In the Summer of 2008, Atlanta rock band Third Day released what just may be their best record yet with
Revelation - a rock album that returns the band to more of their southern rock roots, with a fresh take on them.
We recently spoke with bassist Tai Anderson to discuss the album, the band, their upcoming live project,
Live Revelations, and more...
This interview took place on: 1/3/09.
Jesus freak Hideout (John DiBiase): After Wherever You Are and its success,
what lead to the musical direction that your new album Revelation takes? It’s unmistakably more raw and rootsy for
Wherever You Are has become very identified by both our fans and the band by its two radio singles,
"Cry Out to Jesus" and "Mountain of God." Both of those songs were important songs for our career, but definitely showcased
our mellower side. I think after living out those songs and that record for a few years, we were ready to shake things up a
bit. Putting out the Chronology records right after Wherever You Are had the band really feeling like we
needed to re-present the band to the world. Internally, right or wrong, we felt that if Revelation didn't raise some
eyebrows and surprise people a little bit, than we had a good chance of become pretty irrelevant as a band. I like to say
when we're working on music that "we need to meet people where they are, but we need to take them somewhere." If you give
fans just what they ask for, they'll resent you for it. Revelation was our attempt to do just that.
JFH (John): How did Lacey from Flyleaf come to be a part of Revelation? It
seems like an unlikely pairing for Third Day, yet her voice goes beautifully with Mac’s on “Born Again”…
That came totally from our producer, Howard Benson. We were all pretty unfamiliar with Flyleaf. But, when we were first
doing pre-production with Howard, he played the cut "All Around Me" for us. I was pretty blown away. I had heard the song as a
worship song that described encountering with God in a very unique, personal, tangible way. It was so different from so
much of the cliche worship songs that I have heard on the radio over the years. When we were recording "Born Again," we
thought it would work really well as a duet. Howard suggested Lacey, and we were all game. So much of Flyleaf's music is
so aggressive. I think our music gave a great outlet for her mellower side. She is really a good singer, and I think that
comes out in the tracks she sang with us. Oh yea, she was meant to sing on "Born Again" - we got "Run to You" as a bonus!
On her side, I'd have to let her answer. But, she did share with us that our music had played a part in her life when she
was a teenager, which was very inspiring to us, and further affirmation that we were headed in the right direction with the
JFH (John): How much of an impact did producer Howard Benson have on making
Revelation? How was the process of making this record different from previous records?
You know, we still wrote the songs. But, I can't stress enough the important role he played. The main way was by just
sorting through the 40 songs we had compiled very efficiently. We can be pretty politically correct when it comes to song
selection. Howard didn't have a dog in the race. So, he was more than happy to let us know in no uncertain terms which songs
should and which songs definitely should not be recorded. That way, were able to concentrate our efforts on the best material
right from the beginning.
JFH (John): What inspired the album art for Revelation?
We did the video for "Consuming Fire" at the Salton Sea in southern California. Last year, we watched a documentary about the
area that featured Salvation Mountain or Trash Mountain. There was just something crazy and beautiful about taking trash and
making something beautiful out of it. There's something kind of frightening, but attractive about a man who would commit his
life to constructing something like that. I think a lot of people hear the message of our music, and feel the same way.
We had spent so much time in California making the record, and then when it was time to talk about a cover, we were in
California on a House of Blues run surrounded by folk art every day. Mac had the original idea of using imagery of Salvation
Mountain which was our working title for the project until we recorded the song "Revelation." As soon as the cover imagery
was released, we started reading critiques that we had ripped off Radiohead's Hail to the Thief. When you lay them
side by side, there are obvious similarities. But, we weren't referencing outside sources when we were tweaking the designs
and ideas that our label designer was coming up with. I was more concerned that there have been so many red skewed projects
lately from U2 to Green Day. In hindsight, we probably would have used one of the other images from the packaging on the cover
just so we wouldn't have to read the one star critiques on iTunes which never reference the music, just the album cover.
