161_thirdday.indd

In this interview with bassist Tai Anderson, we both traveled down memory lane a bit. First, I had to share my excitement and respect for the band reaching beyond their comfort zone for their latest album – Miracle. And I also asked Anderson to go through the band’s entire catalog and comment on each album.

I was thrilled to read the opening paragraphs to your recent album’s bio, because for years I’ve told a small circle of friends that, “I’d love to produce the band Third Day, because I feel like they are so successful at what they do and their formula for making music has immediate returns that they have no motivation to do anything different. I’d like to stretch the band beyond what they’ve been doing that has worked so well.” And that is basically what I’m gleaning that you have done with Brendan O’Brien. I’d like to know how you guys were able to get to that point where you allowed yourselves to deviate from the tried and true Third Day formula.
Well, that’s a great question. I think the process starts before you ever go into the studio. It started for us with a really bad meeting with the record company (laughs). We sat down in Nashville and had a meeting and it was very awkward, because they were like, “Alright, guys. It’s time to go make a new record.” And, here we were – I think it was the first weekend of a 40-city tour for our last record (for Move) and we’re going, “We’ll, we’re out on the road promoting this record right now…” And they’re going, “Well, yeah, but we’re looking ahead on the calendar and do this,” you know, “What do you guys wanna do?” And we’re like, “Well, we don’t want to do the same thing that we just did. We want it to be something different.” I think the record company was kind of in a place where they’re going, “Well, we wanted to…” in not-so subtle ways, going, “Here’s the way Christian radio is moving…” And we’re kind of going, “Well, we feel like we already… On the last record we had songs that are right in that sweet spot. We had ‘Children of God.’ We had ‘Trust in Jesus.’ We had songs we really liked that came from an honest place and they really didn’t do that great at Christian radio. They were maybe top 15, but Third Day we’re used to #1.” I feel like kind of the message from the record company was: “Give us more of that,” and we were going, “But that’s not working. It’s not the same world as 2000 and 2002.” I think Third Day is this rock band and when we kind of showcased a little bit of our softer side, it was this novel thing. It was like, “Wow! This rock band is making a song like “I’ve Always Loved You” or “God of Wonders” and it really was unique and special. Or when Third Day was kind of doing more worshipful music, it was kind of special, because there wasn’t a worship genre. And now it’s like, “Do people really need that from Third Day when you have Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns, MercyMe and on and on and on that do a really great job at that?” We just started going, “Man, what makes us Third Day?” We always go back to our live show as a point of reference and just go, “You know…” It’s kind of a funny thing for our records. We’ll record 12 songs and two ballads get heard on radio. That’s just kind of the nature. I think Third Day has solidly been a consistent rock band – just an American rock band – certainly not a hard rock band. But maybe more in the vein of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers or occasionally a little of our Southern Rock side or some of our Black Crowes riffs that we were listening to in high school. There’s a Third Day you hear on the radio and there’s the Third Day you hear on the albums and you hear live. In our live show, it features songs like “Other Side” and “Make Your Move” and “Surrender” where we kind of stand apart from the other bands as being a little bit more of this rock show with the occasional ballad; whereas on radio you’ll hear the ballad and that’s it. It kind of started from there and about that time we watched the new U2 documentary (From the Sky Down). It came out like the next day after that meeting. It’s just talking about the making of Achtung Baby – this record where U2 purposed to cut down the Joshua Tree and start over as a band. So, we watched this and it was like sort of a double-side response. We were going, “Okay, the results are what we need. It needs to be something totally fresh – a new statement, so starting over as a band. There’s a lot of good Third Day cover bands out there. They put YouTube videos up and we just need to make sure that we don’t become one of ‘em. It needs to be fresh. It needs to be something new. Watching this video, we’re like, “Alright, baby! It’s time to book a studio in East Berlin.” Seeing from that, it was like, “How do we get there?” I felt like Move really was… Move sounds like what Third Day sounds like when we get in the room and nobody gets in the way. That’s kind of like, “Here’s this core sound,” but we’re going, “How do we make something new? We’re not going to get there on our own.” I think at this point it takes a little bit of humility to recognize that. You want to say, “Hey, we know what we’re doing. We’ve been making a lot of records. We’ve got this figured out.” I think we all got to a place where we said, “Alright, we don’t have this figured out.” We did figure out that: “If we don’t do something different, we’re going to get the same results.”

