Bringing out the best in people

Contemporary Christian band MercyMe was inspired to write the music and lyrics for its 2010 album, "The Generous Mr. Lovewell," after a trip to the Dominican Republic.

"We were horrified by the conditions that the people were living in," says keyboard player Jim Bryson. The band members were in the republic to meet children that they sponsor through Compassion International. "And that visit took place before the Haitian earthquake."

Craterian Performances will present MercyMe at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

After their visit to the Dominican Republic, Bryson, singer Bart Millard, guitarists Mike Scheuchzer and Barry Graul, bassist Nathan Cochran and drummer Robby Shaffer returned to their home state of Texas determined to write poignant new music about kindness and generosity for their sixth studio album. The project led them to a fictitious character bent on bringing out the best in people.

"We came up with the name Lovewell for him, but it just sounded too plain," Bryson says. "We decided to try something different. The Generous Mr. Lovewell is a kind of Sgt. Pepper character. He's kinda quirky."

MercyMe's new album, "The Generous Mr. Lovewell," captures a breezy style that is part Beatles, part Electric Light Orchestra and matches the band's idea of who its title character is. The album bowed in at No. 3 in the nation on Billboard's Top 200 SoundScan Chart — coming in behind Godsmack and Lady Antebellum — and No. 1 on the overall Contemporary Christian SoundScan chart.

"It's straight-ahead pop and rock with catchy melodies, good hooks and a good mix of ballads and fast songs," Bryson says.

"We all have a hand in writing the music. Bart writes the lyrics. All of the songs on the new album include the theme of encouraging love based around the cross."

MercyMe released six independent albums before signing with INO Records, the label on their past eight gold and platinum records. The band has garnered 22 hit singles on Christian radio.

As for the fictitious, red balloon-toting Generous Mr. Lovewell, he has garnered followings on Twitter and Facebook. He's more like a movement toward random acts of generosity toward strangers — doing little things that can add up to change — and leaving behind notes that say "courtesy of Mr. Lovewell."

The members of MercyMe met through ministry groups in the mid '90s before finding their calling to become a Christian rock band.

Christian guitarist and songwriter Phil Wickham will open the show at the Craterian.

Tickets cost $42 to $48, $30 to $36 for ages 18 and younger. Tickets are available at the new Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett St. The box office will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and from noon until show time on performance dates. Tickets will be held for will call at the new box office and taken at the door of the theater. Call 541-779-3000 or visit for information.

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