Bart pays tribute to his grandmother on the first single from the album, “MawMaw’s Song (In the Sweet By and By).” “It seems like every time I think of her singing in the choir, it was always ‘Sweet By and By,’” he says. “So that’s where that song came from.”

According to Bart, the two biggest “driving factors” in doing "Hymned" were his grandmother and his children. “These are the songs I grew up on – my wife and I,” Bart says. “We both grew up in the same church, and we have all these memories of these old hymns.”

After their son Sam was born, Bart says he and his wife were talking about the changes in church music programs and how hymns were being neglected as most churches began utilizing modern worship songs. “There was a good chance that Sam might never hear any of these songs growing up because they aren’t played in the church as much as they used to be,” says Bart. “When Gracie was born last November, that settled it. I really wanted to do this.”

Bart had promised his grandmother he would record an album of her favorite hymns but unfortunately never had a chance to do so before she passed away. Since signing with INO, MercyMe’s career has rapidly accelerated, its momentum especially propelled by the multi-format success of hits such as “I Can Only Imagine,” “Here With Me” and “Homesick.” This year the only new recorded product from the band will be an upcoming Christmas album, so Bart felt the time was right for him to release a solo project.

Bart’s MercyMe band mates have been very supportive of the effort. “The band has been really cool about it,” he says. “When they found out what the style was, they knew it couldn’t be a MercyMe record, and they knew how special it was to me. They’ve known for years that I’ve wanted to do this.”

There was a risk people might see the solo album as a sign of an impending break up. “When they hear the record, they’ll know why it’s a solo record, and they’ll never think I’m leaving the band,” Bart says of such speculation. “I’ve got the greatest job in the world. I can do this and MercyMe all in the same day.”

Bart says initially he didn’t plan to pursue tour opportunities. “The original idea was to do the record and not tour it or anything, just put it out there, and if it sells, so be it. If it doesn’t, that’s fine – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he says, “but while making the record, a lot of the studio musicians were like, ‘Man, if you take this on the road, take me with you.’”

At press time, tour plans were still uncertain, but Bart hopes there may be time available to do some concert dates. He’d also like to return to his hometown, Greenville, and shoot a performance DVD.

In addition to performing songs he’s loved for years, recording the new album gave Bart a chance to work with some of his heroes and friends, among them Russ Taff, Vince Gill, Robert Randolph and INO label mate Derek Webb. Gill stopped by the studio immediately after an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Producer Brown Bannister called to tell Bart that Vince was there singing on his record. “I was flipping out,” says Bart. “I was ecstatic. I got on the phone with him and told him how much I appreciated it, and that was a treat.”

Having Taff join him on “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” was a dream come true. “I’ve been a huge Russ Taff fan my whole life,” says Bart, a trace of awe creeping into his voice. “He just epitomized what I wanted to be in life, his voice, everything. I’m still a huge, huge Russ Taff fan. We got together at a [Bill] Gaither event a few years ago and became friends. I asked him then – if I ever do a hymns record – would he sing on it? He said, ‘Absolutely!’