Revealing a New Chapter
When Third Day debuted over a decade ago, the Atlanta-based act was steeped in Southern rock n’ roll—a sound that would continue to pepper future projects with less frequency. Which is why fans of the band’s rollicking roots will likely be pleased with the deliberately more aggressive Revelation, arguably the band’s most intense (and possibly even best) disc to date, thanks in part to production from Howard Benson (Relient K, P.O.D.), mixing by Chris Lord-Alge (Green Day, My Chemical Romance), and guest appearances from the likes of Robert Randolph, Chris Daughtry, and Flyleaf’s Lacey Mosely. Another change comes with the departure of longtime guitarist Brad Avery, leaving Third Day as a quartet comprised of lead singer Mac Powell, guitarist Mark Lee, bassist Tai Anderson, and drummer David Carr. The latter two talked to Christian Music Today about this new chapter in the band’s career, along with the associated changes and hopes for the future.
Do you believe that Third Day ever abandoned rock ‘n’ roll in your decade or so together as a band?
David Carr: I don’t think we ever abandoned rock, though there are a lot of different ways to define rock. We’ve always had plenty of guitar tracks—sometimes heavy and maybe too many guitars at times. But Mac also has a tender side; the way he writes has an emotional side to it. There are times we really want to let that out, so the song doesn’t need as much of a rock sound, and I think that’s off putting to fans who say, “You’re not who you were.” But as young guys who started in their late teens and early twenties, we were constantly trying to find an identity, experimenting with our sound. That’s why Conspiracy No. 5 was very edgy and raw, while Time was more rootsy and from the gut. I don’t want to look back and discredit anything, but we’ve explored so many parameters that hopefully each album explores something more. On this new album, I think we’ve really honed in on something.
Tai Anderson: Some people defined Wherever You Are by the [softer] radio singles like “Cry Out to Jesus” and “Mountain of God.” Even though it wasn’t my favorite record, I liked that we weren’t driven by what was going around us musically—we weren’t trying to be MercyMe or Casting Crowns. It was made out of a season of empathy, recognizing that a lot of our family and friends were going through difficult times. When somebody’s just lost a child, you don’t play a rock song at them. You walk beside them, which is what we were trying to do—uplifting our friends going through divorces or loss of a loved one. Later that morphed into a response to Hurricane Katrina and other issues going around the world at the time.
Out of curiosity, which would you call your favorite record?
Anderson: Time is probably my favorite record overall.
Carr: I would second that.
Is it frustrating to you that people try to confine Third Day’s sound in a box?
Carr: I don’t necessarily think it frustrates us, but some people misconstrue our intentions. We certainly don’t expect everyone to like every album equally and we’re not trying to do the same exact thing on every album. Any band who tries to keep reproducing what they’ve done before is not going to last fifteen years.
With all that said, we don’t really like to look in hindsight and wonder whether we should or shouldn’t have done this or that. I’ve defended Wherever You Are because even though we as a band refer to it as a softer album, songs like “Tunnel” and “I Can Feel It” still have a heavier feel to them. There were a lot of songs on there that were rock songs, but they were sandwiched between some softer message songs.
After Wherever You Are, how did releasing two volumes of Chronology help give you a fresh start?
Anderson: We felt like Chronology One and Two bookended the first ten years, so now we wanted to make a new statement. Everything about Wherever You Are was presented as more of an AC album, and we sang it from the second person point-of-view, as if we were having a conversation with someone going through a hard time. Revelation is more of a first-person project, right from the first track, “This Is Who I Am.” So now the conversation is between us and God, and a new statement of who we are.
Is there an overarching theme or message to Revelation?
Carr: Well, it’s often hard to sum up an entire record into one congruent statement, though Revelation is definitely more cohesive than some of our past records. It’s more of a conversation between man and Maker.
Anderson: Mac really laid it out there as a songwriter with words that are a little bit edgier. Like in “Revelation,” the revelation doesn’t come from a perspective of us telling God what to do, but rather asking God to tell us what to do. So we’re bearing it all out with more openness and transparency to make it relatable to more people, rather than just a normal testimony of someone who used to have problems and now has everything figured out.
But then it must have been tough to combine such relatable lyrics with a more aggressive rock sound, right?
Carr: That’s the beauty of Howard Benson as a producer. His greatest strength seems to be taking a song to a new level lyrically—one that’s believable, yet all the while making it sound huge. Our hope is that as people who are familiar with Third Day hear this new record, they will be pleasantly surprised at how big the sound is—that it’s been elevated to a new level of sonic quality—and most of all, that the music and lyrics are even more believable and compelling.
