Artist Interviews
Third Day - July 10th, 2001

This is from a 30 minute interview that I had with Mark Lee and Brad Avery from Third Day. Kelly helped with the interview. The bold text is our questions/comments to them, and everything else is their replies.

Some unnecessary text has been removed, and some sentences have been tweaked to make them more readable.

Here's the interview:

Mickey: Tell us about the new album. Is it done?

Mark: It is almost done. We still have a couple of loose ends to do. We gotta mix it. That's kind of a big thing hanging over our head right now.

Brad: Mix it, master it…

Mark: We've been working on the album since last September. It's been almost a year now. It's kind of a neat story. We were gonna do the normal thing where you go into a studio for a couple weeks and record, and we decided to do something different this time. So we rented this - it was going to be an office building. We got in there before anybody had moved into it and rented it out. It's this really cool, old - it's a new building, but it looks old, like a warehouse or something, up in Acworth, Georgia, which isn't too far from Atlanta. So we rented that out for about a month, or six weeks…

Brad: Two months.

Mark: Two months, and we brought in the studio gear to there, so it was just a different way to record where we had an environment where we could just be there whenever we needed to, instead of "You've got this amount of time to be in the studio", cause it's pretty expensive to rent out a studio, so we had just as much time as we needed to work on it, and I think it worked out pretty well.

Brad: Yeah.

Mark: So we started it in the fall, and then we went on this Offerings tour, and then a lot of crazy things started happening - the Offerings record did really well, and then the tour did really well, and so we extended the tour into the spring, and then we found ourselves late spring/early summer "Ok, we've gotta finish this record that we started way back then…". It's been a really different process all around for us, but I think the music is gonna be really good. I think it's definitely some of the best stuff that we've done up to this point.

Mickey: Yeah, a lot of people have already heard "Come Together".

Mark: Yeah, we played that live some.

Mickey: We have a lot of keyboardists on the site, and they're wondering if you ever plan to get a "real" keyboardist in the band?

Brad: Because we're a guitar band. Guitar band. Guitar website. Guitar.

Mark: You guys need to go to Christian Keyboard Resources. (laugh)

Brad: We do have a lot of good keyboard on every one of our albums, and that's called a hired gun. We just bring people in to play those things. Our producer plays piano and keyboard, and we've got a guy named Scottie Wilbanks ??? play on the last couple of albums, and we've got a guy named Jeff Barkley ??? who's traveled with us for about two years now. He used to play with "Geoff Moore and The Distance", and he plays with us live. He is "in the band", but he's not a "member" of Third Day, that's two different things. But he is in the band, and he plays with us live every night, and he rocks. He sings great.

Mark: He's a great guy.

Mickey: What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you live at a concert?

Mark: Have you got one, Brad?

Brad: I know you've got one.

Mark: There's a big festival in Washington state called Creation West. The inaugural year of that fine festival we played, and at the time I used to do this big salute at the end of the show as kind of a fun. I'd hold my guitar up and do this big salute and hold it out for a solid minute to show the fans we appreciate them. I was doing that, and realized, after it was over, that my fly was down, as I was doing it. And I thought "Nobody noticed it, no big deal.", but then a few months later when we came back to that area I had a few people come up to me and tell me that they kinda noticed. My apologies to the state of Washington. Actually, they haven't let me back there since then…..they have, I'm just kidding.

Brad: I get embarrassed when I hit a wrong note, but nobody really notices.

Mark: If that's embarrassment, then I get that about every night.

Brad: You're going for it, and then it's just a complete bomb.

Mark: That's the key, though. If you're going for it, then I think it's ok.

Brad: Yeah, if you're going for it's ok, but sometimes it's just like…

Mickey: Ok, back to the new album for a minute. Mac writes most of the music, right?

Brad: Well, he writes most of the songs.

Mickey: Well, that's what I meant to say, yeah.

