High schoolers Mac Powell and Mark Lee formed their Christian musical group, Third Day, in 1991, along with guitarist August McCoy and pianist Billy Wilkins. However, McCoy left the following year, pursuing tertiary education. That same year, Lee’s Church held an event Third Day performed, alongside another band, Bullard Family Singers who had two members, David Carr and Tai Anderson, that later joined Third Day upon request.
Come 1993, the group began to play frequently in the Atlanta region, striving to save up enough money to record their first extended play (EP) album. During this time, Wilkins left the group to embark on a teaching career. In 1994, Third Day’s first studio album, Long Time Forgotten, was released and sold 2,000 copies. In 1995, Brad Avery joined the band as their second guitarist. Soon afterward, the second self-financed demo recording, Contagious, was recorded and released, which saw 1,000 copies of CDs and cassettes distributed.
The successful demo release saw Third Day signed to their first label, Gray Dot Records, which released the group’s first studio album, Third Day, which sold 20,000 copies. Shortly afterward, Reunion Records bought the independent label out and signed Third Day to a multi-album deal. They also released an official version of their first studio album, which sold over 300,000 copies and was well received by critics and fans.
This served as the first occasion the band realized a mainstream rock radio hit in the U.S. All this took place in 1995. Later in that same year, Christian music headliner, Newsboys, requested Third Day to open for them at five of their West Coast shows. This they did, as well as launch a sixty-five city tour with All-Star United and Seven Day Jesus opening their concerts for them. Now with more recognition and experience under their belt, Third Day’s second studio album, Conspiracy No. 5, was recorded and released in 1997. This album won Rock Album of the Year with the Dove Awards, as well as a number of additional nominations and accolades.
The winning streak for Third Day didn’t end there. In 1998, with the group’s third studio album, Time, it also won Rock Album of the Year with the Dove Awards. It was also the second time for Third Day to earn a Grammy Award nomination. Interestingly enough, some of the songs that were recorded for that album were left out during production, but are featured on the EP, Southern Tracks.
When Third Day was on tour, they often included devoted time for an on-stage worship session with the audience, which led to an album that was devoted entirely to worship songs. Offerings: A Worship Album, only took one week to record and was supported along with Time in 2000, touring alongside Jennifer Knapp. Later in the year, they collaborated on City on a Hill: Songs of Worship and Praise with FFH, Caedmon’s Call, Peter Furler of Newsboys, and Jars of Clay.
In 2001, while on tour, Third Day recorded its first DVD, The Offerings Experience in front of a 15,000 audience at the HiFi Buys Amphitheater in Atlanta, Georgia. Later in the year, Third Day won five additional Dove Awards. Before 2001 was over, Third Day released its fifth studio album, Come Together, which won for itself two Dove Awards and a Best Rock Gospel Album Grammy. Third Day also appeared in the 2002 film, Joshua and even recorded a song for the movie soundtrack, titled “My Hope is You.”
In 2004, Wire became Third Day’s seventh studio album, shortly before the group embarked on a two-week European tour. Prior to this, they had already toured Australia and New Zealand, already becoming well-favored by Christian rock fans at an international level. When the group returned to the U.S., they performed and recorded a live concert in Louisville, Kentucky. Live Wire became their first live album. Later in the year, they collaborated for the soundtrack of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Shortly after this, Third Day recorded and released their eighth studio album, Wherever You Are, which won the Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album with the 2007 Grammy Awards.
Revelations and Retirements
Third Day recorded and released Christmas Offerings, their first holiday-themed album in 2006, which was followed by their first compilation album, Chronology, in 2007. In 2008, Brad Avery retired from the band in order to pursue solo projects. Revelation and Live Revelations were both released in 2009 as a CD/DVD combination, which soon resulted as the eighth studio album to earn RIAA’s gold certification. In that same year, Third Day was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and won a Grammy Award for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album with Live Revelations.
