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Artist Interview

Third Day's Bassist Tai Anderson Talks Miracle

By Hannah Goodwyn Senior Producer
For 20 years now, Third Day's music has inspired churchgoers and even touched the hearts and minds of those unfamiliar with the God they love. That is especially evident in the story that inspired the band's new single, "I Need a Miracle."

Recently, spoke with Third Day's longtime bassist Tai Anderson about that story and the motivation behind their new record, Miracle. Here are excerpts from that conversation:

On how Miracle shows the evolution of Third Day…

Tai Anderson: With this one, it's not that I hear so much of the theme is I definitely hear that it's a group of guys that faith is just as strong as it was on our first record back in '96, but it's communicated a lot differently. In our first record, you look at the songs, the song titles were "Livin' For Jesus", "Holy Spirit", "Praise Song," "Consuming Fire". We were these teenagers that had just given our lives to the Lord, who had that fresh fire where everything was new. The vocabulary was new, and it just poured out in all the music.

I feel like when you listen to [Miracle], the message of faith, to me, just comes through even stronger. It's just not as obvious. It's grown; and it shows up differently. I think it's probably become more relatable to those outside of the church. That's probably the biggest thing. I heard a guy say once, I forget who it was, but it was a preacher or someone saying, "When someone becomes a new Christian, they should be locked up for like, that first year." They're so excited. And they're so excited to tell everyone, but they're not necessarily the best ambassador of the faith because they haven't had the experience and they haven't had their faith tested. Now, we find ourselves a little bit further down the road. You see it especially in a song such as "I Need a Miracle", where it's talking about the way that God continues to show up for people in powerful ways.

The life-saving story behind the album's first single, "I Need a Miracle"…

Tai: The song is not necessarily just word-for-word about one in particular. It's a collection of three or four different stories we've heard over the last year. But the one that definitely prompted the writing of the song came from a couple we met just earlier in the summer in New Jersey. They told us the story about their son that had struggled through depression [several years ago] and had gotten to the place where he wanted—well, not that he wanted to, but he had purposed to end his life, and really took tangible steps to do that. He drove his car into the woods, had the hose, hooked it up the exhaust, had it piped into his window and was waiting to die.

In those moments, he turned on the radio and one of our songs, "Cry Out to Jesus," was being played by the local Christian radio station. That just happened to be the station that was on. In that moment, the words of that song just ministered to him. He did what the song said, and cried out to Jesus, and decided not to end his life. It was the turning point for him, so much so that his parents were relaying that, "Wow, man, he would have really loved to be here tonight. He's overseas, actually, serving the Lord on a mission trip right now, so he can't be here at the concert."

To me, that's evidence of a real transformation when you look at the most selfless thing you can do is go serve other people, especially those in extreme poverty, and then the most selfish thing you can do is take your own life because it hurts all those around you and it doesn't afford God the opportunity to work redemption.

What a transformation for someone to go through. It really inspired us. It humbled us to say, "Wow, God can use these songs to really reach people and really save people's lives in a miraculous way." Whenever you're talking about miraculous things, you can't put it in a lab and prove it. Someone will say, "Well, it's just the circumstance, and it's just the luck of the draw that the station happened to be on that station. It just happened to be playing this song with words that spoke to him that way. It's just 'happenstance.' Just 'good luck.'" But to people of faith, we don't really see it that way. We go, "Man, it wasn't anything Third Day did. That was God miraculously reaching out and saving this person's life when he really needed it."

On writing the worshipful song, "Your Love is Like A River"…

Tai: It definitely is a band favorite. It is a song that, yeah, we thought it was going to be the first single right up until "I Need a Miracle" came along and ruined everything. It is very worshipful; and it's one that even Mac [our lead singer] showed to us.

Mac normally gives us about three or four words and a whole lot of la-dah-das as we're working on songs. We focus on the music first. So it had this "Love is like a river flowing from my heart"… and this is why I've learned to accept my role as the bass player. [I asked], "Mac, actually, you're singing this as a person singing to God like a worship song, so the 'Love is like a river,' shouldn't it be 'flowing from your heart?'"

