with We Are Messengers
Conventional wisdom has it that Amy Grant put Contemporary Christian Music on the map, becoming the first CCM artist to have a platinum record, the first to hit No. 1 on the Pop charts, and the first to perform at the GRAMMY Awards. Since then, Grant has been strumming her way through a thirty-plus year adventure as a singer-songwriter, author, television host, and speaker.
Early on, Grant’s iconic voice became instantly recognizable in both the Christian and pop worlds. Over the years, she has sold more than 30 million albums world-wide, including three multi-platinum, six platinum, and four gold. Her chart performance has also been consistent throughout her career, boasting six No. 1 hits, 10 “Top 40” Pop singles, 17 “Top 40” Adult Contemporary tracks and multiple Contemporary Christian chart-toppers. In recognition of such success, Grant has received 6 GRAMMY Awards and 26 Dove Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a star on the Music City Walk of Fame. Additionally, she was most recently inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.
Stepping out from behind her guitar, Grant found herself hosting the NBC prime time series “Three Wishes” in 2005, bringing her into millions of living rooms across America every Friday night. The people she met and stories she collected proved to be great inspiration for creating new music and even writing a book. Two years later, Grant’s first book, Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far, was published. She continues to share her stories with audiences all over the country as a keynote and inspirational speaker.
In April 2016, Grant celebrated the 25th anniversary of her first pop hit, “Baby Baby”, with a worldwide release of a new version of the song featuring pop sensation and fellow Capitol Music Group recording artist Tori Kelly. Growing her wildly popular Christmas brand, Grant then released “Tennessee Christmas” in October 2016, her first all-new Christmas album in nearly twenty years. She looks forward to national arena symphony Christmas tours each November and December with long-time friend Michael W. Smith, as well as an annual Christmas residency at the world-famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville with country superstar husband Vince Gill.
Grant resides with her family in Nashville, Tennessee, and is widely known for her philanthropy and tireless involvement in local causes and charitable organizations. Her own organization, The Helping Hands Foundation, has afforded her the opportunity to identify needs around her and the resources to help meet them, which has proven to be the sweetest reward of all.
WE ARE MESSENGERS:
Life rarely turns out the way we planned, but it’s what we do with the curve balls thrown at us that reveal who we truly are and the values that define us. It’s a realization Darren Mulligan, lead vocalist for acclaimed band We Are Messengers, knows all too well.
After moving to the U.S. from their native Ireland, We Are Messengers saw their career explode with the band’s self-titled debut album, released in 2016 via Curb | Word Entertainment. Fans immediately connected to the band’s first single “Everything Comes Alive,” propelling it to the top 5 on the Christian Hot AC/CHR chart while the video earned more than 10 million views. Earning global attention, “Everything Comes Alive” was No. 1 for three straight weeks on the Australian countdown TCM. “Magnify” became a top 5 hit as was “Point to You” which furthered that momentum. “Maybe it’s OK” the lead single from their sophomore EP is a top 10 hit and rapidly climbing the billboard Christian AC charts. “I’ll Think About You” was featured in the hit film The Shack alongside music from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, NEEDTOBREATHE, Hillsong United, Dan + Shay and other high-profile acts.
Mulligan’s songwriting success extended beyond We Are Messengers as he co-wrote David Crowder’s single “My Victory,” which was featured on Passion’s Salvation’s Tide is Rising album. The band also earned rave reviews for their live show as they performed for more than 750,000 people on the Winter Jam Tour and with Big Daddy Weave on the Beautiful Offerings trek. 2019 looks to be another busy year on the road as they join Toby Mac on the Hits Deep tour before European dates and a full USA headlining run in the fall.
There’s no denying the impact of the band’s music and the success their hard work has generated, but Mulligan would be the first to admit it has all come with a price. “It was easier to love Jesus when we didn’t have any of this, when we didn’t have success or when no one applauded or clapped for me,” he admits with unbridled candor.
So how does a young musician deal with those feelings? “You just tell the truth about it,” he says. “There was a friend at church last night asking how we were and I said, ‘Dude, I’m great. I still love God, but I loved him a lot more before I had all of this.’ I think that the goal for us this time around on this record, and even as we reimagine touring, is to go back to that basic simple place with Him.”
Though he longs for simplicity, Mulligan is a complex man. He first left Ireland when he and his two brothers came to the U.S. performing in Morello, a hard rock band signed to Evo/Universal. “I’ve always wanted to do music. It was the only thing that took the edge off the disappointment of being human,” he says. “There were 30 minutes every night that it would take the edge off, but then the fear and loneliness would creep back in. We toured around America for a couple of years and played hundreds of shows. I would look back a lot of times and say that was a waste of my life, but I look back and remember I was with my brothers and we spent some really good times together.”
