the New is the answer to that song: It’s where we landed after the collision. And we didn’t go through it in vain. I feel like the gospel has come to life for the first time.”
You can hear Millard’s conviction
in the album closer “Dear Younger Me,” a song he
considers the most personally meaningful on “Welcome To
The New.” Built around an organic, slapped percussion
loop and plaintive swells of electric guitar, the song is
framed “like a letter to my younger self. I was physically
abused as a kid and I’ve had a chance to play this song for
people who’ve been through similar things.
This is the one song I hope brings a lot of healing to people.” Wrestling with how to encourage and bolster his younger self, Millard lands on this refrain: “You are holy / you are righteous / you are one of the redeemed / set apart / a brand new heart / you are free indeed.”
Yet from start to finish, MercyMe wraps the “New” message in music that’s infectious and inventive. The track “Greater” shows the band taking delightful chances and succeeding. Imagine shades of the Lumineers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack, then throw the result into full gallop under a big sky: “Bring your doubts, bring your fears / Bring your hurt, bring your tears / There’ll be no condemnation here / You are holy, righteous and redeemed.”
“If there was one song that musically and spiritually represents the place where we are, the grace message of joy, ‘Greater’ is it,” Millard notes.
Then there’s the song “Shake,”
the first hit single from “Welcome To The New." The
song currently sits at #8 on Billboard's Contemporary
Christian Top 25 charts.
"Shake" is and a throwback to the days of INXS and their most funky, danceable material. “We thought it was a great way to kick off the record,” Millard says. “It’s a little bit of a departure from what we do.” Actually, it was a big departure for Millard when it came to showing off his moves for the music video.
“I grew up Southern Baptist which means I would be banished if I were to learn how to dance,” he says, laughing. “But we figured that everyone has at least a good shimmy in them. Even my grandmother, she can shake it.” And the theme of rebirth shows MercyMe putting its
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