That was kind of our response to the record company: “If ‘Children of God’ isn’t a runaway #1 hit, then we’re not going to be able to… We can’t be more ‘Children of God’ than ‘Children of God.’ We can’t be more ‘Come to Jesus’ than ‘Come to Jesus.’ We’re not going to go in and go for the same formula and work with the same producers. We’re not going to go co-write and do all those things. It needs to come from this band. We have enough fans that care about that it’s important to us. We don’t wanna just hire the same hit-makers and just sound like everyone else.

About that time Brendan O’Brien had mixed our Wire project a few years back and he’s definitely one of my producing heros. And really all of the band. I think every one of us – if you list our top ten records, it’s not that he has every one, but he probably has two or three in all of our lists. Everything from Pearl Jam records to Stone Temple Pilots. We didn’t really grow up on Bruce Springsteen, but we fell in love with Bruce Springsteen from The Rising, when Brendan started working with them and then “Drops of Jupiter” is just an incredible song. His resume, not to mention he was the engineer on the first couple of Black Crowes records. It’s just always been our dream that we’d get to work with him and he’s always been really expensive and it just hasn’t worked out. It kind of went to meeting in Nashville, we might have watched the U2 movie that night and the next day we had a meeting with our management. They said, “Okay, so what do you guys want to do going forward?” We were like, “Well, we don’t wanna do the same thing we’ve been doing. We’d really love to see if we could work with a producer like Brendan O’Brien – someone on that level – where we know they could take us to a new place. Leaving that, they called Brendan’s person and got a very instant, “Nope! Not available. Doesn’t want to do it.” So, we started at looking at flights to East Berlin – not literally, but we litereally went, “Okay, what we need to do is sit down in a studio and make 80 demos.” Bands like Switchfoot do that – go make 80 demos of every idea we have and we use that to go try to get the producer to get the vision and then we’ll probably be making a record about now. That’s kind of where we thought we were having to go. Then Brendan called me and he said, “Hey! I just talked to my person and he said that you guys had called and had told you guys no, but he hadn’t talked to me first. I’d actually really like to meet and get together. So, we met with Brendan. We left that meeting with just kind of, “Let’s get to know each other better.” He left with our music and came back the next week and he said, “You know, you guys are a great band, but I kind of have a vision of taking you guys to a different place. Your singer is great. You guys are a solid band, but I have ideas and things I want to do with the rhythm section, ideas with the guitars, ideas with the vocals to get it to somewhere new.” He met with Mac and what was great about it is basically … his message back … normally when you hear back from big producers are, “Yeah, I’m interested. Send me the songs. If I hear enough hits, then I’ll do the record.” With Brendan, he kind of came back and said, “You know what? I believe in the band. Let’s go in the studio and see what we can do. We were meeting in November and December and basically first of the year we went right into the studio. He kind of fell in love with our studio and has made it his new home in Atlanta. We just went to work and even doing the first songs that we did were a little bit more intense songs – a little bit harder, maybe in the Stone Temple Pilots wheelhouse and by the end of the record he was kind of identifying our strengths and where Mac’s phrasing is at its best and best tempos, so a lot of those songs got beat. It’s not even as hard of a record as Wire. It’s hard to say, because there’s individual songs on every record, but overall I think that the record … the word that we came up with is there’s a freshness to it. It sounds like we accomplished what we wanted to. In the same way that Achtung Baby has all these sounds and things that are intense and harder than you had with The Joshua Tree, but what’s the big takeaway 20 years now? It’s the song “One.” It’s the one that really lasts and stood the test of time. I think we accomplished what we wanted to. We worked with a guy who pushed us. I feel like we made a record that doesn’t sound like everything else in Christian music. I feel like we’ve been able to do that a few times in our career – of maybe raising the bar a little bit.