Mark: We don't know how many songs will be on the record, but at this point Brad's got about three, I've got about three or four, and then Mac had whatever the rest was - about half of them or something. Somebody will bring an idea to the table, where they've got just an acoustic guitar and vocal, and then we'll take it and musically make it into a Third Day song. That's usually how we work, and I think that's how we did on this record. I imagine we'll do it…

Brad: Forever.

Mark: It's worked ok to this point.

Mickey: What was your first guitar ever, way back when?

Brad: It was a silvertone. I still have it actually, hanging from the wall. It's one of those vintage, cool-looking pieces. It's bashed like crazy. It's like a three-quarter guitar, and it's an acoustic, and it's got cowboys on the top of it. It's really cool looking. (to Mark) Have you ever seen it?

Mark: Yeah, I think I have actually.

Brad: That was my first acoustic guitar, and I was probably five. My first electric I got when I was twelve. It was made by a company called Lotus, it was a Les Paul copy, candy-apple red. It was a beautiful guitar, I wish I still had it, but I sold it and bought a…80's Kramer???, for those of you who know what I'm talking about.

Mark: Kramer makes a pretty good…

Brad: They do make good guitars, and I don't have anything against them, except I just wish I still had my first guitar.

Mark: For me, I played violin for a long time.

Mickey: Yeah, I saw that, somebody mentioned that.

Mark: Somebody mentioned it. What'd they mention?

Mickey: They said "Did you ever consider doing something musically, either silly or serious, with the instruments you used to play?". According to what someone said, Mac played trumpet, Tai played ukulele, you played violin. They wondered if you'd ever bring those back in.

Mark: Probably not. Anyway…

Kelly: A ukulele on a Christian album….

Mark: Tai had a little ukulele band going on when he was in elementary school. But, I had been playing violin. I don't know that I ever really said "I wanna play the guitar", but I'd be watching MTV or something, and see how great these guys were playing guitar, and then my dad was like "You can do that", so for my 15th birthday he bought me an acoustic guitar. So that's what got me started playing. Honestly, I have no idea what kind it was. It was a pawn-shop special acoustic, but it worked for me. If you played one chord it sounded great, but then when you'd go to play another chord it would be all out of tune and stuff. Then I got me an electric called a Saga Gladiator.

Brad: Yes!

Mark: It was awesome. And then my brother and I painted it neon green and it was never the same, but that's another story…

Mickey: So who were your influences growing up when you were learning to play? Who did you try to model yourself after back then?

Mark: For me, I'd say - I've always been into guitar players that…they don't really show off or anything, they play stuff that just really makes the song. I think Peter Buck from R.E.M. was probably real influencial on me, especially during high school. A guy named Mike Campbell, who plays for Tom Petty, I think he's a total wizard. I've always loved the stuff he's done. I think Buddy Holly - really, when I was learning how to play the guitar, I learned some old rockabilly Buddy Holly kinda stuff, and I think guys like that, where they play really cool guitar stuff that completly serves the song, I love that kinda thing. The whole "less is more" kinda stuff.

Brad: Me, I swing the other dirction. I'm kind over the top. I liked a lot of 80's stuff. I liked flashy guitar players, but if it was like drivel I didn't necessarily care for it. But if it was flashy and original sounding, and it made the song sound good, then that was a bonus, but I liked a little bit of everything. I liked those things that Mark mentioned, I liked quirky stuff like Cheap Trick and the Cars, and that type of stuff. Good old classic rock kinda stuff, all those things.

Mark: We got to open up for Stryper the other day. We're talking all big about all these things we're influenced by, but I think we were both pretty impressed that we got to watch Stryper play the other day.

Kelly: I saw them years ago with White Lion, in the 80's.

Brad: White Lion, Vito Bratto.

Mark: You wanna start talking about the guitar, you need to start talking about Vito Bratto.

Brad: You're not kidding. There's somebody who could be flashy, yet play a melody that you could sing for about eight weeks.

Kelly: Like "When the Children Cry".

Brad: I could hum that solo right now. Well, I can't because I don't have any voice, but I know it.

Mark: The solo to "Little Fighter". It's as good as "Bridge Over Troubled Water" any day.

