Third Day’s Mac Powell Returns to Christian Music with ‘New Creation’

The 'River Of Life' brings Mac Powell back to his roots.

Third Day’s Mac Powell Returns to Christian Music with ‘New Creation’
Mac Powell: Photo Credit; Alex Ferrari

We’ve all heard the old adage “You can’t go home again,” but apparently it doesn’t apply to Mac Powell. The four-time Grammy Award winner spent nearly three decades fronting legendary Christian rock band Third Day before embarking on a solo country career in 2018. Now he’s returned to his roots with New Creation, a solo project releasing Oct. 15th that finds the singer/songwriter again gracing Christian radio with the single “River of Life.”

   “Even though I loved making country music, I knew eventually I would end up here, back where my roots are,” Powell tells SLN.  “Making Christian music is where I’m comfortable. I had some ideas for songs I wanted to maybe do an EP or a full record. So, I started writing for that and started falling in love with that process.”

   After years of writing primarily alone or with his bandmates in Third Day, Powell admits he took a different approach in collaborating on songs for his new album. “I’d never—for Christian music—gone to Nashville and written with people and I was never that artist who was like, ‘Hey find me the best song and I’ll record it.’ I always wanted to be the songwriter, so I didn’t think I would like that process of going and working with these professional songwriters, but I fell in love with that process, just getting in a room with guys and coming up with a new fresh thing. And to the credit of the guys I was working with, they made it where I wanted to keep doing it and not just give up on it and go, ‘Nah, I’ll just do it myself.’ It was a very different and yet fun process.”

   In readying songs for New Creation, Powell collaborated with some of Nashville’s top songwriters. “I co-wrote everything. I wrote a lot with Jonathan Smith and Ethan Hulse and some of the big Christian songwriters like Seth Mosley,” says Powell, who also co-wrote with Jeff Pardo, Brenton Brown, Hank Bentley, Matt Maher, Benji Cowart, Casey Beathard and Tommy Iceland. “Most of the time when I wrote there was a producer in the room and whoever wrote the song—if they were a producer—I gave them a shot at producing it, and we ended up using all of those.  So, it was very different than normal.  There were a lot more people in on the process than normal, not only the songwriting process, but the recording process.  I’m used to going in a big room with the Third Day guys and we’re all there together working on it. This was more of a songwriting process where they are demoing while we are writing and they sent me the tracks and I’d go, ‘Yeah that sounds cool. Let’s get a real drummer and real instruments.’ I did all my vocals at home and sent it to them, and they’d put them in the track, so it was different and yet I was digging everything.”

   During his tenure with Third Day, Powell had recorded for Sony-owned Provident Music Group, but opted to sign with Capitol Christian Music Group for his new endeavor. “I was at Provident my whole life.  It was called something different at different times. When we first signed it was Reunion Records, but then it became Essential, but for the most part Provident was the same company throughout the years and so there was part of that of wanting to go and try something different,” he says. “But also in my conversations with Capitol, I felt like they understood more of what I was trying to do and where I was coming from and had the most enthusiasm about the songs.  It’s a big label, so there was always fear of being a little fish in a big pond, but I really love what they do at the label. They have some great artists and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

    Powell planned to have the new album out at the end of 2020, but of course Covid interrupted that timeline. “Covid put a curve ball in that,” he says, “but it was a good thing having that extra time, being able to write some more songs and being able to develop more of the ideas that I had. It made for a better album I think.”

   The first single from New Creation, “River of Life” is currently climbing the Christian charts. “I was a little fearful at first,” he admits of returning to Christian music. “I didn’t know how people would take it, but man, it’s been open arms. In a way it feels like I never really left, and I guess in regards in some ways, I didn’t.  I was still doing Christian shows. I was still playing at some Christian festivals and would stop by Christian radio stations, so it wasn’t like I ever left. I still had a foot in Christian music and those relationships, but fully coming back and making a Christian album I was a little scared, but radio has embraced it and it’s done really well so far with ‘River of Life’ being the single. Arms are wide open.  I feel like I’m at home.”

   Christian music was Powell’s home for nearly three decades as Third Day became one of the genre’s most successful bands. A native of Clanton, AL, Powell moved to Georgia as a high school sophomore where he co-founded Third Day in 1991. Propelled by Powell’s distinctive voice and songwriting prowess, the band sold over 10 million albums, earned four Grammys, one American Music Award, 24 Dove Awards and was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Known for such songs as “I Believe,” “Come Together,” “Revelation,” “Call My Name,” “God of Wonders,” “Soul on Fire” and “Cry Out to Jesus.”

   The band called it quits after their 2018 farewell tour. Does Powell think there will ever be a reunion? “I hope so. I really do,” he says of reuniting with guitarist Mark Lee and drummer David Carr. “I don’t think we’ll ever get together and stay together, but they’ll be seasons where we can go out and do some shows and maybe do a tour or even record a song together, so that’s my hope.  I still love those guys and we have good relationships.  We keep in contact with one another.  I think somewhere down the road that will happen. I hope so.”

   After Third Day’s farewell tour, Powell embarked on a long-held dream and began pursuing a country music career full time. He had previously released two solo country projects—a self-titled set in 2012 and Southpaw in 2014. With the new moniker, Mac Powell & The Family Reunion, the album Back Again released in 2019 via Thirty Tigers. “I accomplished what I wanted to do. I made country music,” says Powell. “I got some of it on the radio. I went out and did shows.”

   His new album is different than his country efforts and his rock roots with Third Day. “A lot of people have asked me what’s the difference in this record and a Third Day album? And does it sound like Third Day? Of course it’s going to because I’m singing and I’m writing the songs,” Powell says, “but at the same time these writers that I’ve worked with in Nashville, the producers, the players, it’s all different guys than I’ve ever worked with before so there’s something different and fresh about the album. If anything, it kind of came back to more of who I am musically.”

   Anchored by Powell’s textured, passionate vocals, the songs cover a wide range of emotional territory. “1991” recalls the thrill of salvation during his youth. “Center of It All” reminds us of God’s faithfulness. Powell cites “Love is the Reason” as his favorite on the album. “It’s the very first song I wrote for the record in January of 2020 with Jeff Pardo and Hank Bentley and that song to me is the bridge between the Family Reunion and my solo stuff because it’s kind of a country song that tells a story,” Powell says. “‘Love is the Reason’ has got more of an organic feel, a country feel to it. There’s a story in that one that I just absolutely love and I love the feel of it.  You know I’m a rocker and I love loud music, but deep down inside I’m more of a singer/songwriter and that kind of fits in that vein.”

   Powell will be taking the new songs on the road this fall as he tours with his longtime friend Steven Curtis Chapman. He will also be performing on the KLOVE Christmas tour. When not on the road, the father of five makes his home in Georgia with his wife Aimee, and their three younger children. (Their two oldest, Scout and Cash—named for Johnny—are in college.) Powell is also on staff at Church of the Apostles in Atlanta. “They are great people,” he smiles. “They’ve given me a lot of grace to be able to travel and yet still be involved.  I’m excited to be there.  I’m the artist in residence and I oversee the worship department.  I’ve been there for about a year and half now.” 

   Powell is excited about this new chapter in his life and career. “One thing I love about this whole process is that I love the title New Creation because there’s something about being an artist whose been around for a while, but at the same time getting a second chance at doing this. I’m very appreciative of it,” he says. “I’m thankful for the genre and the people who are involved in it, their open arms and the fans. In some regards it is home, but in other ways I’m starting over again and it’s a great, great place to be, to not rest on your laurels and the past moving forward, but at the same time knowing there are some great memories and great experiences from the past in Christian music, so I’m very blessed.”