Artist Interviews
September 14th, 2002

On September 14th, 2002, I sat down with Mike Scheuchzer (guitar) and Nathan Cochran (bass) of MercyMe at Festival Con Dios in Atlanta, Georgia at the Perimeter Mall. The rest of the guys in the band were unable to attend this interview because of other commitments, but Mike and Nathan had plenty to say. Not only are these two guys great musicians, but they were also extremely cool to hang out with and very nice guys all around. Check out the entire band and their new release “Spoken For” at www.mercyme.org.


Brent: So introduce yourselves and tell our website visitors what instrument you play.

Nathan: My name is Nathan and I am the bass player.

Mike: And I am Mike, and I’m the guitar player.

Brent: So how was the first day of the Festival Con Dios tour?

Mike: It was fun…fun.

Brent: Any problems or funny things happen?

Mike: Not really, it actually went pretty smoothly. I was surprised.

Brent: Beautiful Spartanburg, South Carolina, eh?

Nathan: (laughter) That’s right.

Mike: We were in….it wasn’t even a mall parking lot; I don’t know what it was…pretty strange.

Nathan: Waccamaw Expo Center parking lot.

Mike: Yes, the Waccamaw Expo Center…it was scary. No, it was cool and fun just getting to hang out with all the other bands a little bit; getting to hang out with our heroes.

Brent: So how did you guys get together as a band in the first place?

Mike: Eight years ago…well, probably longer than that actually…Bart’s youth minister moved to Florida to be my youth minister and Bart came a little later to be the youth intern and started singing in the praise band. I started taking guitar lessons from the guitar player who left to work for a drug rehab center. So I joined the band and we were just leading worship Wednesday nights for our youth group and it kind of grew out of that a bit. At the same time Bart was working with a group called All-Star Ministries out of Tulsa. They were going around the country just doing little weekend events to promote overseas missions and Jim was playing with them…our keyboard player…was playing in their band and Bart was helping with video or something he really didn’t know anything about. (laughter) He just started up a friendship with Jim and they ended up doing a camp in Switzerland where Bart went and he was the singer for the band. He and Jim and another guy started joking about doing a band full time and we had been talking about it, too, back in Florida. We just really felt God calling us to do it…to be a worship band full time. He came back home and told me to pray about it and about a month and a half later we moved to Oklahoma City from Florida to start a band. Probably a year and a half after that Robby came on as our drummer. We had twenty-one drummers…. (laughter)

Brent: (laughter) Yeah, I’ve heard that story before.

Mike: Yeah, they all spontaneously combust. (laughter) But yeah, Robby came on about a year and a half later and then about a year and a half after that our bass player left…and Robby was like, “My sister’s dating this guy who plays guitar…he can probably play bass.” And so that’s how we met Nathan… (laughter)

Brent to Nathan: So is that all there is to the story?

Nathan: (shakes head) True…it’s all true.

Brent: Where did the band name Mercy Me come from?

Nathan: (laughs and groans)

Mike: When Bart was living in Florida as the intern for my youth group his grandma would call all the time to see how he was doing. It seemed like every time she called he would be at home, because interns don’t really do anything… (laughter) They just staple stuff. One day she asked him, “Why are you always home when I call?”, and he’s like, “Well I’ve got this next year kind of slated off to think of a good band name”…he was being a smart alec… and she’s like, “Well mercy me, Bart! Why don’t you get a real job!?” (laughter) That’s all it came from. No big spiritual meaning or anything.

Brent: Okay. Who are some of the musicians or bands that you looked up to that influenced you growing up? …Or even recently?

Nathan: Ahhh…hmmm. I’d say the whole band in general has a big U2 influence overall. We all listen to lots of different stuff. We listen to lots of Christian music. Obviously there’s a few secular bands we like, but I don’t know… Growing up I listened to mostly just Christian music, so I grew up listening to bands like PFR, dcTalk, and all those guys.

Brent: No Stryper? (laughter from all)

Mike: Oh man, I was a big Stryper guy! They’re reissuing Oz Fox’s guitar…this guy is custom making his guitar…it’s like three grand, so I’m never gonna get it, but it’s…pretty exciting to know.

Brent to Mike: So the same kind of music for you?

