Take Heart

(Photo courtesy of Abby Carpenter)

Take Heart
An Interview on Music, Hope, And God Post 2020 Culture With Mike Scheuchzer of MercyMe

By Emily Robertson

I recently sat down virtually with MercyMe’s guitarist, Mike Scheuchzer, to hear the latest on what the band has been doing and their upcoming projects.  MercyMe’s 28-year career is currently wrapping up their fall tour with Andrew Ripp and Rend Collective this past November. They will be joining Chris Tomlin for their upcoming winter tour in January. We discuss a little more about their creative process and his favorite song on the album, “Heart Beats for Your Good” from their new album, “Always Only Jesus.” Mike offered an honest and refreshing approach to what our culture has been craving since the pandemic. He offers encouragement and a challenge while highlighting the main theme he wants others to take away from the album. Take heart, Christian, this album is for you. Take heart, Seeker, this album is for you too. 

Emily: Well, I am really excited. I’d love to start off and hear a little bit more about this new winter tour coming up and kind of what you’re looking forward to with that.

Michael Gosh, I mean, the thing we’re most excited about is that we’re going out with Chris Tomlin. I never actually toured with them we’ve just done a handful of festival dates and bigger events like award shows where we actually get to be together. But this is the first time we get to actually go out for consecutive shows. We’re very excited about that. But we think it’s going to be great for the fans more than anything. And that’s why we still get to do this because the fans are out there.

Emily: Actually, that kind of leads me to my question of, the theme of the album. The new album really seems to be more about forgiveness and that Jesus is the one, the only one. Do you feel like this came from like a personal place with the band, or is it a desire to kind of give hope to our culture?

Michael: I feel like it was certainly intentional. I think both these past two records have been kind of all the same in that, like we started writing all of these huge batch of songs together during the pandemic lockdown when we couldn’t tour. And so we kept writing and writing and writing.And for us, during that season of just heavy weight on literally on the shoulders of the entire world, we wanted to just be a silver lining. We wanted to make a record that was us singing that disco song about Jesus with Gloria Gaynor, and going a different direction than what we would normally do, which would be more heartfelt anthems and whatnot. Everybody’s kind of on a different page about how they handled things or are still handling things and we feel like the church is like, this is our opportunity to lead the way and show the world what real hope is. And, so if we can come together and agree on something, that needs to be Jesus. We can certainly disagree about theology and a billion other things. But agree that Jesus is our only hope. That’s where we’re at as a band right now.

Emily: It’s amazing because you were saying, I think in another interview, it’s like an anthem after anthem is about Jesus. And I think I’m really thankful for that because we forget about Jesus so many times. And I really appreciate what you said about, you know, showing the world that this is how you unite the world through Christ because we’re always going to have these things. And for a lot of people, maybe they’re not as close to Jesus as they used to be. In another season of life and Marked Ministry magazine is doing an issue about being reacquainted with God. I don’t know if you mind, but has there been a season where you haven’t been as close to God and then have become kind of reacquainted with Him?

Michael: Oh yeah. Like a couple times a year. This is a journey of faith it’s not a straight or a flat path by any means. I would say that for me, 2020 was a huge curve ball in that I can look back now and I could see where I had my hope in my circumstances before we had to come off the road because of this crazy lockdown. Everything was firing on all cylinders. You know, the movie had come out, run its course, and touring was going great. And we had the best crew we’ve ever had, we really built a great team around us. You know, we kind of laughed about it, saying, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll be back in two weeks and it’ll be great.’ And then here we are two years later finally getting to do shows again, and somewhere in that season, I lost my mind. And it was 100% because my hope was in my circumstances, which changed daily instead of my hope is in the One who never changes. And for people who abandoned faith, who walk away from scripture, I mean the problem isn’t with Jesus, it’s with his people. His people are messed up. We’re sinners and we try and sometimes we don’t try. Sometimes we hurt people, you know, and sometimes we help people. It’s all of the above. But I think that if anyone is being honest with themselves, it’s not Jesus that hurt them. It’s not God that hurt them. It’s not even Scripture that hurt them.  It’s somebody who maybe is falsely in the name of Jesus.

Emily: Yep. I wish you could just tell my whole generation that message. And this is not on my questions, but this is just of interest to me, has it been discouraging to see so many artists in the past two years, kind of abandoning the faith? How do you feel about that?