In 2010, Third Day joined a series of contemporary Christian groups for the annual Winter Jam tour. Also in that same year, the group released their tenth studio album, Move, which featured the song, “Follow Me There,” which served as the theme music to the 2010 TLC Television show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska. On November 6, 2012, Third Day released their eleventh studio album, Miracle, which was followed with a worship album, Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship, on March 3, 2015.
This worship album was the final recording for bassist Tai Anderson, who had been with the band for twenty-three years. Two years later, to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary as a band, Third Day released their final studio album, Revival on August 4, 2017. This served as their back-to-their-roots recording before embarking on what would be their farewell tour in 2018. On June 27, 2018, Third Day performed their last concert in Denver, Colorado.
Between 1993 and 2017, Third Day recorded and released a total of thirteen studio albums. Seven of them, namely Third Day, Time, Come Together, Offerings II: All I Have to Give, Wire, Revelation, and Move, each earned gold certifications from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Offerings: A Worship Album and Wherever You Are both became certified platinum.
There are also three live albums to the band’s credit, which saw the first of the three, Live Wire, become certified platinum and the second, Live Revelations, become certified gold. There are also two compilation albums, Chronology Volume 1 and Chronology Volume 2. Both of them have since earned double-platinum certification by the RIAA. There is also the Christmas album, as well as three EPs. From all this work, there are thirty-nine released singles, many of which have received nominations and wins among a variety of awards shows and recognition programs.
While the band may not be together anymore, their music continues to live on and maintain a solid place in the hearts of their fans.
Top 10 Third Day Songs
#10 – My Hope Is You
In the film, Joshua, “My Hope is You” was a 2002 recording of Third Day’s contribution to the movie soundtrack. Originally from Third Day’s second studio album, Conspiracy No. 5, this single has become one of the more popular songs from the group due to the inspirational lyrics that focus heavily on the reliance on God and his mercy, grace, and promises. On the US Billboard Contemporary Christian chart, “My Hope Is You” peaked as high as number two.
The inspiration behind this song, as well as the entire album revolved around the JFK movie and a number of conspiracy theories that revolved around what really happened to President John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated in 1963. Upon reading about conspiracy theories, there was a fifth definition that illustrated when two or more people work together for a common cause to sort truth from fiction.
At the time, there were five members to Third Day’s roster and the album was their fifth project together. Furthermore, as Christians, they shared a common belief, which they chose to conspire with their fans while on tour. However, none of the songs really focused on conspiracy theories as the album’s title suggested. It followed the pattern of following Christian beliefs and practices.
#9 – Nothing At All
“Nothing At All” came from Third Day’s first studio recording with Reunion Records in 1995. Although Third Day was technically their third studio album, it was the first that wasn’t personally financed and released from the band’s own pockets. On the US Billboard Hot Christian Rock chart, it peaked at number one and was also the group’s first crossover hit onto the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart as this song peaked at number thirty-four there. This was the third straight number one hit for Third Day, which came from the group’s self-titled debut album. The start of this song begins with a guitar riff solo before breaking into a full song that beautifully demonstrated the group’s trademark sound of southern-style Christian pop-rock that made them so well-favored by critics and fans alike.
#8 – Consuming Fire
“Consuming Fire” featured a music video that led Third Day to the group’s nomination for New Artist of the Year with Dove Awards, as well as a Billboard Music Award for Best Christian Video in 1996. While shooting this video on Bombay Beach, California, and the Salton Sea, this led to the discovery of Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain nearby. This served as a balladic inspiration for the band’s artwork on the 2008 album, Revelation.
On the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart, “Consuming Fire” peaked at number six. According to the Holy Bible, as well as this powerful southern-style Christian rock favorite, God is a consuming fire that can never be quenched. This is not considered a bad thing, but rather a great thing among believers who agree that while Heaven and Earth may perish, neither God nor his word will.
