You would think that after 25 years, 18 albums and more than 40 tours that Mac Powell, frontman and primary songwriter for the Grammy Award-winning, chart-topping Christian rock group Third Day, would feel like he has earned a extended hiatus from recording music and performing live after the group’s farewell tour that ended in the summer of 2018.
Powell did take some time away from the studio and the stage, but you couldn’t exactly call it “extended.”
“I had a couple months off. I’m good now,” Powell said with a laugh. “I’m ready to work.”
After some time with family and friends, Powell was soon pushing forward with his next creative endeavor, Mac Powell and the Family Reunion. The band is hitting the road for its first-ever headlining tour and comes to Lexington to perform at the Lexington Opera House onMarch 13.
The Georgia-based band formed in the early ’90s and when it released its self-titled debut back in 1996, Third Day became an instantly refreshing and rootsy edition to the Christian music genre thanks to its timeless rock aesthetic and soulful, worn-in power of Powell’s instantly recognizable baritone. This led to becoming a popular fixture in Christian contemporary music and Christian radio, several gold and platinum albums and more than two dozen GMA Dove Music Awards and hit singles like “Cry Out To Jesus,” “You Are So Good To Me” and “Call My Name.”
When asking Powell about what it was about Third Day that struck a chord with Christian music fans, he tends to chalk it up to the right sound at the right time.
“I think everybody was ready for a different kind of music that, not that it didn’t happen before us, but wasn’t evident on Christian radio,” he said. “We were proud of the fact and just to be a band that was kind of just a straight-up American rock band that was able to draw from some different musical sensibilities.”
As Third Day continued to record, tour and maintain its success, Powell found time to indulge some creative leanings he had outside of the band. The Alabama native grew up on country music and would go on to release two secular country albums (a self-titled album in 2012 and “Southpaw” in 2014) that allowed him to collaborate with artist-songwriters Darius Rucker and Travis Tritt.
“For a number of years, I had this dream to kind of step outside of those walls and reach those people who you wouldn’t normally reach with Christian music,” Powell said.
Powell’s latest project as a solo artist isn’t just a showcase for himself. Being a long admirer of artists who consistently fronted bands like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers or Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Powell formed Mac Powell and the Family Reunion.
“The project, it has a band feel,” he said. “The guys that played on the record are guys in my band. It’s not a bunch of studio guys. It’s guys that I want to play with.”
Audiences got a first taste of the band’s sound as the opening act for Third Day’s farewell tour and when the group released a Christmas album called “December” late last year. He describes the sound of the band as “a little bit of country, a little bit of rock, a little bit of gospel wrapped up in a whole lotta love” and said the lyrics occasionally touch on a Christian message but also on hope, love, family and friendship.
Mac Powell and the Family Reunion’s first album, “Back Again,” is tentatively set for release in June 2019. On the current tour, Powell said the group’s set list covers all the aforementioned genres in its original material along with its versions ofcarefully selected cover songs and Third Day favorites.
Since Lexington is one of the early stops of this tour, Powell jokingly said he hopes to have the cobwebs shaken off in from the first few shows by the time he and his band hits the stage in the Bluegrass State. But what is no joke to Powell is the value he places on making quality music that continues to build a bond with himself and the audience.
“I think music is a powerful thing and for me, I’m the kind of writer, whether I’m writing a song that’s a gospel song or a song about family or just a fun song about whatever, going fishing (laughs) or whatever, it always comes from the heart,” he said. “I really hope that comes through, hopefully on the albums but live as well. That’s why I’m excited about this tour, seeing what that connection is like.”
If you go:
Mac Powell and the Family Reunion
When: Wednesday, March 13, 8 p.m.
Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.
Tickets: $18.50 to $68.50 (additional fees do apply)