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Gomers, get ready: Third Day on the way

Move over Deadheads. The Gomers will be out in force when multi-platinum Christian rock band Third Day hits Modesto for a concert on Friday.

Loyal band fans took on the moniker after Third Day recorded "Gomer's Theme" on its 1997 album, "Conspiracy No. 5." The song tells the biblical story of Hosea and his wife, Gomer.

Those fans are just one reason the band has been so successful. In the past 15 years, Third Day has accumulated three consecutive Grammies, 23 Dove Awards, two American Music Awards and multiple honors for songwriting. The Georgia-based band has had 24 No. 1 singles such as "Cry Out to Jesus" and "Consuming Fire" and sold more than six million albums.

The band's most recent album, "Revelation," includes the title song and one called "Otherside," that was recently included in the "NASCAR '09" videogame.

Bassist Tai Anderson talked with The Bee in a phone interview while touring the East Coast:

Q: How long have you been with the band?

A: Since 1992, when the four of us started. I was 16; the drummer and I were friends.

Q: How did you guys come up with the name?

A: Mac (Powell, lead singer) and Mark (Lee) already had the name. I don't think they dug too deep into the creative pool. For a Christian, there's so much attention on Christmas, but Easter is such a pivotal day. The name of course refers to the third day when Jesus rose from the grave. It's a good name. It's served us well all these years. It was supposed to be temporary. They said, "Let's call ourselves Third Day until we think of something cool." But no regrets.

Q: You seem to have a lot of crossover (secular) fans. Are they ever confused about your lyrics or your name or anything like that?

A: I think most people know we're a Christian band. I don't think we surprise a lot of people. Hopefully, a lot of our songs are just good songs. I hope every time someone puts in our CD, their mood is elevated. We try to be very hopeful. We're very upfront with people, about who we are. It's not like we're a church thing -- you don't have to agree with this to be a member. You can take our music and do what you want, but I hope that everyone knows our music is encouraging and encouraging them in their faith.

Q: How did you pick the songs for your latest album, "Revelation"?

A: We recorded it out in California. We usually work in Atlanta, from home. But we felt it was time to challenge ourselves, to work with the best people who could pull it out of us. The song "Revelation" came at the end. We thought it was the best song for the album. No, it's not about the end times or our own personal revelation. "Revelation" is kind of a prayer: God, help. I need help. I need answers. I think it's become a very timely record. In the last few months, I think people are questioning everything. I think our record has been a comforting thing in the middle of all that.

Q: Where were you born and what kind of kid were you?

A: I was born in Boston and grew up in Atlanta. I was kind of a charmer, schemer. I was a good kid. None of us have stories, like, I was on drugs and all these women and then I became a Christian. We were all good kids and started the band so young. I had this love for music. What's been so cool for this band is we see all these other bands with all these music aspirations. For us, we've always enjoyed it, whether we're playing for a youth group of seven people or stadiums with thousands and everything in between.

We always had music in the house. We had the Beatles, the Byrds, the Eagles. My dad was kind of like a hippie. It was not uncommon once a week for my parents to have a dinner and they'd all take out guitars and harmonicas and tambourines and just play. That's how I fell in love with music. It was different in that people would listen to music corporately. Now they all listen on their iPods. That's why concerts are still so viable; it's a corporate thing.

Q: How did you become a Christian?

A: When I was a kid, some of my parents' acoustic jam sessions would morph into Bible studies. They had tried everything else -- they decided to try two new things: Wearing clothes and Christianity. When I was younger, my parents had this big conversion experience. They kind of got strict for a while, but it didn't last. My parents are so great. Like most people, they blow it all the time, but they were quick to say that and to change. Their theology was a little strange, but they loved people. My mom would meet someone at the gas station and the next thing you know, he was sitting next to me at Thanksgiving.

You can be raised in a Christian household, but it's not something you inherit. You have to figure things out on your own. I had a youth pastor who reached out to me and our drummer. As a teenager, I really purposed to take my faith seriously. People say, you're in a Christian band so you must be super-Christians. It's more like, we need to be in a Christian band.

Q: How old are you, and do you have a family?

A: I'm 32. I'm married and have five kids, from 3 to 9 (years old).

Q: You're a touring band. How often are you on the road?

A: About 100 dates year. It's tiring, but the flip side of that is that it's 265 days at home. Yesterday morning I dropped my older two kids at the bus, dropped my kindergartner at school ... went to a gymnastics class, baseball game and watched "The Biggest Loser." It's a good career choice, if you have it. It's made for an incredible life. Every day has a new adventure. We do work very hard and being gone is really hard, but it's a good job.

Q: What age group do you most relate to?

A: When I started, we were teenagers playing for teenagers. Now we have three generations at a show. I think, overall, we're playing for people in their 20s through 40s. That's how we're approaching writing our music. I think we're kind of growing up with the music.

Q: I read that you've changed your sound. Have you?

A: I think it's honestly who we are, but we've grown. We've allowed the music to grow. Our sound is very straightforward. We're not going to go all techno or bluegrass. We identify with the Tom Pettys of the world or U2. Just making sure it's the best it can be.

Q: Any thought of changing from rock to more contemporary Christian music?

A: Even though our audience has gotten older, what we've found is even people in their 40s, 50s, 60s like to rock. My parents love Third Day music, and they're in their late 60s. No. This is what we do. We're not going to change.

Q: Is it true that $1 from every ticket goes to charity? Have you guys done hands-on work with some of the groups you support?

A: In 2002, we started doing that ($1 per ticket donation). About a million dollars have gone through. We just like to find other good things that are happening and help that. We just finished a school and paid for the first teachers in India. It's pretty cool. It all adds up. We did three different builds for Habitat (for Humanity). We've done 20 builds through the years. We did a Jimmy Carter build in South Africa several years ago.

It's kind of a trust for our fans. We do it ourselves first. Blood:Water Mission is for well projects in Africa. It was started by (another Christian band) Jars of Clay; costs $10,000 to build a well. We've done several projects over the years. It's really rewarding. With success comes some responsibility to give back and makes it meaningful.

Q: What message do you hope your fans get from your music and concerts?

A: I hope they leave encouraged in their faith. We try to be very entertaining, give them a good light show. To us, entertainment and faith are not enemies. We hope people will find revelation and that people get some direction for their lives.


WHAT: Christian rock band Third Day's Revelation Tour

GUESTS: Grammy nominee Brandon Heath and Australian pop/rock band Revive

WHEN: 8 p.m. April 24

WHERE: Calvary Temple Worship Center, 1601 Coffee Road, Modesto

TICKETS: $36.50 to $75, from itickets.com or Beardsley's Book & Bible in McHenry Village.

Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at 578-2012 or snowicki@modbee.com.

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