When Grammy winning, multi-platinum selling Christian rock band Third Day opted to retire after a stellar 25-year career, what did their lead vocalist Mac Powell do for an encore? The Alabama born singer/songwriter fulfilled a longtime dream by starting a country band. Mac Powell and the Family Reunion launched their new album, Back Again, via Thirty Tigers with an appearance at the Grand Ole Opry and are currently taking their unique blend of country, rock and gospel to venues across the country from Salem, OR to Spring Hill, TN and Plymouth, NH.
“I grew up listening to country,” Powell tells Sounds Like Nashville, seated backstage at the Grand Ole Opry before his band’s performance. “It just feels right. It’s where I feel comfortable. In the past when Third Day would have a rock single go to mainstream rock radio stations, they’d go, ‘Oh this is cool, but it almost sounds a little too country.’ It’s just the natural way I write and where my voice fits.”
Though he has a lengthy history in rock music, Powell is no stranger to country. While still performing with Third Day, he recorded two solo country albums—a self-titled debut in 2012 and 2014’s Southpaw. His first appearance on the Opry stage was performing “I’ll Fly Away” with Charlie Daniels, a recording featured on 2008’s How Great Thou Art: Gospel Favorites from the Grand Ole Opry. He recorded “Over The Next Hill” with Brooks & Dunn for the soundtrack of the Billy Graham biopic Billy: The Early Years. He’s toured with friend Craig Morgan, who guests on the new album singing with Powell on “Whoo!”
“I’ve had the fortune of singing with a handful of country artists and I feel like I get humbled every time because whether it’s with Craig Morgan or being on stage with Charlie Daniels or in the studio with Ronnie Dunn, they just blow me away with how they sing. It’s humbling and it helps me to realize even though I’ve been successful for 20 something years, I’ve got a long way to go and I can keep working at this thing.”
Powell admits playing the Opry is always a special experience. “It’s very humbling and a little scary. I’m from right outside of Montgomery,” says Powell, who was born in Clanton, AL and currently lives in Marietta, GA. “Hank Williams is from Montgomery near where I was born, so both my grandfathers would talk about the Opry and listen to it on the radio. My papaw Esau Little would be so happy if he knew I was here singing on the Opry stage, so it never gets old and never will get old. It’s an amazing place and we’re going to try to come back as much as we can.”
Joining Powell in this new musical chapter are the Family Reunion’s bassist Tim Gibson, who had previously played with Third Day, Matt McDaniel on guitar, pedal steel and banjo, who had toured with Brent Cobb, and Powell’s longtime friend/collaborator Jason Hoard, who plays electric and acoustic guitar and mandolin. The band’s live show combines rock, blues, gospel and country and fans can be found singing along to everything from the Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” to the gospel classic “Victory in Jesus” as the band boasts quite a diverse repertoire.
He admits some Third Day fans were initially skeptical about his shift into country, but once they attend a Family Reunion show, they change their minds. “Fans have said, ‘We had no idea that your show was going to be this exciting. It’s a lot of fun and so we’re on board with that,’” he says with a smile.
Though fans might have been a little concerned about his switch in careers, Powell says his wife Aimee was immediately on board. “I said, ‘Hey I’ve got a great idea! What if I end up being gone a lot more and I play in front of a lot less people and make a lot less money? What do you think?’” Powell recalls with a laugh. “And she’s like, ‘Go for it! Do what’s on your heart!’”
That’s just what he’s doing and Powell says he has no regrets. “It’s great! Still not once do I get off the stage and go, ‘Oh man! What did I do?’ Not once have I had regrets even on nights when there are 100 people and nights when I’m losing money,” he says candidly. “I still know this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I love it and I’ve got about a dozen radio stations playing the single now. It’s a good start and it’s exciting to know that my music is starting to slowly get out to people who normally wouldn’t have heard it, but also to people who know my music from the past 20 something years, and it’s exciting to see what the possibilities will be. This is my new journey and I’m excited for people to come along.”