Mike: Yeah, I didn’t really listen to much Christian music growing up… Well, when I was a little kid my parents made me listen to it and nothing else… When I hit probably fifth or sixth grade I started listening to the radio…didn’t really listen to much Christian music until probably when I was 17 or 18 in the youth group. That was probably about the time I started living for God and started realizing that I probably needed to listen to something else other than Led Zeppelin or Pearl Jam all the time. Actually the first CD I remember getting into was Audio Adrenaline’s “Don’t Censor Me”…with “Big House” on it…which I’m sure they’d love to know. (laughter) That was my first real Christian CD. I started getting into it through that. Probably the first band that made me say, “Wow, Christian music is really cool”, was PFR… “Great Lengths”… They were touring on that tour and Jars of Clay was opening for them before they even had an album out. That just absolutely blew me away. Joel Hanson is just one of the most incredible guitar players. It blew me away to see just how much they totally rocked live. So I went out and bought the album and kind of grew from there. Now I probably listen to about half and half Christian and secular.

Brent: So what are you guys listening to now? What’s in your CD player now?

Nathan: Hmmm

Mike: U2, U2, and U2… (laughter)

Nathan: We’re big fans of Delirious.

Mike: Yeah, a lot of Delirious. Brian McSweeney…the lead singer of Seven Day Jesus has a new band out called Matthew. I listen to that a lot. There’s a local band in Dallas that we’re good friends with that’s incredible called Blisse. They’re phenomenal.

Brent: The new album is out October 1st. What kind of different things should we expect from that?

Mike: Not too much different…it’s a worship album. On the whole I think we feel like it’s a better album than “Almost There”. Obviously it doesn’t have “I Can Only Imagine”, which a lot of people really took hold of that song and made it their own… We have no idea how well it will do…

(At this point Ben Cissell from Audio Adrenaline walks by with his hands full of ice cream and other food. We were set up for our interview outside of the mall area, but just inside one of the entrances so it would be quieter than in the mall itself.)

Mike: (gasps) It’s Ben Cissell!

Ben: You guys can go in the mall, man…I promise it’s okay!

Mike: We’re allowed to?! (laughter from all)

Nathan: Get out!

Mike: Are you eating ICE CREAM at 10 o’clock in the morning?!?

(back to the interview)

Mike: Oh yeah…the interview. So we’re excited about the new album coming out…just to see what it will do. I don’t know if it will have the impact that “Almost There” did. For us I think we kind of like the album a little more…I think it will be more fun to play live. So we’re all really excited about it and looking forward to it.

Brent: I’ve heard some clips and they sound great so far. (to Nathan) Have anything to add to that?

Nathan: (ponders) Nah, he said it all. (laughter)

Brent: Mike’s your spokesman?

Nathan: Yeah…

Mike: Only when Bart’s not around! (laughter)

Brent: So what are your favorite tracks off the new album?

Mike: (to Nathan) I need to think about that one…you go.

Nathan: Hmm… I’m going to pick a fast song because most people don’t hear fast ones from us. A song called “Come One, Come all”.

Mike: Ooh, that’s a good one, yeah.

Nathan: I like listening to that one.

Brent: But not playing it?

Nathan: (laughter) Well yeah, we actually haven’t played it since we recorded it.

Mike: Yeah, since our producer got all over it and changed everything. (laughter) Mine would probably be…there’s two songs. One called “All of The Above”, which is also an upbeat number, and one called “There Is A Reason”. Both of them are just great songs…total worship songs. “All of The Above” is all about remembering the time… You know, as Christians we tend to forget what Christ did for us in saving us. Not what He does for us in providing for us everyday, but just remembering the day that He saved us. That’s what the song is all about; just remembering the day. Because the Bible says that on the day you were saved all the angels rejoiced. That’s what it’s saying…just remembering the time when all of the above rejoiced. That’s probably like a real theme song.

Brent: Is there any kind of verse or scripture that serves as a running theme to the album?

Mike: I don’t think there’s a certain verse… The whole album is kind of encompassed by salvation and is just really reflective of the day you were saved and the reasons why we have… Like that song “There Is A Reason”… Bart started writing it a little after September 11th because it seemed like so many people had just… A lot of people grabbed hold of God and there were a lot of people who were just like, “I have no reason to celebrate right now.” Even Christians were saying it’s too dark of a time. Even in this darkest time of our country, you know, we still have reason to celebrate as Christians. There is a reason for us to sing in the midst of this tragedy and this horrific thing that happened.

Brent: I have a question from a website user… There was a question about a DVD. Do you guys have any plans for a live DVD or anything like that?