What were some of the most challenging moments with Brendan in the studio?
Mac could answer that question all day long. I’m such a Brendan O’Brien fan, I think we have the same musical sensibilities. There was many examples and it would really frustrate Mac. Let’s say we’re going to go in with Brendan on Tuesday. Let’s go in on Monday and just flesh out all our ideas and kind of demo ‘em up so we know what we’re doing, so we can really shine. All the band guys were like, “This guy has worked with the best musicians in the world. We want to hold our own. We’re not studio cats, so we can use a little bit of prep time.” So, we’d go in and be arranging songs. I’d throw out my suggestions and a lot of times Mac would kind of overrule it and say, “No, I think we should do this.” Maybe we’d work on three or four songs and I’m pretty vocal in the band, but Mac usually creatively we’ll default to Mac a little bit and then almost without fail when Brendan would come in on every single song and every single part he would kind of go back to what my idea had been (laughs). I didn’t cause tension with Mac, but it was  just hilarious. We’d be laughing about it. For Mac I think it was kind of like maybe a little bit of a, “Maybe I need to broaden the way I look at things.” That’s where it challanged him on the arranging side. I would say the biggest guys that got pushed were David on drums and Mac on vocals. Brendan was really a big fan of my bass playing and Mark’s guitar work. He was really more of a cheerleader on that stuff. He would let us take our directions and go, “Yep, I love it! That’s great. You’re right where you need to be.” With David on drums a lot more… A lot of the uptempo songs got brought down a little bit in tempo and all of our ballads got knocked up a tempo and got more urgency and a lot more of hitting the kick and the snare at the same time. He takes like a Rolling Stones approach to percussion. If you go put on a Rolling Stones song, the tambourine is the loudest thing in the mix (laughs). He would kind of approach that.

The coolest thing about the record was kind of looking back. I was putting together the liner notes. “Okay, Third Day is: David Carr – drums; Tai Anderson – bass; Mark Lee – guitar; Mac Powell – vocals. The digital musicians – Brendan O’Brien and our keyboard Scotty Woubegs played on two songs. That’s it. That’s the complete list of musicians for the project. He stretched us, but a lot of times when a band is trying to reinvent themselves, what they do is they hide themselves and it becomes, “Oh, it’s their techno project! So let’s bring in a whole bunch of strings or let’s bring in additional guitar players.” So, all they’re really doing in showcasing… Here’s the new direction for the band: the drummer’s been replaced by a drum machine. The guitar player didn’t even play on the record.” With Third Day, you got: “Here’s this new refreshed Third Day… I guess at this point it has to be Third Day 3.0.” It can’t be 2.0 20 years in, so I think we already hit that. But it’s like, “Here’s a real step-up for the band, but we didn’t get there by hiding ourselves. We got there by going to a new place.

That’s gotta feel good.
It does feel good! Especially now that the record is done.

Did Brendan’s assistant get fired?
I don’t think so. I’d say no.

Can you go back and talk about each album?
The first record I’d say there’s an innocence to it, because we didn’t make the record trying to be a band. We wanted to have a tape or a CD to sell at these youth camps we’re playing at. With the lyrics and everything we were these teenagers that were so excited about becoming Christians. It just spilled over. It’s almost like it just threw up all over the record. When I listen to it now, it’s painful for me to listen to that. The first two records are a little bit kind of painful. The first one was just, “We were so green. We didn’t know what we were doing. Everything’s out of tune. Everything’s out of time,” but still I feel like there was an attractiveness to it, because there was just this innocence to it. It wasn’t calculated. We were not good looking. We weren’t models that decided to be a band. We were just guys that made this record. That record had amazing success in the process I think we … there was a whole lot… We made the record probably about the same time as Hootie and the Blowfish was recording theirs (Cracked Rear View), but by the time it was actually released nationally, it was, “Okay, here’s the Christian version of Hootie and the Blowfish.” Mac and Darius Rucker kind of have similar voices, so I think on our next record – I think to a fault – we were trying to prove that we could rock harder than Hootie and the Blowfish.

So, Conspiracy No. 5, I think a lot of people would look at that as a mis-step. It was our lone cover of HM Magazine, which I have framed with pride in my study. But with Conspiracy No. 5 it sort of put intensity over the songs. There was just songs we didn’t treat the right way on that record, but the cool thing with it is… It’s our least-selling record we’ve ever made, but I feel like the fans that we made on that record love Third Day and have stuck with us for 15 years.

Believe it or not, Third Day and HM Magazine have a history together. The band’s history goes way back to their beginnings on the small gray dot Records label. When bassist Tai Anderson referenced “the one cover on HM Magazine” and the comparison as “The Christian hootie & the Blowfish,” I smiled as I remembered the comparison we printed in a review (“The Christian Pearl Jam”). I won’t embarrass the band in the lead-off paragraph here and repeat what I’ve said about that lone Third Day cover story (but it starts with an “R” and rhymes with Tibet). Nevertheless, anyone that’s seen the band live will no doubt attest that this is a solid rock band that kicks out the jams with all the passion that rock demands.

