For Dove Award winning band MercyMe, the video for “Almost Home” is more than a clever clip to further exposure of the group’s rising single, it’s the first step in a journey frontman Bart Millard plans to take fans on with their upcoming album tentatively titled The Spaceman.
“We’re trying to shoot a video for every song on the album and make it a continuous story,” Millard tells Billboard. “It may change 20 times, but the original goal is this is going to be the last story of the album, the last song on the album, so you are seeing the very end first and then hopefully we’ll start tying into each character in the video."
Toward the end of the poignant "Almost Home" video, premiering below, an astronaut is seen running across a bridge, stumbles and falls. “We are trying to symbolize that all the people he came across in that video are there to lift him up and cheer him on and to say we’re not in this alone,” Millard says, “and also to start pulling off the helmet and the mask, because it’s not needed.”
The video also features performance footage of the band, which was shot near the Wave Country water park in Nashville. “We originally weren’t going to have any performance footage, but everybody was saying there’s got to be some and the label definitely wanted it,” he says. “So we flew in from tour and we only had about a four-hour window to perform the song on that bridge.”
In casting the young actors in the video, they recruited some of their friends’ children. Matt Hammitt’s son Bowen is the little astronaut in the video, Millard reveals. "He was so excited and was healthy enough to do it,” Millard says of the nine-year-old, who has undergone multiple heart surgeries. “It was cool to have him as part of the video." The little girl is Tim Timmons’ daughter, Anna Timmons; both Hammitt and Timmons are artists who have toured with MercyMe.
“Almost Home,” which the band premiered last month on the Dove Awards, is currently No. 23 on the Hot Christian Songs chart. Millard, who penned the award-winning song “I Can Only Imagine” that spawned the hit film of the same name with Dennis Quaid, wrote “Almost Home” with his bandmates and producer Ben Glover after a conversation with a pastor.
“He’s a good friend of mine that’s been in ministry for a long time. He was at our first youth camp that we did 25 years ago. He was our youth minister then, and now he’s a pastor,” Millard says. “He was telling me he had a lot of friends that he’s done life with for a long time and they’ve passed away with cancer and different illnesses. He goes, ‘Man, I think I was ready for the short game when I was a youth pastor dealing with issues, but this long game is wearing me out. I never dreamed that I would outlive some of my dearest friends and mentors and do their funerals.’ He kept saying, ‘I’m just so tired.’"
The conversation really resonated with Millard and provided inspiration for the song. “I thought it would be a timely idea to really rally the troops and remind the body of Christ, now is not the time to give up. We’re almost home,” he says of the message he’s looking to convey to fellow Christians. “There always needs to be something to lift our spirits and keeps us going, so this is hopefully an anthem for people who are just tired and exhausted. The idea of the song is to look forward. Relish the moments that are behind you, but look forward and run to the moments that are ahead.”
To convey that sentiment, Millard enlisted director Elliott Eicheldinger to create a treatment for the video that would incorporate the idea of a spaceman. “The album is probably going to be called The Spaceman and it’s that whole idea of the stranger passing through this world concept,” Millard explains. “It’s the idea of this guy, an astronaut just trying to live his life like a normal person, but not doing it super well with having to wear a spacesuit all the time and also he has these dreams of a significant other. As life goes on, she passes away. He just feels incomplete, still running the race and just trying to finish. Along the way, he falls into these different people’s lives briefly and tries to bring joy and happiness to them, but all the way still running the race and trying to make it home.”
Millard admits the concept wasn’t easy to capture. “When we first started the video it was real frustrating because we thought, ‘Man, we’ve got a lot of story in about four minutes,’ not to mention he couldn’t show any facial expression, because he’s got this helmet on,” Millard explains.
Millard, who was recently named songwriter of the year (artist) at the 50th annual Dove Awards, confesses he was worried about whether the video accomplished his intent, but the friends and family who saw the rough cut, allayed his fears. “They were emotionally moved,” he says. “I would ask them, ‘Hey, what did you take from the video?’ and everybody’s interpretations were slightly different from the other, but they were incredibly beautiful, and we realized we were on to something.”
When MercyMe wraps their current tour later this month, they plan to go in the studio and work on the new album. “We’re actually doing the album with about four or five different producers. We’ve never done that before because we were thinking, ‘Who knows how much longer we’re going to do this?’
“If anybody would have told me that people would care 25 years later, I would have told them, ‘You are crazy!’ I’m probably more grateful for that now than ever because you never know,” he laughs. “Parts of me say we should have been done years ago like a normal band, but we just keep trying to avoid hard labor.”