Q&A: Mac Powell of Third Day
Mac Powell has fronted Grammy award winning Christian rock band Third Day for nearly 20 years. With a new self-titled solo album, the Martin Guitar Ambassador took some time to discuss a different approach to songwriting and how he plans to help us discover new talent through American Songwriter’s “The Pub Deal” contest.
What lead you to “Go Country” with a solo career?
I didn’t want anything to be detrimental to Third Day, but I got to a place where I thought… I can’t not do this. I grew up with country music and when I started coming up with all these song ideas, we recorded some demos, and they were sounding really good. So I thought why not make this a whole record?
What has the reaction been like from Third Day fans so far?
Once we reassured everyone that I was not leaving and the band was not breaking up… an overwhelming majority of Third Day fans have been very supportive of the album.
Third Day gets a lot of airplay on Christian Radio. Are you working your solo album to Country Radio?
I’m an independent artist. I’ve done everything for this album on my own. There’s no label, so it’s more of a grass roots thing. We had some interest from labels, but they would’ve wanted to release the album Fall 2013. I didn’t have time to wait for that. Because of my obligations to Third Day, I had to go on my schedule and not theirs. But there’s only so much I can do on my own, so maybe the label thing might work out in the future.
Are a lot of the songs on this album co-writes?
Yeah, I intentionally co-wrote with at least one other person on each track. All the songs, except for one, were ideas I came up with and presented to the other writers. Brett James and I sat down when I first started this whole thing and because he thought theses ideas were good enough to work on with me… that made it happen. He’s been writing country music his whole life and I haven’t. Even though I’m a songwriter, I wasn’t sure if what I do would work in the Country market. And that was the main reason I started doing co-writes.
How would you feel if somebody heard a song on this album and wanted to record it?
I would love it. There was a Third Day song called, “Call My Name” and Keith Urban woke up in the middle of the night, turned on his radio and heard it. He recorded it that same week. It turned out not making the album, but it was cool to have an artist I respect so much hear a song and love it so much to record it. I joke that he cut my song twice: he cut it in the studio and he cut it from the record.
How has the transition to Country music evolved your songwriting?
This solo record has given me the opportunity to approach things in a way that I haven’t done before. I’m writing about things that I normally wouldn’t write about. And as a storyteller I can go in different directions, as well.
You’re one of the Martin Guitar Ambassadors judging “The Pub Deal” contest which is giving away a $20,000 publishing contract. What qualities should the winning songwriter possess?
So many things go into a great song. Sometimes there’s something tangible and a lot of times there’s something you can’t put your finger on. There are great songs that make you wanna sing along and dance, but they don’t necessarily have a great lyric or great progression. I love melody. That’s what I come up with first. I like something you can sing right back after you’ve only heard it once or twice.
I love lyrics. Sometimes it’s not so much about coming up with a great lyric as it is knowing how to stay away from a bad lyric. Is the song saying something that’s been said a million times or is it something fresh? Is there a story in the song? Progression, phrasing, lyrics, melody, ideas are all things I pay attention to, but most importantly I like hearing a song and thinking,’That’s a cool song.’
WIN A PUBLISHING DEAL! Hosting songwriting contests for more than 28 years, American Songwriter proudly announces their biggest opportunity yet. In partnership with Martin Guitar and American Songspace, “The Pub Deal” is a one of a kind contest that provides the winning songwriter with a year-long $20,000 publishing contract from HoriPro Entertainment Group, Inc. Enter here.