In this interview with bassist Tai Anderson, we both traveled down memory lane a bit. First, I had to share my excitement and respect for the band reaching beyond their comfort zone for their latest album – Miracle. And I also asked Anderson to go through the band’s entire catalog and comment on each album.

I was thrilled to read the opening paragraphs to your recent album’s bio, because for years I’ve told a small circle of friends that, “I’d love to produce the band Third Day, because I feel like they are so successful at what they do and their formula for making music has immediate returns that they have no motivation to do anything different. I’d like to stretch the band beyond what they’ve been doing that has worked so well.” And that is basically what I’m gleaning that you have done with Brendan O’Brien. I’d like to know how you guys were able to get to that point where you allowed yourselves to deviate from the tried and true Third Day formula.

Well, that’s a great question. I think the process starts before you ever go into the studio. It started for us with a really bad meeting with the record company (laughs). We sat down in Nashville and had a meeting and it was very awkward, because they were like, “Alright, guys. It’s time to go make a new record.” And, here we were – I think it was the first weekend of a 40-city tour for our last record (Move) and we’re going, “We’ll, we’re out on the road promoting this record right now…” And they’re going, “Well, yeah, but we’re looking ahead on the calendar and do this,” you know, “What do you guys wanna do?” And we’re like, “Well, we don’t want to do the same thing that we just did. We want it to be something different.” I think the record company was kind of in a place where they’re going in not-so subtle ways, “Here’s the way Christian radio is moving…” And we’re kind of going, “Well, we feel like we already… On the last record we had songs that are right in that sweet spot. We had ‘Children of God.’ We had ‘Trust in Jesus.’ We had songs we really liked that came from an honest place and they really didn’t do that great at Christian radio. They were maybe top 15, but (with) Third Day we’re used to #1.” (laughs)

I feel like kind of the message from the record company was: “Give us more of that,” and we were going, “But that’s not working. It’s not the same world as 2000 and 2002.” I think Third Day is this rock band and when we kind of showcased a little bit of our softer side, it was this novel thing. It was like, “Wow! This rock band is making a song like “I’ve Always Loved You” or “God of Wonders” and it really was unique and special. Or when Third Day was kind of doing more worshipful music, it was kind of special, because there wasn’t a worship genre. And now it’s like, “Do people really need that from Third Day when you have Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns, MercyMe and on and on and on that do a really great job at that?” We just started going, “Man, what makes us Third Day?” We always go back to our live show as a point of reference and just go, “You know…” It’s kind of a funny thing for our records. We’ll record 12 songs and two ballads get heard on radio. That’s just kind of the nature. I think Third Day has solidly been a consistent rock band – just an American rock band – certainly not a hard rock band. But maybe more in the vein of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers or occasionally a little of our Southern Rock side or some of our Black Crowes riffs that we were listening to in high school. There’s a Third Day you hear on the radio and there’s the Third Day you hear on the albums and you hear live. In our live show, it features songs like “Other Side” and “Make Your Move” and “Surrender” where we kind of stand apart from the other bands as being a little bit more of this rock show with the occasional ballad; whereas on radio you’ll hear the ballad and that’s it. It kind of started from there and about that time we watched the new U2 documentary (From the Sky Down). It’s just talking about the making of Achtung Baby – this record where U2 purposed to cut down the Joshua Tree and start over as a band. So, we watched this and it was like sort of a double-sided response. We were going, “Okay, the results are what we need. It needs to be something totally fresh – a new statement, so starting over as a band. There’s a lot of good Third Day cover bands out there. They put YouTube videos up and we just need to make sure that we don’t become one of ‘em. It needs to be fresh. It needs to be something new. Watching this video, we’re like, “Alright, baby! It’s time to book a studio in East Berlin.” Seeing from that, it was like, “How do we get there?”

I felt like Move really was… Move sounds like what Third Day sounds like when we get in the room and nobody gets in the way. That’s kind of like, “Here’s this core sound,” but we’re going, “How do we make something new? We’re not going to get there on our own.” I think at this point it takes a little bit of humility to recognize that. You want to say, “Hey, we know what we’re doing. We’ve been making a lot of records. We’ve got this figured out.” I think we all got to a place where we said, “Alright, we don’t have this figured out.” We concluded that: “If we don’t do something different, we’re going to get the same results.”