Brad: Bring back Vito Bratto. Where'd you go?!? (laugh)

Mickey: What do you guys listen to now?

Brad: Nothing. I listen to absolutely nothing. (laugh)

Mark: Really, somebody asked me that a little while ago, and I'm not kidding, my CD player has been broken for about three months, but I've been buying CDs anyway - I just haven't been listening to them. I really love - and maybe there's some acoustic guitar people out there that would dig this - Bebo Norman's new record. He's on our label, and I'm not saying just because he's on our label, but his new record is amazing. Really good songwriting, really good sound to it. I really like that record. Also the new Travis record, I like that a pretty good bit, I've been listening to it some. The Black Crowes, from Atlanta. Gotta throw out some props to the Crowes, their new record is quite good.

Brad: I've been digging on Lindsey Buckingham. Do you know who that is?

Kelly: Good old Lindsey.

Mark: Fleetwood Mac.

Brad: I've been really digging on that. It's nothing flashy, that's pretty tasty guitar playing.

Mark: Steve Earl, man.

Brad: Steve Earl.

Kelly: Oh man, Steve Earl.

Mark: See, that's me and Brad's common ground. Brad and I could sit around listening to Steve Earl all day.

Kelly: He's awesome.

Brad: And he does it all.

Mickey: There's all kinds of controversy about what makes a "Christian" band lately, with Creed and Lifehouse and all of that. One good question about that was "There are many rumors of Top 40 artists being Christians, for example Destiny's Child, and yet God does not seem to exist in their songs, demeanor, any of that. Do you think it's possible to have a band made up of Christians where their focus is not on God?"

Mark: That's kind of a loaded question, but I think it's very possible that you could have a band that they're Christians, just like you could have a dentist that's a Christian, he's just a good dentist. I don't think there's anything wrong with that necessarily.

Brad: I think you have to really clarify the question and add the word "musical focus" or "lyrical focus", because in reality, Mark is absolutely right, you can dig ditches. I'm sure you can dig ditches in a way that people are gonna see Christ, and that's probably the way we should all be no matter what kind of job we do. On the other hand, there are people who just have the ability to entertain, and write good songs, and they just write them about life in general, and they also love Jesus, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

Mark: There's a book called "Roaring Lambs" by Bob Briner, that came out within the last few years, and it really opened a lot of eyes - for me personally. Because I used to be in that camp where I thought if your lyrics weren't reflecting some spiritual side, then what's the point? But I feel like part of our calling as Christians and artists is to make really excellent music, and to be in the culture, and actively engaged - having songs on the radio. Having a song by a Christian artist on there as opposed to something else, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think the key with any of these things that we're talking about is for the artist, or the individual, to be true to what God has called them to do. That's the beauty of this. Here we are at this convention, with all of these different kinds of people, different backgrounds. I think that we need to be true to what God's called us to do. I think for us in Third Day, we're going to lyrically be a little bit more straightforward, and I think that most of our ministry is going to go on within the church, within people that already know the Lord. And I think there are a lot of other artists, who may be Christians, but they really feel like their calling is more toward people that aren't Christians. So, lyrically, you need to present yourself in a different way, because they don't understand a lot of the Christian terminology that we throw around so often. So, to answer anybody that would be concerned about that, just pray for the people, that they'll live up to their calling, and I think that's really all we can do.

Kelly: There's a lot of crossover right now, within country and pop music. Do you guys think that some of your songs could crossover on pop radio as well as Christian radio?

Mark: I think any time we write a new song and put out a record, we're excited about it, and we think it's as good as anything else out there so sure, if we got the opportunity, we'd love for that to happen. It's not something that we're gonna actively try to write songs in a certain way to try to get it played on the radio, because I don't necessarily think that's where we are. If God opens the doors for us, hopefully we'll be ready and walk through that, but until then we're just gonna keep on doing what we feel like we're supposed to be doing.

Kelly: I've noticed that here, you guys have been on The Fish (104.7 - Atlanta) before - they play Faith Hill even. She's on like every genre out there, so that's why I wondered if you saw yourselves moving toward that.