Mulligan returned to his native Ireland and vowed he was giving up music for a normal life. He rekindled his relationship with a beautiful Scottish girl named Heidi and the two were married in 2008. “When I quit music, I said I’d never play music again and I meant it, but there was this little church in our town and they needed someone to play. They said they needed someone to sing and I said I would,” he recalls. “My wife Heidi and I would sing together every night. We’d go to these little churches, community centers, schools and halls on the weekends. Mom and dad would mind our kids at that time. It was very simple, very beautiful. I was telling people about this thing that we knew because we had this hope that was burning in us. We had to share it and it was all we could do. No one paid us. We didn’t make any money. We didn’t sell any records.”
Things changed when God called them to a greater platform. Heidi heard his voice first and then Darren knew it too. He left his stable job, and they left their loved ones behind to move to the U.S. and sign a record deal to launch We Are Messengers. “For those two weeks before we left we cried all the time. Then we got on the plane and got here terrified,” he confesses. “We thought we made a mistake that first night, sleeping on air mattresses in an apartment. Then next morning we woke up, went to Waffle House and then I went to work. I’m still at work four years later. It’s a gift, not a chore.”
Mulligan is determined to share the hope of Jesus despite the distractions that can sometimes interfere with his calling. “We’re going to go look for the lost and broken, prostitutes and beggars because they are our people,” he says, “but things get in the way, expectations to sell more records, the next song has to be a bigger hit. I’ve always struggled to fit into the system here where everybody is writing what people want to hear. I can’t do it, so even though when sometimes I lie with my life, I never lie with the things I write. Not one word has been a lie. The Lord has been kind and allowed me to tell the truth even when it’s not popular or when it’s not what people want to hear.”
Truth and authenticity ring throughout every song on the band’s new album, especially the lead single “Maybe It’s Ok.” “This is our record that says, ‘We get it. I know how you feel. There’s no quick solution to any of this, but I’m going to stay with you. I’m going to walk with you,’” Mulligan says. “The first single, ‘Maybe It’s Okay’ says, ‘Maybe it’s okay that I’m not okay because the one who holds the world is holding onto me.’”
The song acknowledges life is messy and there are no easy answers. Mulligan admits people often expect a remedy for emotional pain to emerge from a song, but that’s not realistic. “By the end of the song they want you to be better. That’s not real life. We don’t get better in three minutes,” he says. “Some heartaches last a lifetime. Some scars don’t go away. We started playing ‘Maybe It’s Ok’ at shows and people are singing that song before it gets to the second chorus their first time hearing it because it’s their song. That’s why we write, because we can put words to what humans are feeling. The biggest compliment we ever get is people saying, ‘You wrote the words to what I felt, but I couldn’t say it.’ That’s why we do it, so that people put words to their heartache and disappointment and their joy. We’re singing songs about being busted, broken and messy and our God meets us in that humanity. We’re singing songs about people like me.”
Being called to serve the Lord is not always an easy road. In 2017, they survived a horrific bus accident that claimed the life of the person parked whose car was parked in the middle of the interstate at 3am. “I got home and said, ‘Heidi, let’s quit. Let’s stop,’ and she was like, ‘No, the Lord has told us.’ So we went at it again. We’re gypsies. We’re just going and trying to love one person at a time. We started this in the first place because we believed that God had called our family to leave everything we had to chase Him and to chase after people that felt like us—people that were dead, lost and hungry and knew there was more to living.”
We Are Messengers’ live shows have become legendary, drawing believers as well as atheists, alcoholics and others searching for hope and meaning. Mulligan will often stop in the middle of a show to address someone in the crowd with a word of encouragement. He relates to those who are hurting because he has felt that sting. “Suffering is making me the man I need to be and I wish there were some other way to do it, but it appears for me there’s not,” he says. “It appears that the only way to mold, chip and grow me is through suffering and maybe my wife too. Life for me is like survival sometimes. Life is heavy and there’s a weight to it, and then there are moments where it’s so ridiculously beautiful, where you feel like you could laugh for days and never stop.”
Mulligan is quick to admit his shortcomings and it’s his vulnerability that makes him so relatable to audiences. He’s the same guy on stage and off, wearing his heart on his sleeve and always pointing others toward Jesus, especially those closest to his heart—his children. “I say, ‘Listen, daddy’s not like Jesus. When you see daddy angry or frustrated, that’s a punk called Darren and he sings in a band, but when daddy is kind and slow to anger and he laughs with you, that’s Jesus. Be like him,’” he says. “They’ll know this when they grow older that mom and dad risked our lives because we believe in hope, and that hope doesn’t disappoint. It might feel like that in the moment, but I can honestly look back in the last few years and go, ‘God you are good. You are kind even when I don’t feel it or believe it. You still are.’”