MercyMe lead guitarist Mike Scheuchzer spoke to The Christian Post Friday about why he thinks their new album, The Generous Mr. Lovewell, has risen to No. 1 on the Contemporary Christian Billboard charts, and how it has stirred fans to love their neighbors generously.
CP: Can you please explain the idea behind your album and the character, Mr. Lovewell?
Scheuchzer : This album started … a year and a half ago. We took a trip with Compassion International. We went down to Dominican Republic to see a kid we sponsor as a band. We all sponsor kids around the globe through Compassion, but this is the first child that we sponsor as a band together, the six guys sponsor. And we went down to meet him and we were blown away by the ministry Compassion does, the outreach of the community, not just in the individual kid-wise, but in the entire community. They set churches up with the ability to get clean water and everything else and so it was amazing.
But in thinking about it, it was awesome to be a part of that, but then we started to realize that I'm not even sure I know my neighbor down the street's last name, and I certainly don't know what his needs are. And so to reach around the world, it's an awesome thing. To jump up in a time of need for you know anyone like Haiti or whatever it is, it's an awesome thing, but are we really loving our neighbors well? And that was kind of what we were challenged in making this record.
And so we were in the process of calling the album "Lovewell." And then we started writing the music, and we started feeling this is different from what we have done in the past. So we wanted to market it differently too. And we were excited to build this character like, we're big Beatles fans and Salt & Pepper and we created this fictitious character that would be kind of the one to encourage us all to love well.
And Mr. Lovewell he's like Buddy the Elf meets Forrest Gump, he sees the best in everybody. He's full of hope no matter what the situation is, and that's kind of who we all want to be. You know, that's who Christ was. He saw the best in people, even though he wasn't okay with sin necessarily, but he drew them into something more. Trying to draw them into being more than who they were. And that's kind of what we feel called to in making this album. So that's kind of where we were in the idea behind this record.
CP: This album is doing really well in the charts. Why do you think this album is being received so well?
Scheuchzer : Who knows? We really tried to pour our heart into making this record, like into the marketing side of it, and our fans jumped on board. They all go in and through Twitter and what not, and we are spreading the word about the album, and that was part of the success we had based on our current fans. And hopefully we make some new fans too in the process.
CP: You have a website where people can post "Lovewell Stories." What responses have struck you the most from your love well movement?
Scheuchzer : Yeah we do. Mr. Lovewell is becoming an individual, kind of having his own life. He has his own website, his own Twitter account, mrlovewell.com, and you can go there, and he has a Facebook page and everything. But the cool thing on the website is that people have started to leave messages about opportunities they had to love well or times when they were loved well.
And that's been unbelievable, I mean everything from there was a little boy in the Portland area where he had cancer, who we actually just recently found out passed away around Christmas time. He was really bummed out because he hadn't seen the snow, and you usually get to see snow where he lives so he was sad because snow hadn't come out. So his community, his neighborhood and his church all got together and brought him these huge semi-trucks full of snow and covered his entire yard, front and back, with like a foot of snow. And he woke up that morning and had all the windows were opened and he saw the snow and he was just flipped out. And that community just saw a need and jumped on board and that's what it's about; it's looking for the need.
I think any one of us is ready to go, ready to help others. Everyone wants to help others, and nobody runs around saying, "I don't want to help people." Everybody wants to help people. It's just that we don't always see the opportunity. But we always know the opportunity is out there. I think "Lovewell" is about saying there is always an opportunity out there, and you have to look for it. Whether it's that you see an old lady who lives down the street by herself and think she probably needs help, she probably can't do it on her own, so you go do it, go help her. And if she asks you why then you get an opportunity to say how you've been loved well, how those of us who believe that God sent his Son to die for us in our place and that's the best kind of love of a man who laid down his life for his friends. And that's the opportunity we get to share the hope that we have.
CP: Seems that you are also recording and documenting through this website all these amazing stories behind the Lovewell concept.
Scheuchzer : Yeah we're trying to document as much as possible just so that it can take on a life of its own. And it has in some ways.
Like our Starbucks here at our town here in Greeville, Texas. This guy was going through the drive-through, and he bought his coffee, and he said, "Hey, I want to buy the coffee for the car behind me, but just write Mr.Lovewell on the Starbucks cup." So they did.
And that card paid for the coffee behind him, so the person behind him asked the Starbucks people to do the same thing. So they had over 200 cars paying for the coffee for the person behind them all day long.