Did going from a five-piece band to a four-piece affect the sound of the CD?
Carr: Actually, the record was recorded with Brad, so you’ll still hear the five of us there. But Howard was not so much into having fifteen different guitar parts anyway. Instead we’d take one part and then double it, or maybe even triple or quadruple it, which makes it stand out without having a jumbled mess of parts trying to figure out how to play them live. I was initially a challenge for us to figure out how to perform as a four-piece, but so far it’s translating really well and still pretty true to the record.
Why did Brad leave the band?
Anderson: It’s not a big drama or [anything gossipy] like TMZ. Brad gave us our signature sound, like the second electric guitar on “Consuming Fire.” He also brought professionalism to the band that we really needed. But the only thing constant in life is change and change is hard. It was really hard to a lot of our fans and even our kids—when I told my kids that Brad was leaving the band, we sat on the floor and cried.
Did he tell you he was leaving, did you ask him to go, or was it more of a mutual decision?
Anderson: It’s a simple question, but kind of hard to answer. We all came together and it wasn’t a fighting thing. We were talking and praying through this together and the result was it was just time to part ways. I know that sounds vague, but there have been different feelings by all of us before and after [Avert left]. It wasn’t that Brad quit or that we kicked him out—it was a collective decision.
Carr: Collectively, we recognized that there were some differences. And again, I’m not trying to be vague, but you can open up a can of worms and then it turns into more.
We understand, and certainly don’t want to pry. But people talk, especially when the circumstances are so vague.
Anderson: That’s been our challenge with it. There wasn’t any scandal or a big fight. But neither Brad nor the band wants to create lies either. We don’t want to say he’s pursuing a solo career when he’s not, or to say he’s spending more time with family and imply he’s having trouble at home. And we want to be careful because we don’t want to cast the record with any of this. I think it’s about going forward and all being unified around this album, and it became clear it’s time to part ways and go on different paths.
Carr: We know this isn’t an easy time for him and it hasn’t been an easy time for us either. There comes a point I think in a lot of bands and relationships when you really hit a crossroads. You don’t even realize it’s coming up as soon as it is. I think it hit us between the eyes in a way, even though I think we were feeling over the years that our paths would someday diverge. I think we all denied it and put it off because we didn’t want it to happen. So it’s not that we’re trying to be vague, but we’re [not being specific] out of respect to Brad and to us. The biggest thing we asked on our message boards shortly after it happened was just to trust us that Brad and the band doesn’t make such decisions haphazardly or flippantly. We prayerfully considered the matter together.
Moving on, this album has an impressive guest list. How did you hook up with Chris Daughtry, Lacey Mosley, and Robert Randolph?
Anderson: We all met Daughtry last year at theGrammy Awards and he talked about listening to Third Day when he first got started in music. Mac and Chris have since remained close friends,so he was a natural to have on the record, especiallysincethe song he sang [“Slow Down”] speaks to friends trying to be there for each other. Our schedules didn’t allow us to be there when Chris recorded, but we did get it captured on video!
We hadn’t heard Flyleaf’s music till Howard played it for us during pre-production. We were pretty blown away, especially by the song”All Around Me.”Watching Lacey sing was pretty cool, as she also talked about how Third Day influenced her when she was still a teenager.
And I’ve been a huge fan of Robert Randolph since I first saw him play at Gospel Music Week four or five years ago.I wrote the riff for”Otherside” and immediately thought it sounded like something that Robert could absolutely nail.Now that we’re under the same management, it was a breeze to work it out. Robert took the song and blew it up! We can’t wait to play it live together on the Music Builds Tour this fall.
What is the ministry goal with the Music Builds concept and teaming with Habitat For Humanity?
Anderson: We’re really excited because we’ve had such a long history with Habitat For Humanity and we’ve seen it help people first hand. Switchfoot just got off the their similar Appetite For Construction Tour with Relient K, and ever since, they’ve been really wide-eyed, saying “This is amazing!” And we’re like, “Yeah, we know. We’ve been doing it since 2001!” But it’s really cool because there’s such fresh enthusiasm. We’ve worked with different things on and off throughout the years, but we’re excited to get out to more construction sites. Dave’s got great construction skills now!
Carr: We’re excited about this upcoming season … even though I hate to say “We’re excited” because I know we say that all the time! But I don’t know what else to say other than we really look forward to this new season with anticipation.
Anderson: We were intentional to not just make this the next Third Day record. We wanted to make a new statement of who Third Day is and we’re making a new statement with touring, imaging, merchandise, and communication as well. We embrace being a Christian band and our goal is not to leave Christian music or the church. Our goal is to bring more people and we want to pitch the big tent and let everybody come in.