Interview with Bart Millard

Lead Singer of “Mercy Me,” writer of

“I Can Only Imagine”

Dallas, Texas, February 24, 2018



Talk a little bit about writing the song, “I Can Only Imagine.”


Bart Millard:  It was Memaw (my grandmother) who said to me at my Dad's graveside, “Imagine him in heaven.”  And for a long time after that, I kept writing down the phrase “I can only imagine.”  And I was just thinking about how if God can change my Dad's life like that, from abuser to literally my best friend, then God can do anything.  There's no one beyond His reach.  It's the only song I've ever written where I didn't have any spelling errors or grammatical mistakes.  I just wrote it straight through in about ten minutes.  And afterwords I looked at it and thought “Oh my gosh.”  I went back in the next day and recorded it, and I knew it was special to me, because it was about my Dad.  Whenever you've written anything, much less a song, when you get it on paper just right, it's an adrenalin rush.  And that's what it felt like.  And I thought, “I don't know what it's going to do, but that's exactly what I was trying to say.”


Do you think being a “faith-based film” is going to limit its box office draw?


BartM:  The cool thing about being a faith-based film is we've had a lot of non-Christian people say to us how much it means to them.  People just connect to things like forgiveness and redemption, especially in dealing with the grieving part of their lives.  This is just a great story being told, and we don't have any agenda, we're not trying to shove anything down anyone's throat, it just happens to be this story.  And people will say “I kinda forgot it was a faith-based film when I was watching it,” which is a huge compliment to me, because we don't want the label to be bigger than the story we're trying to tell. 


How has the song changed your life?


BartM:  Before this song,  if we sold enough records to pay our phone bill, we were happy.  Then all of a sudden my wife and I were in our garage shipping cd's to 400 bookstores.  It's definitely changed our lives.  Being a parent now, the coolest thing is that we can say “No.”  Usually, when you do this for a living, you're never home, and your kids never know you.  And so 5 or 6 years ago we cut our shows back to 60 or 70 a year, and cut 'em in half.  And we're just really grateful.  They're a lot of artists, a lot of bands, that just don't get that opportunity.  So we never want to take for granted that we're now in a place where we're comfortable. And I'm home enough to where my kids will say, “Is it time for you to go yet?”  (everybody laughs)  Yeah, if somebody would have told me that people would care about the music we make this many years afterwards, I'd have told 'em they were crazy.  That song has changed everything for me.


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association