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It wasn't long after that Millard became friends with keyboardist Jim Bryson. In the summer of 1994, the two traveled to Europe as part of a praise team. The trip caused Millard and Bryson to consider full-time music ministry. In August of 1994, guitarist Mike Scheuchzer made the duo a trio. The three, who had moved to Oklahoma City, formed MercyMe. From there the group began to attract local promoters and found themselves opening for Audio Adrenaline. Following this, the band moved to Nashville and then to Texas. Their concerts grew to 200 dates per year. Bassist Nathan Cochran and percussionist Robby Shaffer joined the group, turning it from a trio into a five-member band. MercyMe, with six independent projects to their credit, signed with INO Records and released Almost There in August 2001. Thanks to the Dove Award-winning single "I Can Only Imagine," it topped the Christian charts, made the Top 40 in the overall album charts, and eventually went platinum.
A rootsier album, Spoken For, followed in 2002 and also performed well on the charts; it also earned the band three more Dove Awards. In 2003, veteran Christian rocker Barry Graul of Whitecross joined the band as a second guitarist. MercyMe's third album Undone followed one year later, and again earned the group commercial and chart success; in addition to further action on the Christian and album charts, MercyMe singles "Here with Me" and "Homesick" earned play on adult contemporary radio, marking a new frontier for the band. The Christmas Sessions appeared in the fall of 2005, and the band's fourth album Coming Up to Breathe arrived in April 2006. With a sharper sound less indebted to soft rock, it earned raves from critics and still charted at number 13 on Billboard's album charts. The church-focused All That Is Within Me appeared in 2007, and also broke into the Top 20 of the album charts.
The best-of 10 followed in 2009, and MercyMe recorded a concept album titled The Generous Mr. Lovewell for their sixth studio LP. It earned critical respect and commercial success, including a debut at number three on the overall album charts and three number one singles on the Christian chart ("All of Creation," "Beautiful," and "Move"). In 2012, The Hurt & the Healer followed, peaking at number seven on the charts and earning more critical acclaim. Eighth proper album Welcome to the New was released in April 2014, with a rootsier but danceable sound. ~ Ashleigh Kittle, Rovi