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The Sound



When MercyMe performs at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on March 26, they’ll play from nine different albums. With 67 multiformat No. 1 hits, more than a dozen music awards and nominations, MercyMe is synonymous with Christian rock.

MercyMe bassist Nathan Cochran spoke to CITYVIEW and explains their success of staying together for 25 years.

“We treat it like a family,” he says. “We’ve stuck together and supported each other along the way. We’re still best friends with one another.”

The band’s lyrics and music give encouragement and hope to their listeners. One triple-platinum song, “I Can Only Imagine,” talks about loss and reuniting others. Cochran explains why people react emotionally to their lyrics.

“A lot of people can relate to that,” he says. “Everyone understands about hurt, pain and loss. We write about our own life experiences and try to be honest. We don’t hide our own lives.”

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Providing honest music is ingrained in their Christian view.

“We live our life how we treat others,” he says. “The song is a catalyst to help them get through a tough time in their life. It’s neat how our songs can live on. We always believe there’s hope on the other side.”

Cochran says their lyrics are genuine and not sound bites. He explains, “There’s folks who may fabricate their lyrics with an emotional pull. We don’t do that.”

Having fun is also foremost in their concerts. The video for the song “Happy Dance” features the band in white bowties, encouraging people to dance.

“Our kids call us ‘cringey,’ ” laughs Cochran.

Christian music is not defined by genre; it’s defined by musical content. Christian rock can be hard-driving guitar or flowing ballads.

Whatever the music, the message remains the same — it’s centered on Christ.

“There’s no rules. What consumes us is our relationship with Christ. As a Christian band, we share a world view of hope and treating others with kindness,” Cochran says.

Throughout the years, music has changed. At their first concert, they burned CDs to sell to fans. Today the recording process is easier.

“There’s no barriers to getting music to our fans. It’s an exciting time. It’s cool there’s no middleman between you and the fans anymore,” he says.

The band has received dozens of music accolades, and Cochran says they couldn’t have done it without their lifelong fans — and their wives’ approval.

“Every time we get an award, we look at each other and say, ‘Cool, we get to keep doing this.’ Plus our wives say it’s OK, too,” he says.

Touring is tough. Six years ago, the band cut the number of shows they were doing in half. It helps with family obligations, which is a high priority.

“For a long time, we thought we could balance work and family,” he reflects. “There really isn’t a balance. Family always wins. Family comes first.”

Cochran’s most recent award was also the most special award he’s received so far.

“My 4-year-old son wanted to give me a trophy for the best Jedi dad in the world,” he says. “That’s all I needed.” ♦

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