About that time Brendan O’Brien had mixed our Wire project a few years back and he’s definitely one of my producing heros. And really all of the band. I think every one of us – if you list our top ten records, it’s not that he has every one, but he probably has two or three in all of our lists. Everything from Pearl Jam records to Stone Temple Pilots. We didn’t really grow up on Bruce Springsteen, but we fell in love with Bruce Springsteen from The Rising, when Brendan started working with them and then “Drops of Jupiter” is just an incredible song. His resume, not to mention he was the engineer on the first couple of Black Crowes records… It’s just always been our dream that we’d get to work with him and he’s always been really expensive and it just hasn’t worked out.

So, first it kind of went something like: that meeting in Nashville; we might have watched the U2 movie that night; and the next day we had a meeting with our management. They said, “Okay, so what do you guys want to do going forward?” We were like, “Well, we don’t wanna do the same thing we’ve been doing. We’d really love to see if we could work with a producer like Brendan O’Brien – someone on that level – where we know they could take us to a new place. Leaving that, they called Brendan’s person and got a very instant, “Nope! Not available. Doesn’t want to do it.”

So, we figured, “Okay, what we need to do is sit down in a studio and make 80 demos.” Bands like Switchfoot do that – go make 80 demos of every idea we have and we use that to go try to get the producer to get the vision and then we’ll probably be making a record about now. That’s kind of where we thought we were having to go. Then Brendan called me and he said, “Hey! I just talked to my person and he said that you guys had called and he had told you guys no, but he hadn’t talked to me first. I’d actually really like to meet and get together.”

So, we met with Brendan – one of those “Let’s get to know each other better” meetings. He left with our music and came back the next week and he said, “You know, you guys are a great band, but I kind of have a vision of taking you guys to a different place. Your singer is great. You guys are a solid band, but I have ideas and things I want to do with the rhythm section, ideas with the guitars, ideas with the vocals to get it to somewhere new.” He met with Mac and what was great about it is basically … his message back … normally when you hear back from big producers are, “Yeah, I’m interested. Send me the songs. If I hear enough hits, then I’ll do the record.” With Brendan, he kind of came back and said, “You know what? I believe in the band. Let’s go in the studio and see what we can do. We were meeting in November and December and basically first of the year we went right into the studio. He kind of fell in love with our studio and has made it his new home in Atlanta.

It sounds like we accomplished what we wanted to. In the same way that Achtung Baby has all these sounds and things that are intense and harder than you had with The Joshua Tree, but what’s the big takeaway 20 years now? It’s the song “One.” It’s the one that really lasts and stood the test of time. I think we accomplished what we wanted to. We worked with a guy who pushed us. I feel like we made a record that doesn’t sound like everything else in Christian music. I feel like we’ve been able to do that a few times in our career – of maybe raising the bar a little bit.

The coolest thing about the record was kind of looking back. I was putting together the liner notes. “Okay, Third Day is: David Carr – drums; Tai Anderson – bass; Mark Lee – guitar; Mac Powell – vocals. The digital musicians – Brendan O’Brien and our keyboard Scotty Wilbanks played on two songs. That’s it. That’s the complete list of musicians for the project. He stretched us, but a lot of times when a band is trying to reinvent themselves, what they do is they hide themselves and it becomes, “Oh, it’s their techno project! So let’s bring in a whole bunch of strings or let’s bring in additional guitar players.” So, all they’re really doing is showcasing… “Here’s the new direction for the band: the drummer’s been replaced by a drum machine. The guitar player didn’t even play on the record.” With Third Day, you got: “Here’s this new refreshed Third Day… I guess at this point it has to be Third Day 3.0.” It’s like, “Here’s a real step-up for the band, but we didn’t get there by hiding ourselves. We got there by going to a new place.”