Brad: That's the same for gospel music, as far as black gospel is concerned. It's pretty much the largest selling thing out there, and it transcends every genre - it's cool everywhere. So there's no reason that our music can't be that way too, except that some people have certain tastes, and maybe we don't fit inside that little tasty box of theirs.

Mark: Tasty box? (laugh)

Mickey: Back to that whole "Destiny's Child" - that whole thing. When you guys write songs, do you try to write "Christian" songs, or do you just write the music and Jesus just tends to show through?

Mark: For me, each song that I write, I want to be true to that song. There have been times where I've had a song that wasn't really straightforward lyrically, and I thought "Maybe I should try to make it a little bit more Christian" and I feel just as wrong doing that as if I was trying to take a more-Christian song and change a word or two to where it wouldn't be offensive to some people. So I feel like it just depends on the song.

Brad: And the reason is because when you try to do that you force it, it becomes contrived, and then you actually end up doing more damage - you might as well just throw the whole thing out. You really just need to roll with it, and what comes out, comes out.

Kelly: I like the way Christian music is moving away from the cheesy songs - I like the way it's more about real life now, and you guys really put that out there for everybody, and they can relate to that.

Mark: I think people want to see that, not just in our music and our lyrics, but I think they want to see us just be real people. I think for so long Christian music has just been packaged a certain way so it's not offensive to certain people, and I think that's just not what people want to see. They want to see us being real people, and having real problems like anyone else, and being, um, broken, for lack of a better word. We're all in this together, and we don't have all the answers, and I think for so long the songs - people just couldn't relate to them, because they'd come from this syrupy-sweet faith that I don't think anybody has in real life.

Kelly: There's no way anybody's that happy all the time.

Mickey: Being on the road all the time, how does that affect your walk?

Brad: What does that have to do with guitar playing? (laugh) Just kidding. In reality, I think it makes my walk stronger - I tend to depend on God more when I'm out on the road then when I'm at home, and the reason is that I'm away from the people that I love the most. I love the guys in the band, but I'm really tight obviously with my wife and child, so when I have to be away from that, I've gotta really rely on God for protection, since I can't be there to help in any way, shape, or form. Also, at home sometimes it's hard for me to be on a good schedule, because I have a little one that gets up a lot of times earlier than I do, and that kinda gets me started off wrong if I don't get up and do devotions like I like to do. Like on the road, I get up and do devotions early, before anybody else is up, because I rise earlier on the road than most of the guys do, but at home I don't - my child rises before I do. It's actually a lot easier to hang with the basics on the road, to stay on a schedule, and to just get out there and do it, and keep focused. Especially with other people around you who are striving to do the same thing, so I find it to be a little bit easier. I find it a little harder at home because I get distracted, because I wanna be with my family, and I wanna do this, and then all of a sudden things start going everywhere and it's hard to keep things in perspective.

Mark: I think on the road, the general environment, because you have other people that are trying to do the same thing, I think - on this last tour we really tried hard to get together every day - we always try to do that, but this was something that we really made a priority, and I think we made happen a lot better, where all the artists on the tour got together and we prayed and had Bible study, and just talked, and that was some of the best times that I've had touring, and I think that really encouraged me in my faith.

Brad: You didn't expect that answer, did you?

Mickey: That was pretty good, actually.

Kelly: How old is your baby?

Brad: She's two and a half.

Kelly: Wow, into everything.

Brad: She's pretty safe, actually. She's kinda cautious, so she doesn't get into much.

Kelly: You're a lucky man.

Mark: It's always pretty cool with her. I like her. She's fun. Kids are fun.

Kelly: Now, you don't have any yet?

Mark: I have a dog, and a cat, and that's plenty for me right now. (laugh)

Kelly: Borrow other people's kids - you can give them back.

Mark: We kept Mac's little girl - my wife and I kept her for one evening a while back - and that was enough for me. About the first hour, she fell asleep, and we were like "This isn't so bad". Then about 30 minutes later she wakes up she's all crying, wanting her mom…

Kelly: And there's nothing you can do. (laugh)

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