Musicians who generate lasting appeal and impact listeners remain faithful to their roots and message. Third Day exemplifies this truism and achieved a pinnacle in Christian music with their number one single, "Your Love, Oh Lord."
"What I think makes Third Day work is that it's just guys making music, uncontrived, unpretentious," Mac Powell, the band's lead vocalist and lyricist, told crosswalk.com in 1999. "We've only made three albums (now four with the release of Offerings in July 2000), but we've probably played over 1,000 live shows, so live performance is much more natural for us."
The group's origins trace back to modest beginnings. Powell and guitarist Mark Lee attended the same Georgia high school. Following graduation, the two down-home Southern rockers hooked up with a keyboard player and formed an acoustical combo.
A year later and minus the original keyboardist, David Carr joined on drums, and Tai Anderson contributed his talents on bass. Another year elapsed before Third Day reached completion with the addition of lead guitarist Brad Avery.
"We're just a band from Marietta, Georgia," Powell admitted in a 1996 interview with The Phantom Tollbooth's Linda Stonehocker. "It's humbling to see so many people come out, and even see so many people that know the lyrics."
In 1994, Third Day cut a demo album eventually acquired by the Grey Dot label. The independent producer added two songs to the mix and released the self-titled CD in 1995. Reunion Records then purchased the rights to Third Day and expanded the album's content by two more songs in its 1996 version.
Critics hailed the recording and compared Third Day's Southern rock sound to Hootie and the Blowfish and Pearl Jam. The GMA recognized the group's achievement and talent with a 1997 Dove Award nomination for New Artist of the Year.
Reluctant to be pigeonholed, the five-member ensemble explored new venues with their second endeavor, Conspiracy No. 5. The album received critical acclaim, winning a 1998 Dove Award for Best Rock Gospel Record, but it left Third Day's followers confused and bewildered.
"I think Conspiracy No. 5 contained a little bit of meat that you had to chew on a while to digest," Powell revealed. "It was harder to understand, but once you did, you got a lot more out of it."
Confident of their purpose and direction, the quintet gravitated to their unique blend of rock, blues, rockabilly, and gospel with Time released by Essential Records in 1999. The result created a strong sense of worship that connected with listeners and solidified Third Day's popularity.
Four cuts from the album, "Sky Falls Down," "Took My Place," "What's Good," and "I've Always Loved You" topped the charts, bringing the ensemble's number one singles total to 13. Time also garnered the group a second straight Dove Award for Rock Album of the Year.
"On Time, we finally found and captured our sound," Tai Anderson said. "In the past, we might have felt like we had something to prove, but this time we just wanted to be ourselves and make a great record."
Fully committed to praise and worship music, Third Day compiled live versions of six past favorites and five new songs into its latest CD, Offerings. Released in July 2000, the recording electrified reviewers and fans alike.
Billboard's Deborah Evans Price proclaimed, "this powerful album treats listeners to beautiful praise and worship songs as well as tunes that stretch the boundaries of worship music in a wonderful way." In January 2001, the CD received the Recording Academy's highest honor with a Grammy nomination for Best Rock/Gospel album.
A live version of "Your Love, Oh Lord," a track originally recorded on Time, hit the airwaves as a single and skyrocketed to number one in October 2000, holding that spot for two straight weeks. The composition, inspired by Psalm 36, reminds listeners that God's love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice should prompt us to come to Him in worship.
"Lyrically, it's a praise song straight from the Psalms, but musically, it's very different" Powell said. "It uses loops, two drum sets and unusual guitar to create a rhythmic, ethereal, universal world-beat feel. It's different from the rest of the record, but not too much so."
Third Day's songwriter focused on verses five and six of Psalm 36 to express the song's central theme. They read, "Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep."
Powell used the Psalmist's phrases almost verbatim in "Your Love, Oh Lord." His lyrics differ only in the last line as he states, "Your justice flows like the ocean's tide."
For the present and foreseeable future, Third Day views its ministry as praise and worship music. Legions of fans, who have pushed the group's career sales numbers to over 1,000,000, agree. They packed the band's fall 2000 concert tour with Salvador and Kendall Payne and prompted a second round of performances scheduled for spring 2001.
"For us, there's no real transition from doing a regular song versus a worship song," Powell said. "We approach all of our music from one perspective - like (Apostle) Paul wrote, 'Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.' We want to remain in that mode continually."