But, all that aside, I think it is one of our more interesting covers. Who knows how much longer music will even be packaged
as albums, it's cool to have a cover that kind of summarizes that... a project made out of it's individual songs.
JFH (John): Is there a song on Revelation that means most to you? And why?
Tai: Probably "Revelation." Just that it is so vulnerable. People often accuse Christian musicians as
coming off as arrogant, like we have all the answers. "Become a Christian, and you won't have any problems." With
"Revelation," we're just humbly asking and admitting that we have more questions than answers. God puts a light to our feet,
not a floodlight to our future. I think God wants us coming back to Him for help.
JFH (John): On your new Christmas Offerings DVD (and even at some live shows
still), Mac introduces you as handling the production of the tour. Do you do this for every tour and how did you first get into doing that?
Tai: I've just always been the idea guy for the band. Granted, most of them are bad! I come up with ideas
and give them to a great team to make them better. I'm the interface for production to the band and our material. Our first
big tour, we opened for the Newsboys. I was just blown away by their production every night. I still am. After that,
we were going out on the Conspiracy Tour. I just started coming up with ideas of how we could represent the music in that
season. I've just always found it gratifying to see those ideas come to fruition. I was most involved in the Come Together
tour which was probably my favorite production we've ever done. I approached it like a play with different scenes for
JFH (John): Budget aside, what would you love to do production-wise for a Third Day tour?
Tai: A lot. I love giving people more than they expected. We were able to have a great scale of
production on the Music Builds tour, and with video, you can really have the whole mood very different from song to song.
With an unlimited budget, I'd love to carry our own stage where we could really do some cool things with different
performances spread around the arena. I know it's rock and roll cliche, but being a guy, I'd love to blow some stuff up too. Pyro!
JFH (John): The Music Builds Tour was an incredible experience. We’ve heard that this is something Third Day may do annually now? Is there any truth to that?
Tai: We're still talking and dreaming about it. Honestly, it would be hard to top the line-up of this first
year! But, I love playing outside at the sheds. A big show, with big bands, that is also giving back to the community...
that's hard to beat.
JFH (John): In April, Third Day is releasing a Revelation Live project. Will
this all be pulled from the Music Builds Tour? If so, will it be one show in particular or pieces from several dates? And will it include the encore?
Tai: The project is currently called Live Revelations and will include a live CD, as well as a DVD
that is as much a documentary as a concert film. I don't know if we'll have the clearances to include the encore, but the
music is pulled from 5 different shows from the Music Builds Tour. The footage looks incredible, though. It's easily twice the
quality of anything I've ever seen from our market, and on the level with pieces I've seen from U2 and Coldplay.
JFH (John): Throughout the year, you spoke about your early 08 USO tour and the life
changing experiences with that. How did the opportunity come about? And is this something the band may be a part of again
Tai: It took about 4 years to put that trip together. There was a real resistance from military leaders to be
too associated with something labeled "Christian," especially during this current conflict located in a muslim region. We
were getting so many letters from soldiers asking us to come, and telling us that our music was making a difference for them.
So, when the opportunity finally got approved, we just jumped at it. It was very humbling to be the first Christian band to
ever play in a conflict zone. It felt historic while we were there, and we left with an appreciation for our soldiers that I
hope we never lose. We're already talking about trying to go back again next year.
JFH (John): What are your thoughts on the evolution of Christian music and the
industry? When Third Day debuted in the mid 90’s, music on a whole was in a lot healthier state than it is today. Because of
it, and since CCM has branched out into the mainstream, there seems to be a lot of people trying to figure out what to do with
the CCM industry with many feeling it shouldn’t exist at all (at least, this is the vibe I get). I was influenced greatly by
Christian music when I came to Christ in the early 90’s so, admittedly, I have mixed feelings about some of the lower
standards (i.e. mild profanity on some releases, less spiritual content in rock music, etc) or the idea that Christian rock
shouldn’t even exist. I know this is a completely loaded question, but do you have any thoughts on the matter?
Tai: This is a very loaded question. Our perspective has always been to dance with the one that brought you.