Michael: Discouraging in that some of them are my friends and I don’t like that they’re going through a season of doubt and questioning the truth. I mean, it’s always been you go throughout the Bible, people had crises of faith. And to pretend that it shouldn’t happen, now would be pretty immature. And to think for a second that it couldn’t happen to me or to my wife or to my kids or anything would be incredibly naive. And so, you know, how do you combat that? I think you hold to the truth as much as you can. And anyone who’s quote-unquote ‘deconstructing,’ I would encourage them to try to deconstruct the things of their life that maybe are religious, but be real careful about deconstructing things that are biblical. We have a lot of religion that probably needs to be deconstructed, but scripture and the Bible have stood the test of time.

Emily: Yeah, so much of it is our heart. I feel like the heart condition of belief or faith. One of the things I wanted to ask you, you know, you’ve been in the band for, I think 28 years and played in major cities. And, you know, I’m sure there’s joy in that. There’s mundane when you feel sapped of joy. I mean, how do you get back to joy with Jesus?

Michael: I think diligence pays off. I think on the days when I don’t feel like getting up when I just don’t feel like getting up and going to the gym, which I’ve only started doing the last year of my life. I don’t want to go but like once I’m done I’m like, Gosh, one, that’s the hardest thing I’m going to do all day.

Emily: I think that’s exactly right. Well, you know, I’ve heard about Imagine House and how it sounds really amazing, this cabin in the woods studio.

Michael: That’s where I’m sitting right now.

Emily: Oh, so awesome. I just wondered, how does that aid in the creative process for you or has it?

Michael: I would say it has both aided and hindered the creative process. Well, when we have the ability to just set things up and leave it set up and come in whenever we want. Like there’s freedom in that for sure. Where you don’t have to plan out a bunch of stuff you just show up together and start working. But then you also have deadlines, and we desperately need deadlines. If we wait until the last possible second, and that happens a lot, I think it’s a blessing, more blessing than a curse. But there are those days when you just don’t feel like working, and you just rather hang out and laugh like we do. We do a lot more than we do actually.

Emily: That’s sweet, though.

Michael: It makes the music better, probably.

Emily: I think so. But I mean, 28 years with these people, I mean, that’s some Christian community.

Michael: Yeah, right. It’s honestly it’s like a social experiment I don’t know how we’ve done it.

Emily: I don’t either. I wanted to ask you what your favorite song on the new album was.

Michael: Mine is probably “Your Heart Beats For My Good.” I can’t remember the actual title of it. The verses are very dark and desperate and then by the end of it there’s this refrain that just sings over and over – It’s going to be worth it. Everything’s working for your good. God’s heartbeat is for our good. That causes me to want to be His good work if that makes sense.

Emily: I loved it. I’m so thankful for this album because it just refreshes your joy in Jesus even bringing in that older hymn “Nothing But The Blood” is so good. I think it pushes away some of the religiosity of being, doing, giving, and focusing on Christ’s Blood as the only thing that’s going to make us clean, you know? So I really, really appreciate it. But 28 years being in the band, you know, pandemic, marriage, children, who would you say Jesus is to you now?

Michael: The same yesterday, today, and forever, even though I’ve changed a lot He hasn’t you know.

Emily: I mean that’s a good answer. How do you see him differently maybe that would be a better question. I was going to say, how do you see him differently now versus, in the past?

Michael: I think I think I still see him as my Savior. And, I think it’s a God-seeking heart. Basically that like the whole, the whole verse of the know with branches was just to stay attached to the line. That’s something I want to see Jesus more as instead of like, I’m saved, good, you know? It’s more of a, I’m being saved daily. And so I think that you know, my wisdom comes from him daily.

Emily: So that’s really exciting to hear. What do you feel like you want people to get from this album? You know, if you had one thing people could take away that would radically transform their lives, what would you want them to take from it?

Michael: People probably more than ever feel alone, but at the same time feel like they’re not alone in their suffering. And so it’s because the album can kind of be that in a way of like not just that we’re not alone in our suffering, but we’re not alone in our joy and we’re not alone in our salvation. We can probably gather because of that is there’s something special that happens when the body of Christ agrees and we get together on things. And so hopefully it’s that.

Emily: Yeah it’s so cool. Well, just to wrap up, I just wanted to ask, what do you feel like is next for Mercy Me?

Michael: We’ll head out for a few shows with Tomlin, but then take off the holidays and basically forget how to be a band again and then go back out was spring.

Emily: I think that’ll be wonderful. Well, I’m really thankful for the work you guys do. I’m thankful because it’s changing the culture. Media changes culture and how people think. And you all have such an impact on people’s worldview about Jesus, just through music. I can only imagine changed a lot for me when I was in middle school, and high school. So it matters and I want to say personally thank you for that.

Michael: Oh, thank you, I mean, it’s those stories that keep us still doing it. It’s our job to make us better money and keep us at home more. But it still matters to people. It keeps moving forward.

Find out more about Mike and MercyMe by visiting mercyme.org