Multi-platinum-selling rock band Third Day has played to millions of fans in many sold-out arenas globally. The four-piece have garnered more than 25 No. 1 singles not to mention the scores of Grammy and Dove Awards.
20 years later, the band’s willingness to struggle openly before fans and critics alike to unearth its identity, purpose and mission stands as Third Day’s most valued accomplishment. Backing up the band’s rise, Billboard magazine noted the act is “not only one of the best Christian bands of the ’90s but one of the best rock bands, period.”
Faith, passion and rock ‘n roll swagger coalesce on the band’s 12th album, a simmering brew of potent rock anthems infused with the substantive, life-affirming lyrics that have always been the bedrock of the band’s music. Bassist, Tai Anderson talks to Cher Murphy about their latest album, an incredible delivery titled ‘Miracle’…
What has been the greatest miracle the band has seen?
In a lot of ways it feel likes just staying together for twenty years feels pretty miraculous. There’s so many factors that just pull apart any relationship of value: your relationship with God, your spouse, your kids. To have stayed together as the same core group of 4 guys that started this band in high school feels pretty amazing. Beyond that, it’s those moments through the years, usually at live concerts, where God’s spirit has really shown up. We once had a young fan almost die at a show. We stopped the show and prayed for the kid with our entire audience, and he was miraculously healed.
What do you believe is the key to keeping a band together as long as you have?
I think the fact that we were friends before we were in a band together has gone a long way. We still lean on those early friendships between Mac and Mark & David and me. Beyond that, we’ve also had enough success that we could do this and still support our families, which is a priority for each of us. A lot of good bands break up because they just don’t find an audience. We’re very grateful to our worldwide audience that allows us to keep being a band. It’s our families that keep us grounded.
Mac recently launched a solo country album, congrats! Based on the blog entries, surprisingly we have seen some criticism. How have you overcome unfounded judgement and criticism over the years by Christians?
For Third Day, almost all of our criticism has always come from other Christians, and it always stings a bit. We’ve been pretty well received by mainstream audiences because we’re very up front about who we are. They take it at face value, and either move past or don’t. Christians can get a bit judgmental toward us, and ask us to constantly prove our faith. I guess we’ve just learned that we’ll never be able to do that. That’s what a song like ‘Trust in Jesus’ speaks to. In the end, all we can stand on is our trust in what Jesus has done. We’ll never be able to earn our salvation and we’ll never be able to prove to people that we’re Christians either. We try to be transparent and honest with our audience. Sometimes that means moments of levity. There are always folks ready to point to those moments as proof of our hypocrisy, but I think it just points to our humanity.
How was it working with a legendary producer like Brendan O’Brien? What was the greatest lesson he taught you?
It keeps you on your toes. You really want to show up bringing your best every day. You know that he’s worked with some of the best musicians in the world. When he likes what you do, it feels really encouraging because you know that his standards have been calibrated by some incredible musicians. I think the biggest lesson that he taught us was to trust someone outside of the band with the music. Because of his pedigree, we really allowed him to take ownership of the songs and kind of join our tight circle. That’s not easy to do, but the results prove that it was worth it.
Did any specific artist inspire your new sound?
Yes. We’re not a band than runs away from our influences. We listen to more music than any other band I know. We often stay up into the late hours of the night listening to music together. We want to make sure we’re always on the level, and current, without chasing trends or hits. We always go back to the classics though: The Beatles, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Coldplay, and we pepper it with Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers.
It’s been 20 years, what are some of your dreams and goals you would still like to accomplish?
I’d like to see our music push past some of the barriers of Christian music. We want to stay a Christian band, but I’d like for worthy songs to find airplay. I’d like to hear our songs used in more films as well. On a more spiritual level, I think that Third Day has a voice to be encouragement to the church around the world. I’d like to see us do more International touring and live out that part of our mission.
With your crazy schedule, how do you keep your families happy?
Technology helps. We used to have to fight over pay phones, and our wives couldn’t call us. Now we can do video chats from the tour bus. So, that has really helped. But, overall, we just try to get home overall. In fact, we try to not just get home, but live at home and go on tour. There’s a difference. We love playing shows, but we’re very proud that our familes are all in tact. Every member of the band has now been married for over 15 years.
Where’s the best place to write songs Mac?
This is Tai, but I know Mac would say on his back porch.
Any plans to tour South Africa again?
Theoretically, yes. But, there’s nothing concrete on the books. I really love South Africa and hope that we can come back soon. There are great Christian music fans there that have always encouraged the band.
The album is filled with music that rocks both body and soul. The songs on Miracle cover a rich musical and emotional landscape. O’Brien became a willing conspirator in their sonic exploration. “Brendan really became like a fifth member,” says Powell. “He played a little bit of guitar, a little bit of keyboards, a little bit of this and that, but a lot of background vocals and that sound is different than what we’ve done before. Even though we’ve done background vocals, with him doing it in the way he sings and his melodies it brought a freshness to this record. It still sounds like Third Day, but there are elements that are adding these new layers and textures.” “We wanted to make this something different,” says Anderson. “I feel like over the last five years we appreciate our fans and we appreciate the success we’ve had more than ever and that really becomes a driver at the beginning of a new album. We can’t settle. It doesn’t need to be ‘Part 2’ of any record we’ve ever done.”
The members of Third Day have been given a platform and it’s a responsibility they take seriously. Of course, the band loves to perform and entertain, but most importantly they want to offer hope and encouragement. “If there is any over arching theme on the record, it’s about pressing on and holding onto faith in the midst of doubt,” says David Carr.
Music can spark a miracle. Listen and believe.
Vocalist Mac Powell
Third Day on Jay Leno