It was one of these humbling moments; Mac took me to task. He was like, "Well, actually, where does God live? Where does he abide?" It was like, "Oh, yeah, we ask God into our hearts, so that love from God actually flows from our own hearts, when we ask God to take up residence there." So, a little theology behind the scenes on that one. As we were working on it, Mac started going, you know, we're going into verse two and it's like, "Your love is like a fire." And we're like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, Mac, that doesn't rhyme anymore. Let's stick with 'Love is a like a river.' That's a great metaphor. You can get into the currents and the shores. There's plenty to go there. Why would you pick another metaphor?"

Then on and on as the song developed, there came these different metaphors, different ways of identifying these qualities of God that all come together to paint a really incredible picture, that His love just flows and it gushes over us, that His love is like that fire that lights our way, and His love is like this rock that we stand on in tough times. So, the song to me doesn't come close to painting a complete picture, but it paints a very powerful picture.

Reacting to producer Brendan O'Brien (who has worked with Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Train) praising "You Are My Everything", saying it "might be one of the best songs I've ever worked on"…

Tai: Yes, we'll take it. (laughs)

We hear, "Man, Third Day is that one band that I can share with my friends who aren't Christians because the lyrics, the way that you communicate, and the way that the music's put together". We've learned that it's a healthy exercise for us to not just surround ourselves with Christians when we're in the creative process because what can happen is we start speaking this language that we all speak in church that's foreign to those of us who don't go to church every Sunday.

So, we did that with the album Revelation, and then doing it again on this record, working with a guy who's never worked with a Christian band, even not necessarily a Christian himself. It had to pass his filter first. That was a song we did where he just really became its champion. It was a song that really touched him; and yeah, he just had high praise for it.

The lyrics, the recording of it, the bridge of that song is just beautiful the way the bottom falls out, and it just really is powerful. So, yeah, high praise from Brendan O'Brien, the guy who recorded "Drops of Jupiter," which is a Grammy song of the year. For him to have such high praise for that song was really validating for us as a band that we can stand with the best of them. That was definitely high praise.

On how lead singer Mac Powell was inspired to write "The Victory" after watching a documentary about Billy Graham…

Tai: Yeah, I heard him say that. It references the writings of Paul, where it's talking about running the good race, and fighting the good fight, and working hard in your work and finishing well. So, I think he went to those verses after watching this documentary of just being inspired … here is this man that has finished well. So often you have Christian leaders who might have these powerful ministries, and then it's almost like the script is written because you see where they don't always finish well. Their name can be tarnished, and it can hurt their legacy. Billy Graham is such a great example of someone with Christian maturity, someone who has fought the good fight and run the good race, and has really finished strong with his integrity intact. So, yeah, it's a great inspiration for a song and great inspiration for life.

On why Miracle ends with "Morning Has Broken", an old Methodist hymn made famous by '70s singer/songwriter, Muslim convert Cat Stevens…

Tai: Yeah. I don't know if most people will identify with it as such because it's a song Cat Stevens made famous. Even in that, I think it freaked our record company out. Our producer thought it was really cool because he thought like, "Oh, this is great. You guys are reaching out to all faiths." The record company's going, "We don't know about this. He's a Muslim now," We're going, "Yeah, but Christianity is all about all those "re" words. Redemption."

The song is a hymn. It's a song that has truth. It's a great song to reach out beyond the church because it's going to be familiar with so many people. When you hear Third Day do it, you hone in a little bit more on the lyric, and you go, "Wow, what a beautiful song," not worshipping creation, but seeing God's handiwork in creation. It's just a gorgeous song. I'm really proud of that recording too.

I feel like we've made just a classic record… a record that is going to stand the test of time. Ten years from now, you can put it on alongside just those classic records in your collection, and go, "Wow, this still holds up. This still sounds great." Just really beautiful recordings. It's a really cool song. It'll raise a few eyebrows. At the same time, we noticed a lot of the older people, when they hear that song, they really pipe up. All those old Methodists go, "Finally, one for us!" So, yeah, excited to see what that one does.

Hannah GoodwynHannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for For more articles, visit Hannah's bio page.

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