War. Floods. Devastation. Paranoia. Political upheaval. Through it all, there is hope.
Troubling times to be sure, nonetheless the current backdrop for Third Day’s steely-eyed eighth album, Wherever You Are. Berthed amid a storm of personal crises, as well as the troubling events beamed nonstop through the media, it may just be the band’s most galvanizing moment. It’s certainly its most personal.
“We lost three family members last year and had a pastor who lost a father,” explains guitarist/songwriter Brad Avery. “We have friends who endured divorce and others who have fought financial problems. Those difficult sorts of loss and triumph fueled what we wanted to talk about and made the message a little more tangible to our listeners this time.”
But at the core of even the darkest moment, there is hope. And it’s that nugget of light that forms the very marrow of Wherever You Are. “When you’re lonely and it feels like the whole world is falling on you,” Mac Powell sings on the high impact first single, “Cry Out to Jesus.” “You just reach out; you just cry out to Jesus.”
“On the last record we tried to reach people’s heads,” says Powell. “The songs on this album, however, speak to their hearts.” And the band has landed a bulls-eye.
Further honing their ever-sharpening song writing skills, Third Day, who’s stood atop the Christian rock world for the better part of a decade, continue the work they started in earnest on the Grammy-winning, gold-selling Wire. With a keen eye for introspection, the Atlanta-based
rockers leave over-arching testaments of faith behind, instead choosing to dig deep and dirty into the travails of everyday life. There is turmoil. There is celebration. There is heartbreak. There is happiness. There are tears and plenty of what Powell calls the “major catastrophes in our everyday lives.” But fighting through the swirling clouds of doubt, there is hope. And God is present in the midst of it all.
“There are times in your life when hope is the only thing you have to hold on to,” says Avery. “That’s where this record really came from and we wanted to write songs that met people in whatever situation they were in.”
While the inspiration for tangling with such familiar demons was admittedly a result of the hardships among friends and family of the band, it also came from responding to Third Day fans.
Citing its audiences’ gut-wrenching reaction to songs like “It’s A Shame” from Wire, an album which guitarist and songwriter Mark Lee says was a “little more lyrically vague overall,” Third Day committed to offering up more of that kind of emotionally precise material.
“You could tell that song hit home when we were on tour,” Lee says about “It’s A Shame.”
“We felt a sense in the audience that they wanted that kind of realness from us. I mean, you come to a show and you put your best face on, but people are always going through heavy stuff. We’re not pretending we have all the answers, but God is bigger than the problems.”
Powell says being able to make art out of life’s common struggles is a sign that the band is maturing. When Powell and Lee started Third Day back in 1991 (Tai Anderson and David
Carr joined in 93; Avery in 95) they were fresh of out college and still holding down day
jobs. Fourteen years later, the group is all grown up with marriages, babies, and mortgages to deal with.
“Life is different now,” he points out. “It’s a wonderful thing, but there are plenty of ups and downs. There’s always something to write about: changing circumstances, new challenges,
even revelations of older things. You’re constantly having to rethink and readjust the things you’ve learned.”
One thing that hasn’t changed for the band, however, is its mission: to convey the hope and salvation in the eternity of Christ through their music. “Good times or bad,” Avery says, “people always need a reason to hope. God has given us this message and I think the time is right for Third Day to deliver it. We’re seeing tremendous response to these new songs in our live shows.” From the hopeful, “Rise Up” to the inspiring, “Mountain of God” (featuring guest/friend Ashley Cleveland) - each of these songs offer a message of hope. It’s a message that meets you Wherever You Are.