By Dan Wooding, Special to ASSIST News Service
ANAHEIM, CA (ANS – August 30, 2015) — Celebrating a powerful and uplifting 20+ years since the original independent release of Third Day’s GOLD selling self-titled debut album, THIRD DAY – which Billboard has called “one of the best rock bands, period” – forges new but familiar ground on its upcoming 12th studio album, Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship.
Looking beyond the extraordinary stats and accolades including 30 #1 singles, more than 8.5 million albums sold, 24 GMA Dove Awards, four GRAMMY®s, an American Music Award and being honored as a Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductee, the band is focusing on the spirit of worship and a pure consistency that has driven all of its recordings and live performances, and has always inspired its loyal fans to draw closer to God.
Mac Powell (lead vocals), Mark Lee (guitars), Tai Anderson (bass) and David Carr (drums), extol the eternal virtues of “Our Deliverer” and “Maker” while asking Him to “Lead Us Back” to the passionate faith that all believers had at the beginning of their walk with Christ.
I had the opportunity of chatting with guitarist Mark Lee just before the band performed before a huge crowd at Angel Stadium on the first night (August 28, 2015) of Greg Laurie’s SoCal 2015 Harvest Crusade, and discovered that the band had last year spread its wings to Kuwait and Iraq for a USO tour to perform for US troops there and lead them in worship.
He told me that the band, which has and has done some 1200 shows, were last year were invited by the United Service Organizations Inc. (USO Show), a nonprofit organization that provides programs, services and live entertainment to United States troops and their families, to visit the Middle East and play for them.
I began by asking Mark if this had been a scary experience for the band, and he replied, “I wouldn’t say that it was scary because on a USO tour, there’s soldiers all around you and you feel safe, but still you just don’t know what you’re getting into.
“The very first show we did we was in Kuwait and, while we were doing our sound check, a huge hulking man with a rifle on his back, came walking up to the stage and I thought, ‘Man, this is going to get interesting really quick.’ But then he said, ‘Third Day. I love you guys man!’ So we had a great time and did one show in Kuwait, and others in Iraq.’
“It was a big honor for us to get to go over there and serve the soldiers who have you know put their lives on the line for us and to be able to say thanks to them and also do some worship songs for a lot of people who are away from home for a long time and give them a little taste of home.”
Which camps did you go to?
“While we were in Kuwait, were at Camp Virginia, where the soldiers go when they’re first arriving and later when they’re returning home,” he said. “It’s the like the holding place for them. Then we went to a place called Spiker, which is in the north-east part of Iraq, near Tikrit. Then we were just outside Baghdad, which was the main base camp there, for other show. So it was a big honor.”
He went on to say, “The Baghdad show it was a worship experience and also an outreach, though there were also some people that just wanted to hear some rock music from the States and check us out. So we were able to perform for some people that might not have seen us otherwise.”
The band, Mark revealed, also did a show at the Mildenhall Camp in Suffolk, UK, and, he said, “It was a lot of fun to perform for the soldiers over there as well.”
Minutes before going on stage with the hand, I asked him if performing at Angel Stadium was one of their biggest venues, and Mark said, “Oh, definitely yeah. We’ve had a chance to play a few baseball stadiums. This I believe is the third time we’ve been a part of the Southern California Harvest event. We actually played at Turner Field in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago after a Braves game and played after a Cincinnati Reds game earlier in the summer. We’re all big baseball fans so it’s always fun to go to big baseball stadiums like this.”
I then wondered how he and the band had first dealt with fans who came to the events and if it was therefore difficult to keep humble.
He replied, “You know, we’ve been doing this a long time. When we first started out, maybe 20 years ago, we were first doing this, everything was so new and you’re not really sure how to handle the success; and especially when somebody’s really moved by one of your songs that are about things of faith and these deep spiritual concepts. When a song touches somebody’s heart and they come up to you and they’re thanking you for the song, that did take a little bit of a learning curve to say to that person, ‘It’s not about me, it’s what God did through this song through this music in us, and we would try to always point back to him in any kind of situation. I think that’s helped us a lot.
“And I think, once you get past that, especially the more we do this, the more we appreciate the platform that God’s given us. We’re able to perform for a lot of people and hopefully that God will use our music to touch people’s lives.”
I closed by asking Mark how the name Third Day came about, and he said, “The Third Day is Resurrection Day, and we feel that is the most important day in history that everybody has to come to grips especially at an event like this. It’s all about the outreach and evangelism that all of us have to come to grips with. What Jesus did on the Third Day, is that that means to our lives and we are glad to be able to share that great message under that name.”
Note: I would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.
Photo captions: 1) Mark Lee on stage. 2) Third Day performing during their Middle East USO tour. 3) Mark Lee pictured with Dan Wooding during the interview. 3) Dan Wooding picture in Northern Iraq outside the Kurdistan Parliament in Erbil.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author of some 45 books.
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