Go back and talk about each album…

The first record I’d say there’s an innocence to it, because we didn’t make the record trying to be a band. We wanted to have a tape or a CD to sell at these youth camps we’re playing at. With the lyrics and everything we were these teenagers that were so excited about becoming Christians. It just spilled over. It’s almost like it just threw up all over the record. When I listen to it now, it’s painful for me to listen to that. The first two records are a little bit kind of painful. The first one was just, “We were so green. We didn’t know what we were doing. Everything’s out of tune. Everything’s out of time,” but still I feel like there was an attractiveness to it, because there was just this innocence to it. It wasn’t calculated. We were not good looking. We weren’t models that decided to be a band. We were just guys that made this record. That record had amazing success in the process I think we … there was a whole lot… We made the record probably about the same time as Hootie and the Blowfish was recording theirs (Cracked Rear View), but by the time it was actually released nationally, it was, “Okay, here’s the Christian version of Hootie and the Blowfish.” Mac and Darius Rucker kind of have similar voices, so I think on our next record – I think to a fault – we were trying to prove that we could rock harder than Hootie and the Blowfish.

So, Conspiracy No. 5, I think a lot of people would look at that as a mis-step. It was our lone cover of HM Magazine, which I have framed with pride in my study. But with Conspiracy No. 5 it sort of put intensity over the songs. There was just songs we didn’t treat the right way on that record, but the cool thing with it is… It’s our least-selling record we’ve ever made, but I feel like the fans that we made on that record love Third Day and have stuck with us for 15 years. If you look at it on a spreadsheet and, “Okay, here’s cumulative sales” and there’s this big dip on Conspiracy No. 5, I’m like, “Man, that’s when we went out and established ourselves as a live band. We learned how to craft a show. Sometimes I’ll go to a show of some CCM bands and it’s just like a ballad fest. We learned how to play songs that people have never heard, but make it entertaining and keep the energy up. I feel like it was a successful season, even though it wasn’t our most successful record. Yet another one where I feel like it didn’t all come together as far as all the way through – the songs, the arrangement, the recording. I put it in now and the first two records sound kind of dated to me.

The third record, Time, feels to me the most of, “Here’s a band being itself – of not trying to prove anything. To me it’s usually not an artist’s best work when they’re worried about the critics when they’re making the music. With Time it was just kind of like, “Let’s make a record we like.” It came out and kind of went to a little bit of our deeper roots. You’re a teenager and you find the bands you like and with Time it was like we went further back than that and we the songs and those records that our dads used to play started coming out. Our dads were playing the Beatles, the Byrds, Creedance, the Allman Brothers, Skynyrd and that was the background to us growing up and that’s what started coming out in Time. That record, to us, was like a make-or-break record for us. Even though we already had success, because with Time. You could say the same for the first three records, but we didn’t sound like anything else that was out there.

From there you go to Offerings and I would say my one word for that would be “uncalculated.” It’s probably not how people outside of it see it, but Offerings didn’t even count in our record deal. Our record company didn’t want to do the record. They didn’t think it would be viable (laughs) and I just said, “Man, this is part of our live shows, where we do ‘My Hope is You’ from Conspiracy No. 5 and when we do ‘Creed’ from Rich Mullins and these worshipful parts of our shows, people were just really resonating with that. Something’s happening. We need to just record that. All the songs were recorded on a single A-DAT. Now we archive every show we do – multi-track to a laptop. So, you’re talking 48 tracks. That record was recorded with eight tracks. It’s kind of old school. We were behind the time. There was no budget for it. It was just, “Yeah, if you guys want to do it, go make it happen and we’ll see what happens.” That was just one of those – it’s just the right album at the right time. In that season, too, Mac had sung on “God of Wonders” for the City on a Hill project and that song was huge. I think a lot of people bought Offerings thinking “God of Wonders” was on it (laughs), which is wasn’t. But we took it. Once you open that CD case, you can’t return it. (laughs) That album was definitely a turning point. It was a Platinum record. It was huge. I feel like we got to expose Third Day to a lot more people. I say, “uncalculated,” because there wasn’t a worship genre at the time. If there was, it was just in its infancy. Where now worship records have almost become what Christmas records used to be. Even with a Motown artists, it was like, “You have a hit record? The next record is a Christmas record. It’s a sure thing, it’s ever-green. Go do it.” Now it’s almost that way with worship records for a CCM band. It’s like this whole other genre. I think we’ll do another worship record sometime, but it’ll come from an organic place. But it’s like, “Do people need another worship record from Third Day? Because there’s a whole genre of it. We always have those songs, but if you want worship music, Chris Tomlin probably does it better than we do. That’s all he does. It’s like he’s got his PHD in it and we’re still high school kids. Offerings is just beautiful that half of it was live, because I think if you listen to that record and it was like, “I want to go experience this band live.”