#7 – Agnus Dei
This 1998 cover of “Agnus Dei” was a cover to Michael W. Smith’s original, which was instrumental in Third Day’s Dove Award win for the compilation project, Exodus. On the US Billboard Christian Contemporary chart, “Agnus Dei” peaked at number. The English translation of this Latin title is Lamb of God, which is honored with Catholic Mass and other Christian liturgies, all of these descending from the Latin liturgical tradition. This is the name given to a specific prayer. Michael W. Smith turned this into contemporary Christian music, by piano, in 1990. Inspired, Third Day fused “Agnus Dei” with a guitar-riffed, southern-style gospel-pop single that became a favorite among Christian rock fans. This is praise music at its best that catered beautifully to a wide variety of Christian music fans who can’t get enough of quality worship music that beautifully bridges tradition with contemporary.
#6 – Alien
In 1998, “Alien” won the Dove Award for Rock Song of the Year. On the US Billboard Hot Christian Rock chart, it peaked at number one and was the first of four hit singles that came from the group’s second studio album, Conspiracy No. 5. Most of the songs from the album started out as instrumental pieces that later saw lyrics added during the recording sessions. “Alien” accompanied the other worship-related songs that reflected on God’s grace and mercy to a people that don’t seem to deserve it, but receive it anyway as the love is deemed unconditional.
#5 – This is Who I Am
“This is Who I Am” was a song that was released from the 2008 album, Revelation. This is the same song that appears on the EA Sports NASCAR 09 video game, which was released at least a month before the album’s release. For Third Day, Revelation was the most ambitious album, as well as the one that earned the most amount of nominations, namely from the Gospel Music Awards (otherwise known as Dove) and the Grammy Awards. “This is Who I Am” served as a self-identifying album that stood firm with an unapologetic viewpoint. The two wins from Dove for the group’s album were Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year and Recorded Music Packaging of the Year.
#4 – Call My Name
In 2008, “Call My Name” topped the US Billboard Hot Christian Rock chart and was the fifth most-played song on R&R Magazine’s Christian CHR. The US Billboard Christian Contemporary Airplay chart and the US Billboard Christian Adult Contemporary chart also saw “Call My Name” top their charts. This pop-rock’s basic drum track with solid melody was lyrically describing the perspective of God, as well as a believer crying out to God. This single was recorded on the Revelations album and was regarded as one of the best prayer-style songs according to critics, fans, and even the entire roster from Third Day.
#3 – You Are So Good to Me
From the album, Offerings II: All I Have to Give, “You Are So Good to Me” topped three of the US Billboard charts, namely the Hot Christian Rock chart, the Christian Contemporary Airplay chart, and the Christian Adult Contemporary chart in 2003. The popularity of this worship song has been performed and recorded by a large number of Christian-related groups, including the songwriters behind it, Waterdeep. As for Third Day, “You Are So Good to Me” did its part to earn the group a 2004 Dove Award win for Praise and Worship Album of the Year. The lyrical praise to God in southern-rock style format deservedly earned its place in the hearts of Christian music fans who seem to be in agreement.
#2 – Cry Out to Jesus
“Cry Out to Jesus” was a single that was released from the 2005 album, Wherever You Are. This RIAA certified gold favorite topped three music charts, namely the US Billboard Hot Christian Rock chart, the US Billboard Christian Contemporary Airplay chart, and the US Billboard Christian Adult Contemporary chart. With the Dove Awards, “Cry Out to Jesus” won Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year, as well as served as the key contributor to the album winning a Grammy Award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album.
#1 – Soul on Fire (featuring All Sons & Daughters)
In 2015, “Soul on Fire” was the big hit that came from Third Day’s twelfth studio album, Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship. On the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart it peaked at number two while on the US Billboard Christian Airplay chart and the US Billboard Christian Adult Contemporary chart, it peaked at number one. This edgy praise song saw Mac Powell at his vocal best, powerfully letting loose his desire to follow God until his soul is on fire with the Holy Spirit again. The inclusion of All Sons & Daughters delivered a choral backup that catapulted this song into a church-loving favorite among congregations who prefer music that gets the body moving and the soul pumping, which is what inspiring gospel music is supposed to be about. This song earned gold certification by the RIAA and remains a radio-playing favorite on contemporary radio stations that cater to Christian music.
Photo: Staff Sgt. Mark Matthews, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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