By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
MercyMe guitarist Barry Graul isn't sure why or how music so powerfully purveys spiritual messages, he said.
He just knows that it does.
"Very simply, it's very emotional," Graul said during a recent phone interview from Mississippi. "I personally grew up gravitating toward music rather than the written word."
The contemporary Christian band, which will perform Saturday at the Bell County Expo Center, is currently on tour, promoting its new album, "The Generous Mr. Lovewell."
"If you've ever sat down and read lyrics," he continued, "it doesn't have as much impact without the song behind it."
Millions of MercyMe fans must agree. The six-man band has been one of the genre's most successful over the last decade, earning numerous Gospel Music Association Dove Awards and Grammy Award nominations.
Its 2001 album, "Almost There," went double platinum, in large part due to the success of the cross-over hit, "I Can Only Imagine."
In 2009, Billboard magazine named MercyMe the Christian songs artist of the decade for the 2000s. MercyMe will perform songs from "Almost There" and the band's following seven albums, including "Lovewell" Saturday.
"Lovewell" was inspired by the group's 2009 trip to the Dominican Republic with the charity Compassion International, Graul said.
The group went to visit the little boy it sponsors through the organization, he said, and members were stunned by the absolute poverty they observed.
"Literally, we saw people living on a riverbank in 10 (foot) by 10 (foot) rooms," he said. "I have never seen poverty like we saw in the Dominican."
Once MercyMe returned home, he said, members began conceptualizing a new album, based on an inspirational character they invented, Mr. Lovewell.
Singer Bart Millard recently described Mr. Lovewell as a cross between Buddy the Elf and Forrest Gump.
"He sees the good in everyone and knows his neighbors enough to know their needs," he said.
The album is meant to inspire listeners to "pay it forward," Graul said.
"Daily things, like paying for somebody's meal at a drive-through," he said, could make the world a better place.
This is not the band's first visit to the Fort Hood area.
They performed at the 4th Infantry Division's homecoming from Iraq in 2004 on post.
The band is excited to be back, Graul said.
Singer-songwriter Phil Wickham will open for MercyMe.
The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets cost between $15 and $35.
For more information, call (254) 933-5353.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.