Third Day shakes up sound; stays on message with new release

"There's one choice on election day that we guarantee will satisfy you, and that's voting for Third Day," the band's bassist Tai An- derson says with a laugh. Yes, on the same day as the presidential election (Nov. 6), Third Day's new Essential Records release, Miracle, arrives.

Produced by Brendan O'Brien (the Killers, R.E.M., Bruce Springsteen), Miracle represents a sonic departure for the veteran Christian rockers. "We philosophically wanted it to be a new statement from Third Day; we didn't want it to sound like a cover of our previous material," Anderson says. "That's the big- gest critique for an established artist, that they are always in the shadow of their previous success. You struggle so hard to top what you did before."

Anderson, singer Mac Powell, drummer David Carr and guitarist Mark Lee have a lot to try to surpass with the new set. Since releasing its 1996 self- titled debut, the Georgia-based band has placed 15 titles on the Top Christian Albums chart, with 12 of those hitting the top 10 and five making it to No. 1. Additionally, they've scored such No. 1 Christian Songs hits as "Cry Out to Jesus" (10 weeks) and "Call My Name" (13 weeks). The band has also collected four Grammys and 26 Gospel Music Assn. Dove Awards.

The first single from the new album, "I Need a Miracle," is currently at No. 5 on Christian Songs. "In Christian music, radio is the best ambassador for a new album, and 'I Need a Miracle' is a great commercial for the entire record," Provident Label Group VP of marketing Bryan Ward says.

"I Need a Miracle," the last song written and recorded for the album, was inspired by a conversation with a couple after a show in New Jersey. "Their son was at a really depressed place," Powell says. "He drove off into the woods and was going to commit suicide. He actually hooked up a hose to his exhaust pipe, put it in the window, rolled up the window and was going to kill himself, but he turned on the radio, heard 'Cry Out to Jesus,' and changed his heart. It gave him encouragement to keep going. His life just radically changed, and when you hear a story like that-and we've heard stories like that several times- it just blows you away."

Ward adds, "When the label heard the song, we all agreed that the message of hope and that you're not alone in the midst of hard times was some- thing people needed to hear."

The new album also contains a stunning cover of the 1970s Cat Stevens hit "Morning Has Broken" alongside hard-charg- ing rockers like "Hit Me Like a Bomb." The engaging pop/rock "Kicking and Screaming" is ac- cented by catchy background vo-
cals, which O'Brien encouraged the band to utilize much more this time around. "The songs are fresh; the sound is fresh, " Anderson says.

"These guys showed up, did their jobs, and I'm so proud of them," O'Brien says. "They came to me and said, 'We're looking to make music that ap- peals to our fans and our spiri- tual side, but we want to break out a little bit and sort of invite everyone in."

The album is being pre- sold on the band's website, as well as at Family Christian and LifeWay Christian stores. "We offer an instant download of the single and a bonus live version of 'Your Love Is Like a River,'" Ward notes. "LifeWay Christian stores are offering a physical copy of 'I Need a Miracle' and two $5 gift cards with a pre-order. Family Chris- tian stores' presale will include a free T-shirt with every pur- chase. We're gearing up a big Twitter campaign asking our fans to 'vote for Third Day,' as the album releases on election day. We've also put together a takeover show with SiriusXM's program the Message."