the Third Day:
Former Student Mac Powell Rises on Faith and Talent to Win First Grammy
By Cheryl K. Miller
at BeachFest in Fort Lauderdale last March, Third
Day, a popular Christian rock band, was preparing to perform before
a huge crowd. After the rest of the band climbed the stairs to the stage,
lead singer, Mac Powell, hung back. Calling to his three-year-old daughter,
Scout, he gave her a big hug and kiss before greeting his screaming fans.
Despite the tremendous amount of territory Powell and his Grammy-winning
band, Third Day, have covered in the past ten years, he and Aimee, his
high school sweetheart and wife, Scout and his son Johnny, welcomed baby
number three to their Marietta home this summer. Powell, who went to school
at McEachern High School, still lives in Cobb County even after ten years
of world-wide fame. Family and long-term friendships are important to
Powell, which explains why the band is exactly the same as it was in 1993
when it was founded. The only telling shift in the bands priorities
is that the band members are more likely to listen to music like Veggie
Tales, the kid-friendly singing vegetables, these days.
Ten years ago, Powell and the other band members of Third Day, Tai Anderson
(bass), Mark Lee (guitar), David Carr (drums) and Brad Avery (guitar),
were college students who never imagined they would one day win a Grammy.
But that unimaginable moment finally came this year, when after being
nominated for four years, the guys finally took home the prize for best
contemporary Christian album.
We were really humbled and feel really blessed to be nominated,
said Lee. If wed won earlier I dont think wed
have appreciated just what a big deal it is to be nominated.
Awards and accolades have accumulated at an incredible rate since Mac
Powell was a music major at Kennesaw State. Third Day has won 16 Gospel
Music Association Dove Awards, had 18 number one radio singles, and has
sold more than three million records, with each of Third Days last
three albums attaining gold status. In 2002, Third Day performed
at more than 150 venues, with a total attendance record of 750,000 hearing
Powells gritty vocals and Third Days unique blend of southern
I think people perceive that because we make Christian music that
were just for Christians, said Powell. We make music
for everybody who wants to hear it. Christian music is hot, selling
almost 50 million albums in 2001, at a time when other album sales are
After a successful high school career in the McEachern marching band,
Powell enrolled as a music student at Kennesaw State University. My
goal in life was to be a band director, said Powell. But after
about two days of being in the music program at KSU, I realized that I
sang a lot better than I played trumpet.
The industry agreed with Powells assessment when he won the Male
Vocalist of the Year Award at the Dove Awards last year. Powell
was the first non-solo artist to win this award in 25 years.
In 2003 Third Day was nominated in four categories for the Dove Awards:
Male Vocalist of the Year, Group of the Year, Artist of the Year, and
Rock Recorded Song of the Year for 40 Days.
Mac was just like any other student, said Dr. Oral Moses,
director of vocal studies at KSU. He came with a desire to be a
musician. We got along well because I knew he was doing his own music
on the side. I encouraged it. Classical study gives one a good foundation
to venture out. I always told him he had a very interesting timbre to
his voice and I liked it very much.
Balancing music study with work and the development of a new band wasnt
always easy. Early on, Third Day was a contestant in the 1994 Battle of
the Bands on the KSU campus. The band was beat out by a Prince impersonator,
but did win second place. Those were the days when Third Day played for
Sunday School classes, youth groups and private school audiences around
Cobb County. One such day, the band arrived at a local private school
in Kennesaw and began setting up their equipment to perform. After the
band had spent nearly an hour getting ready, the principal came into the
gym. When he saw the length of Powells hair, he told the band they
couldnt perform. Powell immediately left to find a barbershop and
cut his hairThird Day performed for the students after all.
Powell, who took four years of music courses at KSU, said, I learned
to appreciate different kinds of music, even if it wasnt something
I normally would listen to all the time. I was also a big fan of the music
history classes at KSU. When I was at KSU I dont think I really
realized how great the music program was.Powell especially credits
Dr. Moses for his continued success. A lot of it was what I learned
from Dr. Mosesthe techniques and being able to develop my voicewhat
he taught me was a huge part of being able to sustain my voice throughout
Dr. Moses received Powells compliment graciously. Although
there are many other levels of success and we have a lot of those happening
all the time in the music department, I am thankful that students like
Mac Powell give us a little bit of credit for their success.
Powell, who writes most of the music recorded by Third Day, said he also
learned composition skills at KSU. The KSU music program helped
me as far as writing the common chord progressions that people use in
The newest Third Day album, Offerings II, was released on
March 4, 2003, along with a DVD of the band playing in concert in Atlanta
in 2002. More than 50,000 people purchased the release in the first week.
The album topped Billboards Top Christian Albums chart and placed
eighteen on the overall Nielsen Soundscans Top 200 Albums chart.
Third Day does more than accept awards, tour and sign autographs, however.
While touring in 2002, Third Day donated more than $250,000 to Habitat
for Humanity. Band members also personally helped build eight Habitat
houses in Atlanta, Nashville, Florida, Guatemala and South Africa. Two
of the band members, Mark Lee and Tai Anderson, worked side by side with
former President Jimmy Carter on the Habitat for Humanity Work Project
2002 in Durban, South Africa.
We have a lot of artists and organizations approach Habitat for
Humanity who want to be involved, said Kevin Campbell, Director
of Headquarters Programs for Habitat. Third Day is the real deal.
Mac Powell is very serious about his faith. That faith gives family and
friends a very high priority despite all the pressures that fame brings.
I remember when building the house in Atlanta, Powell brought an old friend
from Kennesaw along. Family and friends are very important to him.
Habitat founder and president, Millard Fuller, also has good things to
say about Mac and the band. We are so grateful for the generosity
and commitment of Third Day to help end poverty housing. Third Day has
not only helped us build more houses thanks to their donation, but they
have also brought Christ's love in action and activated servanthood to
their many fans across the United States.
The guys keep it all in perspective, though. What Im most
proud of is not all the awards, accolades, and sold out concerts,
said Powell. Im proud that each of us band members still remain
close as brothers and friends.
When asked what hed be doing if he wasnt lead vocalist for
Third Day, Powell joked, I'd be in my 10th year at Kennesaw State!