This Time It’s Personal

“What I have found in my experience is if you are writing from a very personal place and are honest with that process, those songs end up being the ones that connect with people so much more than those written with a certain objective or audience in mind,” guitarist Mark Lee offers.

“See, one of the things that’s hard about doing this in the Christian music field,” Powell interjects, “is when interviewers or record company people want you to explain every song for them, and I think it really hurts the songs to do that. There are going to be songs that people will get different meanings for themselves than what Mark or I intended when we wrote it, and that is so much better than me telling them what to think about it from my perspective.”

OK. So much for my questions about “It’s a Shame” and “San Anselmo,” two songs from "Wire" that are, indeed, more personal than most lyrics that make it onto Christian albums. But the point is well taken; and, as I think about it, those are likely to be two of the songs that might have a chance in the mainstream pop arena, along with “Until the Day I Die.” Someone in the Christian press will no doubt ask the “meaning” of those songs, but that won’t happen today. Good for Third Day for including those songs and for not wanting to explain them. We’ll see how long they get away with that.

“It’s funny,” Powell continues,  “I’m a huge Adam Again fan [Powell sang AA’s “I Remember You” on the "City on a Hill" project], and I used to get mad when Gene Eugene would say that he would just make up lyrics and then later on would figure out what they meant. I used to think, ‘Man, that’s just stupid. Why would you do that?’ but I have come to realize that I do that, too. Even in my own therapy of writing, I’ll write something I really don’t understand myself; but, later, it will become clear.”

“I would add to that,” says Anderson, “that when you’re speaking from the stage as well as what you sing in the songs, the personal means so much more than the platitudes. When my pastor shares a story from his life and family and relates it to the Scriptures he is preaching from, it is so much more powerful for me than anything else he could say on an academic or theological level. That’s what I feel like Mac and Mark did with some of the lyrics on this album, and I hope Third Day — and Mac in particular — can go to that place that feels free enough to trust an audience to be that personal.

“When I saw U2 the second time on the ‘Elevation’ tour, Bono was talking about the song ‘Kite’ and his father’s passing away just about eight weeks before. Because I camped out all day to get inside the ‘heart area,’ I’m watching this tear roll down his cheek as he sings this song in memory of his father, and it was one of the most special moments I have ever witnessed.”

“The church is really in need of that kind of reality,” says Carr. “We get together, and we have Bible studies and study groups; and it’s all good stuff. But if the purpose is just to increase our knowledge of biblical history and not to get to the heart of what God is trying to say to us through these characters and stories, it’s all just religion to me. That doesn’t really connect with me, and I don’t think it really connects for most people. Same thing goes for our music. If the goal is not to really connect to people’s real lives, then I think it’s just religious fluff.”

Lee, who speaks less often than the rest, comes back into the discussion. (Fellow guitarist Brad Avery, for the record, is out playing golf this afternoon.) “It’s so easy within the confines of the church, to take the imagination and throw that out in place of the ‘facts.’ And any sense of story, any sense of mystery, gets stifled by folks who feel that literalism is the only approach to the Scriptures. If you really look at the way Christ lived and taught — through the parables, for one example — you see how He entrusted these truths, at times actually hid them, in stories so people could discover them on their own, which is powerful.”