If you’re a band that’s sold millions of records, taken home multiple awards in every genre, toured the world to record numbers of audiences, graced the cover of Billboard magazine, been interviewed by “60 Minutes” and performed on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” where do you go next?
For the members of Third Day, it meant joining forces with a new creative partner: veteran producer Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Train, The Killers). Third Day, known for its riveting rock sound, looked toward a new voice to help drive band members to their best offering yet.
The band set up shop in its Atlanta-based recording studio, The Quarry, for sessions that spanned several months. Together, the band and producer began the focused creative process toward an evolution of sound. According to bassist Tai Anderson, “Brendan O’Brien brought an incredible element of quality control, and really challenged each member of the band to bring his “A game” to the studio each day.”
What was birthed was Miracle, a 12-track simmering brew of potent rock anthems infused with the substantive, life-affirming lyrics that have always been the bedrock of the Third Day’s music; it’s a place where faith, passion and good old fashioned rock ‘n roll swagger coalesce.
“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.” Indeed, Miracle finds the band exploring new sonic and lyrical territory.
In addition to the impactful songwriting listeners have come to expect from Third Day, they will encounter new sonic splashes -- layered guitars and harmonies, sing-along gang vocals, and so on – not heard from the band previously. The signature rock foundations remain; they’ve just been infused with a modern-day flair.
“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 ’70s music that has great big background vocals. I thought this music lent itself to that, so Mac and I did most of that and it was fun.”
Miracle also features plenty of musical bombast, as the album’s opening track “Hit Me Like A Bomb” attests. Guitars that both growl and jangle, snares that blast in your ears and Powell’s signature from-the-gut vocal style highlight a song about impactful love destined to be a new live show favorite. “Kicking And Screaming” showcases the band’s versatility, underpinning the track with an up-tempo acoustic pop feel we’ve not heard from them often, but fits perfectly today.
The album’s title track 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. “He was going to kill himself, but he turned on the radio and he heard ‘Cry Out To Jesus’ (from the band’s 2005 record Wherever You Are). It literally changed his heart and gave him encouragement to keep going. When you hear a story like that, it just blows you away.”
Powell took the essence of that story and penned the song, “I Need a Miracle,” the new project’s first single, out at radio now. “This is one of my top five favorite songs that I’ve ever written. There’s just something powerful about it. I’m really excited about this song getting out and encouraging people,” Powell says. “It’s about the power of music and how God can use it to speak to people’s hearts, minds and spirits. That’s why it’s so important.”
The songs on Miracle cover a rich musical and emotional landscape. “Your Love is Like a River” is a stirring worship anthem that is one of the band’s favorite new songs, while “You Are My Everything” is a gorgeous mid tempo love song that spotlights the warmth in Powell’s vocals. And on the opposite end of the vocal range spectrum, check out Powell’s use of falsetto on the choruses on “For The Rest Of My Life.” Yes, we said falsetto.
“As someone who is a natural baritone, I don’t sing falsetto very often. But sometimes as I’m writing these songs I hear in my head that is what the part should be. I talked to Brendan and he gave me the confidence to try it. This is just one example of how Brendan pushed me out of my comfort zone,” shares Powell.
“The Victory,” a bluesy Southern anthem featuring a fantastic “song-within-a-song” breakdown, also features a potent lyric carrying a theme at the heart of the album overall. “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.”
Miracle wraps up with a reinvention 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 Mark Lee, Tai Anderson and David 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 members of Third Day have been given a platform and it’s a responsibility they take seriously. Of course, they love to rock out and entertain, but most importantly they want to offer hope and encouragement. “If there is any overarching theme on the record, it’s about pressing on and holding on to faith in the midst of doubt,” says David Carr. “We have this unique opportunity once again to speak into people’s lives. We’re not here to give you all the answers. We’re here to say ‘Just hang on a little longer.”
“We have toured for so many years and feel like we owe any success we have to the fans that built Third Day. These songs are engaging musically and lyrically; we worked hard to stretch ourselves for the people who come to our shows and buy our music; we poured so much into this record because we wanted to bring our fans our very best. We are proud of Miracle and can’t wait for people to hear it.”