Vocalist Mac Powell and guitarist Mark Lee have been making music together since they were teenagers in Atlanta, playing in various local garage bands and crafting their own roots rock sound as inspired by groups such as R.E.M., Collective Soul and the Georgia Satellites.
“We were getting to the point where we were getting serious about music,” Lee recalled. “During that same time, Mac and I had a rekindling of our faith.”
Powell and Lee began writing music and lyrics that reflected their religious beliefs, and by 1992, the first official lineup of Third Day had been formed. Twenty years later, Third Day is now one of the most well-known and successful Christian rock bands around, with 11 studio albums, four Grammys, more than 20 Gospel Music Awards and countless top 10 Christian music singles under their belts.
Third Day is currently in the middle of an extensive U.S. tour, and they’re stopping in Spokane tonight: They’ll be playing Spirit Fest at the Lilac Bowl Amphitheater in Riverfront Park, along with special guests Peter Furler, the former lead singer of Australian Christian band Newsboys, and former “American Idol” contestant Colton Dixon.
The band is already familiar with the Inland Northwest: In fact, Lee recalled that their first gig as nationally touring band was in Spokane in the late ’90s.
Lee believes that part of the band’s continued success has come from staying true to their own musical identity. “It’s definitely taking a risk,” he said. “Everyone’s doing this, but we’re going to do our own thing. Hopefully we gain some respect and our own audience through doing that.”
After releasing so many albums, all the while hearing the trends of popular music constantly change, Lee says there can be some difficulty in keeping their material original and exciting.
“The more music you have out there, the harder it is to do something new and fresh,” he said. “But with every record, we try to take a step forward, to be sure each album has its own distinct sound and that we’re making strides in a new direction.”
Their approach appears to be working: The band’s most recent album, “Miracle” was released last November and quickly climbed to the Top 10 of the Billboard charts. The record was produced by prolific engineer Brendan O’Brien, whose prior credits include bestselling albums by Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Rage Against the Machine.
Although the members of Third Day take care in crafting their songs and perfecting their musicianship – “We want to put on a great show that gets people’s attention,” Lee said – their main goal is to uplift and inspire their listeners.
“The message is ultimately what’s most important,” Lee said. “We’re just dudes with guitars. But we hope that people leave the show with a little more hope and encouragement.”