Nathan: A live DVD…that may be one. We’d like to do one sometime, but…

Mike: We attempted it once…and that might be what they’re talking about. Some people know that we were going to do a live DVD at The Door in Dallas…a club down there. We realized that we don’t play very well live…and… (laughter) We just had a rough night that night…we didn’t play great. The DVD side of it…the images were great, but the audio we kind of shanked. Bart’s voice was doing a little rough that night, so we had to scrap that for now, but there will be one eventually I’m sure.

Nathan: It was a two or three day thing we crammed into one day.

Mike: Yeah, we didn’t plan for how much work it would actually be.

Brent: So from “Almost There”; what’s your favorite song from that one?

Both: Oooh…hmm.

Brent: We all know what everyone else’s favorite song is… (sarcasm) I can only imagine what that would be… (laughter from all)

Mike: My favorite song we’ve done since… It was actually on “The Worship Project”. It’s my favorite song from back then off our independent album that “I Can Only Imagine” came from. It’s “Cannot Say Enough”, which is a really simple worship song. I loved it before “Almost There”, but when Pete, our producer, got a hold of it he just nailed it and…nailed it…yeah…just perfect. That was probably my favorite one…sorry Nathan!

Nathan: Man, Mike took mine…yeah.

Mike: Well there’s only one good song on the album, so… (laughter)

Brent: What’s the process you go through when coming up with songs?

Both: Different every time.

Mike: It is. On “Almost There”…a lot of those we wrote together as a band. A lot of times Bart would have a melody or some lyrics and he’d come to us and say, “I’ve got these lyrics…I really think it should be a slow song” and we’d just get together and do it. With the new album we got together and just wrote a ton of music and didn’t have any lyrics for it until about a month and a half ago. Didn’t have any lyrics or melody. We just played this music, laid it down, and gave Bart CD’s to sing to and write lyrics to. It’s a really different way of doing it and I don’t think we’ll ever do it this way again because it’s really stressful. Up until the last, you know, month that I’ve actually heard stuff I was like, “I don’t know if this album’s going to be any good”. But for the grace of God I think it’s going to be a really good album. He definitely was involved in it, which is the only reason it’s going to be any good. But I don’t want to do another album the way we did this one. I think we took the harder road on this one for sure.

Brent: I know you probably get a lot of questions about “I Can Only Imagine”, but on the DVD you receive when you pre-order “Spoken For” you guys said that it started out as a fast song originally… What’s that all about?

Mike: Yeah, it kind of started out…not really fast, but just mid-tempo, U2…what’s it called? “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”…that kind of vibe. It just didn’t work and we tried a couple different things. We tried going more of a Delirious route and it just didn’t work. It really was down to the wire when we were packing things up and Jim was just goofing around with the keyboard and it just happened…so we started putting things back together so we could record it. It was really an afterthought. Even on the album we were like, “Well this will be a good song on the album, but it’s not going to be the worship song that people really worship to on this album.” (laughter) Just shows how much we know…

Brent: Another website user question… How do you do this day in and day out…the same shows, same songs, things like that. How do you keep your focus where it needs to be? Does it get old?

Nathan: There are definitely times when playing the same songs over and over gets old…but the crowd’s different every night. Their reaction to the times of worship is always different. What God does in a group of people is different every night, so… Because of that it keeps it fresh. God never gets boring.

Mike: I think it would be different if we were just doing concert songs, but the fact that it’s worship, you really do see God moving. I think that, just like Nathan said, keeps it new every night.

Brent: What’s been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make since you’ve “made it big”?

Mike: It really hasn’t changed that much. We live in Texas, so we’re really not in the midst of the industry, which lives in Nashville. We have a lot of time to ourselves. It just really hasn’t changed that much for us, which is really good. If it would’ve changed…for me I could easily get a big head if everywhere I go everyone was like “Hey, that’s so and so”…that doesn’t happen, though. Occasionally we’ll go to Six Flags on a night when Delirious is playing…there’s obviously a bunch of youth groups there and…if we’re in Dallas people will spot us because they know we live there. It’s not a big deal. I think the other thing is that we’re worship leaders and they don’t… I know some people look up to us as musicians or whatever, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think maybe they relate us to their own worship leaders in their churches sometimes because that’s really all we’re doing. We’re trying not to draw attention to ourselves on stage.

Brent: What about you, Nathan?

Nathan: (shrugs) (laughter) It hasn’t really changed much. It’s really just kind of expanded our ministry is the best way to put it. We haven’t changed what we do or the ways we do it, it’s just gotten a little bigger.

