Produced by rock legend Brendan O’Brien, well known for his work with Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Train and the Killers, Miracle finds the band exploring new sonic territory. “To have something new to say and to say it in a different way is really exciting,” says lead vocalist Mac Powell. “It’s reinvigorated us as a band.”
Miracle becomes the latest collection in a long, impressive body of work that has earned Third Day four GRAMMYs (11 total nominations) 24 GMA Dove Awards (42 total nominations) one RIAA Platinum album, seven RIAA Gold albums, two RIAA Gold Longform videos and one RIAA Platinum Longform video. Over the years, the Georgia-based band’s music has provided a vibrant soundtrack in the lives of this generation of believers. “Show Me Your Glory,” “I Believe,” “Cry Out to Jesus,” “Mountain of God,” “Call My Name,” “Born Again” and “Trust in Jesus” are just a handful of the Third Day hits that inspired and uplifted audiences around the world.
In preparing to record Third Day’s new album, Powell, bassist Tai Anderson, drummer David Carr and guitarist Mark Lee knew they wanted to try something a little different and O’Brien was at the top of the list of producers they wanted to take with them on the journey.
“They came to me and said, ‘We’re looking to make music that appeals to our fans and our spiritual side, but we want to break out a little bit and invite everyone in,” O’Brien says. “When I hear this music...it’s very inviting. It brings people in. It’s saying, ‘Come along and hear what we have to say.’ It really moves me. I really appreciate the hard work these guys have done. I think the song ‘You Are My Everything’ might be one of the best songs I have ever worked on. I’m super proud of it.”
That is high praise from the man who has produced some of the most iconic rock albums of all time, and it’s testament to the talent and work ethic that have placed Third Day among the most consistent hitmakers in any genre of music. Years of success, however, have not bred complacency and the band entered the studio with a desire to mix things up. “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.”
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 [this record] to have a brightness, a grandness to it and Mac can certainly do that,” O’Brien says, “but we wanted to have a little different sound from the lead voice. I’m a huge fan of 70’s music that has great big background vocals. I thought this music lent itself, so Mac and I did most of that and it was fun.”
The album’s title track, and first radio single, was inspired by a conversation the band had with a couple in New Jersey after a concert. “Their son was in a really depressed place in life. He drove way into the woods and was going to commit suicide,” Powell recounts. “But he turned on the radio and he heard ‘Cry Out To Jesus.’ It literally changed his heart and gave him encouragement to keep going.” Powell took the essence of that story and penned the song “I Need a Miracle.”
The album is filled with music that rocks both body and soul. “Kicking and Screaming” is among the many standouts. It boasts a catchy melody, passionate lead vocal from Mac and ingratiating background vocals that immediately make the listener want to sing along. “It’s a song that says ‘I’m going to stand my ground and fight for the things that I care about,’” Anderson says of the empowering lyric.
“Hit Me Like a Bomb” is an edgy rocker with snarling guitars and explosive snares, and Powell’s signature from-the-gut vocal style highlight the compelling lyric about transformation. “That song is about your life drastically being changed, just a totally 180 turned around,” Powell says. “In the chorus I say ‘And I saw it coming.’ It’s like you know there’s got to be a change or you’re going to end up in a bad place. You see it coming and you know there’s this anticipation that it’s going to happen. It’s got to happen, but it’s almost like you’re fighting it. Then boom! All of a sudden it happens from out of nowhere.”
The songs on Miracle cover a rich musical and emotional landscape. “You Are My Everything” is a gorgeous mid tempo love song that spotlights the warmth in Powell’s vocals. “Your Love is Like a River” is a stirring worship anthem that is one of the band’s favorite new songs.
Another highlight on the album is Third Day’s beautiful cover of “Morning Has Broken.” A vintage Methodist hymn that was a pop hit in the ‘70s for Cat Stevens, the song gets a stunning new treatment here, anchored in Lee, Anderson and Carr’s skilled musicianship and Powell’s earthy vocals. Scotty Wilbanks, a longtime member of Third Day’s road band, provides the eloquent keyboard intro.
“The Victory” is a bluesy Southern anthem with a potent lyric. “It’s about pressing on and making a commitment,” says Powell who was inspired by a documentary he saw on evangelist Billy Graham. “He and his best friend went to theology school together and his friend is an atheist now because when he started going to school it was like, ‘Okay I’m learning all these other things I never knew before. I grew up in a little town and now I’m learning these other ways of seeing the world. I realized that wasn’t for me. I’m going to expand my mind.’ When Billy Graham saw himself going there, he went to a place that had this big boulder and prayed. He said, ‘This is what I believe and I’m standing on this truth and I’m not going to allow myself to think otherwise!’ That’s a strong faith right there to say, ‘This is what I believe and I’m not changing from it.’”
“That song is about making a commitment,” says guitarist Mark Lee. “It’s about saying you’re going to see it through ‘til the end and I think that’s a big theme on this record.”
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.