Back in the early 1990s, when angst-filled grunge ruled radio, four churchgoing Atlanta teenagers decided to start a rock band.
They didn't plan on making typical Christian music. They listened to R.E.M and Black Crowes. Still, as the group began to write songs, their lyrical message became clear: In good times and bad, the musicians relied on Jesus.
Two decades and 12 albums later, Mac Powell, David Carr, Tai Anderson and Mark Lee, known to the world as Third Day, continue to make music together. Produced by Pearl Jam and Killers producer Brendan O'Brien, Third Day's latest release, Miracle, pushes sonic boundaries. The four-time Grammy award winners will perform Thursday at the Florida Strawberry Festival.
The Times' Sarah Whitman spoke to bassist Tai Anderson about touring and keeping the music fresh.
After all these years, what keeps touring interesting?
We've been really fortunate that we haven't yet crossed into that place where people only want to hear our early work. We continue to have new hits and the majority of what we play at our shows is from the last five years, so it isn't boring for us. It isn't at the point where we feel like we might as well be playing Journey covers because we are playing the same songs over and over again.
We have a blast playing live and we really appreciate it. I think we appreciate it even more than we did when we first started because we realize how special it is that we are able to keep doing this. And the crowd is different every night. We continue to make new fans.
How do you feel about being labeled a Christian band? Do you think the distinction will always exist?
I think it will always be a separate genre and there will always be artists that blur the lines. We've talked about it through the years and for Third Day, well, we don't lose a lot of sleep over it. We are a real live rock band. People can call it what they want. So many people say our music has inspired them and helped them through difficult times, so if some people make fun of it or whatever, I don't care.
What is your favorite song to play live?
Your Love Is Like a River. It has a fresh sound. It sounds current without sounding derivative.
For much of 2013, you toured with Skillet, a Christian band also considered a crossover success. Did it bring a new crowd to your shows?
They bring some younger fans to the crowd. You can spot their fans because they are wearing all black. It's a challenge to try and win them over and to get them to say wow, Third Day is a real rock band. It's a good thing when that happens.
After all this time, what keeps the band together?
The way our music touches people's lives keeps us at it and we do genuinely like each other. We still have our four original founding members. It's a very small club of bands that can say that.