Third Day Frontman Launches New Chapter With Mac Powell & the Family Reunion: Listen to 'Back Again'
It's pretty unusual to go to a show and hear a cover of the Georgia Satellites' "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" and shortly after hear the classic hymn "Victory in Jesus." But that's what makes Mac Powell and the Family Reunion such a unique outfit, and their self-titled debut album, Back Again, released via Thirty Tigers, such an eclectic treat.
"It's interesting that more people knew the words to 'Hands To Yourself' than they did 'Victory In Jesus,'" Powell tells Billboard with a smile.
Powell himself is well versed in both the rock and Christian music realms, and has worked in the country music community as well. He spent 25 years as lead singer/principal songwriter of the Grammy-winning Christian rock band Third Day, before the group called it quits with a sold-out farewell tour in 2018. The Clanton, Alabama born singer-songwriter also released two solo country records, a self-titled debut in 2012 and Southpaw in 2014.
He admits launching a new band was a scary venture, but something he felt led to do. He recalls the conversation about the career change with his wife Aimee. "I said, 'Hey I've got a great idea! What if I end up being gone a lot more and I play in front of a lot less people and make a lot less money? What do you think?' And she's like, 'Go for it! Do what's on your heart,'" the father of five says. "I love Christian music. I have no animosity towards it. I'm not jaded towards Christian music, but I just know that's not what I'm supposed to be doing right now. I just want to be a little light in the world and see if I can support my family in doing that. If not, I'll go do what I have to do, but we'll give it a good try and see what happens."
Third Day fans were introduced to Powell's new venture last year when Mac Powell and the Family Reunion opened for Third Day on the farewell tour. Working with multi-instrumentalist/producer Jason Hoard, Powell put together a Family Reunion album to sell on the tour. That album wound up in the hands of someone at Thirty Tigers, who liked what they heard and wanted to release the record. The new album, set for release July 26, will also include five new songs. "We added five songs to it just for people who have had it for a while," says Powell, who is managed by Redlight. "We debated on doing a whole new thing, but Thirty Tigers dug what the record was and it really hasn't been out nationwide. It only was for people who came to the show. I was so encouraged that when we opened up for Third Day, it was the No. 1 selling product on the Third Day Farewell Tour."
Joining Powell on his new adventure are Family Reunion members bassist Tim Gibson, who had previously played with Third Day, Matt McDaniel on guitar, pedal steel and banjo, who had toured with Brent Cobb, and Powell's longtime friend/collaborator Hoard, who plays electric and acoustic guitar and mandolin.
Though he could have continued down the solo path he began with his first two country albums, Powell opted to start a new band. "I've been in a band for 25 plus years, so I'm a band guy," he says. "I knew that's what I wanted to do. I've had the idea for a long time. It's hard to come up with a name, but I love this name. It's really inclusive. When people come to the show, I want everybody to be a part of the family. I don't want there to be this separation between the band and the audience. I want everybody there together, singing along, celebrating together."
The first single, "Back Again," which premieres above, exemplifies the band's high-energy sound. "I love those old rock songs by Jackson Browne or Bob Seger that talk about being on the road," he says. "The other day I was in my Jeep driving around with my little ones Birdie Claire and Emmanuel. They are 9 and 10 now and 'Jukebox Hero' came on. So I'm blasting that in my Jeep and I've got an Instagram video of them banging their heads. I just love these songs about rock bands being on the road, so I was influenced by that."
The remainder of the album, like the band's live shows, is a blend of country, rock and gospel, brought to life with Powell's gritty, soulful voice. "People were asking, 'What do you do? What does the Family Reunion sound like?' and it's a little bit of everything," says Powell, who won the Dove Award for male vocalist of the year in 2001. "It's a little bit of rock, a little bit of country, a little bit of gospel, and a whole lot of love."
Mac Powell and the Family Reunion recently wrapped a spring tour and plan to head back out on the road at the end of summer. "It's interesting to see all the old Third Day fans come to the show and see their responses," he admits. "There are so many people who come not knowing what to expect and they end up loving it. There have been a couple fans who come and say, 'Well I didn't really want to enjoy this. I came here with a friend. I didn't even want to come, but now that I hear and see what you're doing, I'm behind you a thousand percent.' So those are fun conversations to have."
Powell is grateful for his successful past and excited about his future. "I'm very thankful for the past 25 years and the support my friends and fans have given me," he says, "but even more excited about moving forward with this new entity, this new venture. I want everybody to give it a shot and listen because I think everybody would enjoy and have a great time with this."