From there it was Come Together. I think that record, to me, is just a record in the middle of our catalog. (laughs) It was a big season for us, but that record kind of rode the coattails of Offerings. It kept it going with “Show Me Your Glory” and “Nothing Compares” and we had some fun songs on there – “Still Listening” – really simple, kind of Stones-y a kind of acoustic rock song. There’s that record in the middle.

Offerings II was like getting to re-do Offerings I. The studio stuff was a lot better. We hit on a song on there. People would skip over it. It’s not a radio hit, but “May Your Wonders Never Cease” on there was kind of the first time where the end of the song kind of sort of goes into a jam kind of place with the guitar solo at the end. We kind of hit on something there that we hadn’t gone to before. We kind of came back to it with Revelation.

After Offerings II I believe it was Wire. Probably like Conspiracy, not our most successful record, but the fans that we make from that record kind of get the band. I don’t feel like we were sort of answering to the critics, it was just like, between doing these Offerings records and these worship songs getting heard, we wanted to make an album that showcased that we were a rock band. Every now and then we feel like we have to flex our rock muscles. Wire did that. Wherever You Are is an album where you have two songs that kind of say the same thing in “Tunnel” and “Cry Out to Jesus,” but “Cry Out to Jesus” is a career song. It kind of shows a little bit of the difference. If you play someone the song “Tunnel,” they’ll go, “Man, this is a rockin’ modern rock, really cool song with this message of hope and encouragement in a dark season. That’s core Third Day. You’ve got “Cry Out to Jesus.” Here’s this ballad that gives this message of hope and encouragement in a dark season. Well, that song gets heard. I think the album gets defined by the radio songs. Even for the band it does. As much as we like to fight it, we go, “With Wherever You Are, immediately we just think of ‘Cry Out to Jesus.’”

I’d skip over Greatest Hits and Christmas and come back with Revelation. To me, Revelation was this huge step forward working with Howard Benson. He was fresh off the Flyleaf record. Revelation, to me, stopped being an either/or. It stopped being a “rock or worship.” Revelation to me was sort of “both/and.” That’s my perception of it. You have these songs that totaly hit that spot, but it was a rockin’ record. The production of it just sounded fresh and current and it was a little bit of edgy, but at the same time people would reference our first record. There was a lot of excitement on that record. For us, we had some urgency. We were pre-empting the critics on it, because we weren’t very excited about doing a Greatest Hits record, because for me a Greatest Hits record means you’ve made your greatest hits. (laughs) I felt a lot of urgency to go, “This can’t be just another record. It’s gotta be a new start. This is a statement whether or best work is behind us or not. I’m really proud of Revelation.

Move to me was kind of… I don’t want to throw any records under the bus, because it’s somebody’s favorite record and someone’s favorite song. Move was not us stretching ourselves. That’s a positive way to say that. Move was Third Day at home. We did it in our studio. It sounds like Third Day. Paul Moak did a great job of production, but if you want to hear what it would sound like if Third Day produced its own record, I think Move is pretty close. It wasn’t a lot of stretching. It was, “Hey, let’s get good recordings of these songs we put together,” and we did.

Now we are to Miracle and I think it’s too early to say. My fear would be that it gets a little of the Wherever You Are treatment, where all people hear is the radio ballad. I think “I Need A Miracle” is a powerful ballad/song. It’s kind of like “The Son of Cry Out to Jesus” and it was inspired by “Cry Out to Jesus.” I think there may be a handful of people that just listen to Christian radio to find the album solely by the single – especially by calling the album Miracle and the single being “I Need A Miracle.” I feel like it’s almost the best of all the Third Day records, but it’s somewhere new. It is a band trying, but it’s not a band trying to be somebody else.

It’s not every artist that can look back over each album of his band’s career and see how it all supports its latest work, but Tai Anderson could confidently say that Third Day is definitely a band that’s comfortable in its own skin. Whenever this kind of combination and chemistry is present, it’s not just the artist who is satisfied with a grin on his face, but the individual audience members, too. The fact that they were able to achieve this fresh sound in its home of Atlanta instead of transplanting itself in East Berlin for months is another testament that stands by Third Day’s longevity that shouts “authentic” to the core. And that’s “even better than the real thing.”