Mike: Really it’s all been overshadowed because in the past year Bart had a baby, Nathan had a baby, I got married. It’s all great with everything that’s happened, but our personal lives; there’s so much more happening than the record selling.

Brent: Have there been any embarrassing moments on stage?

Mike: Oh, every night. Every time I put a guitar on is an embarrassing moment.

Nathan: Jim was playing accordion one time when we were playing on a small stage. He was sitting on a stool and the stool fell backwards and he’s still holding his accordion playing up against him… (laughter)

Mike: But then he got pinned by the accordion and it took like four guys to get him out. That was the funny part. You just see his legs sticking up because he had his B-3 out there…you could see these two feet sticking up above the B-3 and we’re like, “What in the world is going on?” He was pinned by an accordion. (laughter)

Brent: So what’s a typical tour day like for you guys?

Nathan: We usually don’t get going until around 11.

Mike: (big yawn) We try not to at least… or I start yawning like that. (laughter)

Nathan: We kind of stand around until we figure what we’re gonna do. As for Con Dios, we can’t really do anything until around noon and then we work for about 30 minutes and we’re done again until around 6:00.

Brent: Since we’re a musical instrument related website, what kind of gear do you guys like to use?

Mike: (makes Tim Allen grunting noise)

Brent: So that’s the question you wanted to hear?

Mike: Yeah, I was thinking, well this is a guitar website…maybe I’ll get to answer some gear questions…that’ll be fun!

Nathan: (laughs) Yeah.

Mike: I actually just got a couple new pedals I’m really excited about. The Full Tone Full Drive 2 and the Full Tone Fat Boost. I’m really just a big stomp box guy…you know, a cool guitar, a cool amp, and a bunch of stomp boxes. I’ve got a Gibson ’72 Les Paul Deluxe gold top and then a standard Fender Telecaster that’s probably six or seven years old. I just got a Gibson ES-135…a guy at Gibson gave it to me. He’s like the plant manager in Memphis. He just believes in our ministry, which is just awesome. He actually toured me around the plant and he was introducing all these people to me along the way…and probably 50 to 75 percent of them were all Christians who work at Gibson. He said they pray for every guitar that leaves there that it would be used to glorify the Kingdom. He said they pray for the owners and their plant bosses. It was incredible…so I have that much more respect for Gibson guitars. D’Addario strings…I play a Tophat amp. It’s kind of a boutique amp…a custom kind of amp I guess. Halfway between a Vox and a Matchless probably…at half the cost!

Brent: So what about you, Nathan?

Nathan: Umm… I play Fender Jazz basses…pretty much all I play. I’ve got one from the eighties. It’s got EMG pickups in it that I love. It’s all I’ve used on “Almost There” and the new album “Spoken For” that’s the only thing I used. I just got an Ashdown amp that I’m loving…

Mike: Yeah, it’s bad!

Nathan: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. As far as effects go, I run direct and use the Sansamp Bass Driver and a couple pedals. I’ve got the Bass MicroSynth from Electro-Harmonix. I don’t really use too many effects…just for some fun every now and then I guess. The amp’s the thing I’m most excited about. It’s sounds really really good.

Mike: Yeah, that thing’s amazing.

Nathan: If you talk to Ashdown you can tell them that I said that… (laughter) Maybe they’ll be my friend!

Mike: If you want to leave any e-mails with Tophat…

Brent: So what should we expect next from you guys?

Mike: We’ll probably all have gray hair and be bald by the end of this tour… (laughter) No, it’s going to be a lot of dates in a very short amount of time for Con Dios. That’s new to us. We’ve been around for eight years and we’ve always just traveled for three days, home for three days, travel for three days… That doesn’t add up to a week, I know… (laughter) Doing it like this has been a little crazy lately since the album came out…we’ve had a busier summer than we’ve ever had. We’ve never really toured like this, so definitely if you internet guys could be praying for us for sure…and our families. We’re going to take some time off in the winter…November, December, January we’re taking a fair amount of time off. In the spring we’re going on tour with Audio Adrenaline, so hopefully we’ll get used to touring on this one, get a nice big rest before the next one, and hit it again. We’re trying to learn how every other band does it right now.

Nathan: Yeah.

Mike: We’ve kind of done it backwards the whole time.

Brent: Alright. That’s all the questions we have for you today. It was a pleasure talking to you guys.

Mike: Yeah, you too. …and your cohorts here (to Brent’s friends) (laughter)

Nathan: I thought they were roadies? (laughter)

Mike: Well if they’re roadies why aren’t they carrying your backpack?! (laughter)

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