So now the baristas there every now and then they will just pay for a cup of coffee and write Mr. Lovewell on it, so they're trying to break the record. It kind of becomes addictive, helping people, that feeling that you get from reaching out of yourself and helping others. And getting out of our own little bubbles and our own little worlds, getting to that point where we can reach out and help others, that is such a huge thing. And it truly becomes addictive and you just can't get enough.
CP: I heard that you created the music for the album before the lyrics. Why did you choose that order?
Scheuchzer : Well, we are pretty big procrastinators, and so when it comes down to making a record we are usually behind the eight ball pretty bad. And so for us it basically came down to that. And then again we're trying to come up with the idea for the album, but we're not always ready to finish the thoughts out. We just know the direction we want to go as far as writing the lyrics, and that's kind of where we started. We knew we wanted to chase down this love well idea.
Literally before the record was due, we just rented a little lake house in Tahoe, and we were out in the west coast, so we stayed out for a couple of extra days and just kind started drawing out some ideas musically. But then when we went into the studio, we went in and basically just started creating and just started having some ideas come out.
I don't know if it was the breakfast burritos every morning, but basically we were a mile away from the Juarez border we were down in EL Paso in a studio. So I don't know if it was just the ambiance in the air or whatever, but we started to lose our minds and started really making some fun music. And it just started to come into life down there.
And after we got a lot of musical ideas Bart [the lead singer] would start, and if he didn't already have a lyrical idea, he would come up with one. And a lot of times he had the idea for the song, and we would just finish it out at that time.
CP: What's your process for writing songs. For example, do you pray before, or...?
Scheuchzer : There are times when … we feel like God is really calling us into something, and we'll definitely seek it out together in prayer.
But we kind of feel like MercyMe is an overflow of our personal walk, and we kind of know when it's not working. We know when things aren't fine. And we have lived together on a 45-foot bus, and you … are involved in each other's lives. So … if there is an issue between two of us, or if we are frustrated with one another or whatever, we work that stuff out before we go in there, just like you're supposed to do.
We try and live a life like Christ's example. Prayer is certainly part of that, not always together as a group, but there are times are times for that, sure.
CP: What's the story behind "All Creation"? Do you have a favorite song and why?
Scheuchzer : You know, honestly, it's funny. Usually … when we are done with [our records] I have a harder time figuring out which songs I like than which songs I don't like. This time around is kind of the opposite.
I picked the least favorite early on, and it actually grew on me. But I can't really pick a favorite. There's like five or six of them that I'm just so excited about playing them live.
"All Creation" was actually the first one to be really kind of a finished song. That's part of the reason why it became the first single. But as we started to talk about it, you know every song on the record kind of talks about stepping out of our comfort zone and loving out neighbors well. That song in particular doesn't necessarily talk about reaching out and loving others but we kind of felt that was the perfect song because if anything, it kind of sets the tone as far as challenging people to love others.
We have to remind ourselves how we were loved and that's what that song is. It's taking a moment out to just thank God for doing what He does in our lives on a daily basis and for being just God. How do you start talking about Him and how do you take a second for lifting Him up? So that's kind of why we thought that song was a great way to just set the tone and get our hearts prepared to do the work of God, just like the worship songs in churches.
CP: What are your future projects?
Scheuchzer : We're trying to figure out what our next move will be.
We are touring right now, and it hasn't gotten to the place yet where we are planning out our next record.
But we are talking about what our next single on the radio would be. We know it, hope it would be ... we just don't know if radio or if our record label will agree to it completely.
But we're hoping the song, "Move," will be the next one.
CP: Is there anything else you would like to tell your audience?
Scheuchzer : Oh man, just how excited we are about this record, and how excited we are about playing these songs and just seeing their reaction and hearing back from them! That's what keeps us going. Hearing God is using these songs, too.
We hear people saying all the time, "You probably heard this too much, you probably don't want to hear it, but you have helped me through a dark time" or whatever. But that's exactly what we want to hear.
Maybe that song is 10 years old, but that song, if God still uses it, that lets us know that we're still being used by God, and we haven't messed things up too much, and He's still using us. That's kind of our pedometer for how we know we are in the right place where God is still using us.
We love hearing feedback on the songs, and can't wait hearing feedback on the new songs. And hopefully it's in the right place.