The CCM industry was the vehicle by which our music found an audience. So, I'm hesitant to offer a lot of criticism.
There are a lot of sides to the discussions about CCM. It's not hard to look at any genre of music and find plenty to
criticize. Art and Commerce are already in a bit of a brawl. When you throw faith into the mix, it turns into a cage match.
(Sorry for the reference. I'm a Hulkamaniac at heart.) I guess our approach has always been that being critical is just
too easy. It takes a lot more courage to say, "yes, there are some inherent problems and conflicts of CCM, but we're going
to make it better from the inside out." That's really how change happens, from working to make things better, not just
throwing stones. I think we have made CCM better. When you look at where CCM was when we got started, there were hardly
any successful bands at all, and the music was often criticized as being 10 years behind the times. Now, 12 years later,
bands and artists that have a foundation in our genre are creating relevant music in a lot of different mainstream outlets.
We've had a part of that, and we're proud of it. Now, a lot of these same bands have some legitimate reasons, spiritually,
artistically and economically, to not be too tied to CCM. However, Third Day, even in our name, is so core CCM, that we
choose not to fight the label. There are some bad misconceptions that come with it. But, it also comes with a lot of
positives as well. I've been in enough hostile, smelly rock clubs to appreciate how accommodating, receptive, and clean the
churches were for us when we were getting started. Our audience is so supportive. I wouldn't trade them for anything.
JFH (John): What does calling yourselves a “Christian band” mean to you?
Tai: For us, there's always been this expectation that with success, we would attempt to lose the
"Christian" branding. The dangling carrot for Third Day has always been that we were good enough, that if we just toned it
down a bit on the spiritual front, more success was ours for the taking. So, for us, calling ourselves a "Christian band"
is affirming that we are still absolutely not just willing, but proud to associate our endeavors with the cause of Christ.
It means that we still pray that our music and our concerts will draw people closer to God. It means that we still strive to
live lives worthy of the name "Christian." Ultimately, it shouldn't just be a title that we attach to ourselves.
It should be a title that other people who encounter us give us. There should be a difference in our attitudes.
There should be something noticeable in the way that we treat local crew, promoters, drivers, fans, and studio workers.
Even as I say this, I'm aware that it is all probably too much to live up to. We only do a half way decent job half the time.
I guess being a Christian band means we mess up, but we keep trying.
JFH (John): What music have you been listening to most recently?
Tai: I've kind of been on a bit of a musical break since the end of our Fall tour. I haven't bought any
records in the last few weeks. My current jogging playlist on my iPod consists of Needtobreathe, Coldplay, the Killers,
Brandon Heath, and a bit of Keith Urban that's found its way there via my wife.
JFH (John): How do you keep spiritually focused on the road? (and do you have any advice for fans looking to stay spiritually focused during their usual, busy day-to-day lifestyle?)
Tai: That question always assumes that we do! You know, when you phrase it "spiritually focused," the
further question is "on what?" To that I say, "Jesus." It's easy when you're surrounded by Christians to get spiritually
focused on theology, works, or even looking spiritually focused. For me, being focused, is just taking some time each day to
look/reflect on Jesus. His life, what He had to say. I think that is universal. Whether you're driving a truck, teaching a
class, or playing bass guitar, you need to spend some time each day thinking about the grace that God has given us through
His son Jesus.
JFH (John): What has God been teaching you lately?
My entire last answer was only discovered today, and I'm still trying to figure it out.
JFH (John): Any last comments?
Thanks for the early '09 therapy. We're excited to hit the road on the Revelation Tour and feel like the world is only just
beginning to hear the music from Revelation. I think that a lot of people are going to find a lot of encouragement
from "Revelation," "Born Again" and "Take it All." I hope that we continue to meet people where they are, but I hope and
pray that we continue to take them and ourselves somewhere new every time.
Third Day's latest album, Revelation, is in stores now!
(Left to Right: Mac Powell, Tai Anderson, Mark Lee, David Carr)