Earlier this year, we said goodbye to the legendary band Third Day as they traveled across the country on their Farewell Tour. During the tour, both Mark Lee and Mac Powell announced that they were continuing their passion of music and debuted their solo projects. Mark released his book, Hurt Road (with a foreword by Mac Powell), and his Unshakable Heart EP. Mac Powell introduced us to Mac Powell and the Family Reunion.
My family and I were able to attend Mac Powell’s Christmas Party as it came through Arlington, TX. The show was exactly what you’d expect from a family Christmas party. We sang Christmas songs both old and new, a few guests stayed after for a family dinner, and of course any good family gathering wouldn’t be complete without a few shenanigans (we got a hint of where bandmate Jason Hoard got his green jacket, but I’m not sure we’ll ever get the full story). The night was filled with laughter, banter, and light-hearted ribbing that can only happen among close friends and family.
I got the chance to sit down with Mac before the concert and talk about his change in seasons. Mac, I hope I’m part of the family now and I can’t wait for the next family reunion!
Some awesome friends of ours brought me along to the Farewell Tour when it came through Dallas. I’m pretty sure I was the spare tire on that outing, though I think (hope?) they disagree. It was an amazing show. I had forgotten how many Third Day songs I remembered. The tour concluded at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver. What was that show like knowing the season of Third Day was closing and Mac Powell and the Family Reunion was starting?
Well, first of all, the Farewell Tour itself was bittersweet. We weren’t sure if we were going to actually do a farewell tour. We had reached a point where everyone was off doing their own thing. Honestly, we thought we were going to fade away into the sunset and be done, not knowing if anyone really cared.
In the fall of last year, Tom Petty died and I’m a big Tom Petty fan. I’m was moping around the house for a couple weeks mourning the loss of this guy that I’ve never met before, but his music is such a big influence on me. My wife said, “You know, you guys should really get together and do a farewell tour. The way you feel about losing Tom Petty, there are going to be some people who feel the same about losing Third Day.” I said, “Yeah, you’re right.”
It wasn’t necessarily something that we didn’t want to do, but everybody was doing their own thing. Timing wise, we weren’t sure if it was going to work out, but we were able to do that and I’m glad we were. It was a lot of work. I sang a lot more, about double the amount I normally sing in a night, because the new band (Mac Powell and the Family Reunion) opened up for Third Day. We were doing these meet and greets, Q&A times, and I was singing a lot. So, it was a lot of work. I’m glad we did it, and we did it for the fans because they deserve it.
You introduced us to The Family Reunion on the Farewell Tour. The sound is quite different than Third Day. You describe it as "a little bit of Rock, a little bit of Country, a little bit of Gospel and a whole lotta love." Where do you see this going? Who are you trying to reach?
That’s a great question, and we probably still ask ourselves that every day. I think we’ve realized there’s not necessarily a certain audience we’re going for. A few years ago I told myself I want to reach people in the country market, but then I realized I just want to reach people that like quality music. I want to make great music that draws people in whether they’re country listeners, or gospel listeners, or rock listeners, or whatever. So, we’re not making country music, gospel music, rock music, Christian music—we’re making Mac Powell music. There’s a little bit of all that stuff wrapped up in it. I love this idea of the Family Reunion cause not only musically is it a little diverse, a little more diverse than what I’ve done in the past, but I think we want to bring that diversity to our audience as well.
The album December just came out—I’ve had it on repeat because it’s just an awesome album. Looking at some of the media from the album release and the previous two Christmas Party shows, you mentioned that this album started because you wanted to record “If We Make It Through December.” It either got out of hand or grew wheels and went from there, depending on how you look at it.
When you go into the studio, it takes quite a bit of money to record. When you’re in, you go, “Well, we’re gonna record one song, we may as well have two or three others because we have the time. We’re spending that money on a day, let’s use the whole day.” So, we recorded about 3 or 4 songs. We went, “Well, let’s come together one more day and see what happens.” Then we got another 3 or 4 songs. By the time we were done with those two days, we thought, “We’re really close to having a full record, let’s see what comes out of it.” We came up with the song “December” last minute, which ended up being the main track on the record and the title of the record.
It sounds like you’re having a great time with this band.
Absolutely, they’re great. With Third Day, ‘till the very last concert, I always had fun, I really did. There was never a time where I didn’t want to be on stage doing that. However, I knew that I wanted to do something different musically than what Third Day was. I’m able to do that now with this band, and so it is a lot of fun.
You had a couple solo albums come out in the last few years, like the Southpaw album. Is The Family Reunion an extension of those solo albums?
Yeah, I think so. I made my first record, I forget, maybe 6 or 7 years ago? I had a great time doing it. Jason Hoard was a huge part of that. He was on the road with Third Day a few years ago playing guitar, mandolin, banjo, stuff like that. As he and I were on the road together, we became really close friends and started writing songs together. He’s a producer as well, so we took those songs and he ended up producing my first record. We had such a good time that we said let’s do it again, and that became the Southpaw record.
It was always been me and Jason, but we would bring in different guys for drums, bass, etc. I couldn’t afford to keep just one guy the whole time because everyone’s got their day jobs they’ve got to go do. I think that’s part of the name of Family Reunion, it was a different band with me and Jason every time. We thought this is kinda cool cause when we come together, it’s always a group that we love, but there are people coming in and out just like at a family reunion. One year this guy’s going to be here, but next year this cousin’s going to be here and this person’s not. Also, with the inclusiveness of the idea of a family reunion, we want our audience to feel like they’re part of the band with us.
I follow you on social, and you showed us that you and your family went to Wyoming for Thanksgiving. Wyoming is “home” for us and we miss the beauty and the openness. What captivated you about Wyoming?
Well, I had been there just briefly a couple of times in the 20-something years of touring, but I haven’t really spent time there. Honestly, it was just always hearing about Jackson Hole and that area and wanting to go. We’re not skiers at all, but we were wanting to go to Yellowstone and wanting to see the Grand Tetons since we had never done that.
Last year, my family and I went to Sedona, AZ, which is about 2 hrs from the Grand Canyon. It is 2 hours north of Phoenix, and 2 hrs south of the Grand Canyon. We had an amazing time, of course very different than Wyoming. It was the first time for Thanksgiving that we have gotten away with just us and we weren’t with extended family. We really enjoyed that and we thought, “Let’s do that again.” We thought let’s go out west somewhere, and we decided on Jackson Hole and had an amazing time. We had about 7 wrecks on snowmobiles, but that’s another story for another day.
And of course the snow—coming from Georgia, that was probably different.
Yeah, we didn’t know what we were doing, we weren’t even going to try to ski.
The last question I have is: What’s coming in 2019 for y’all?
We were supposed to tour in the fall, but that kinda got moved over into the Spring. Hopefully, we’ll be on tour in Spring, and just going out and making some more music. We made the first Mac Powell and the Family Reunion record in time to be available at the shows for the Farewell Tour. We thought as soon as the Farewell Tour was over, we were gonna put it out there. We ended up not doing that because a company in Nashville was interested in picking it up. We’re still in negotiations, but hopefully, in the summer of 2019, it will be available outside our online store for people to hear it.
Jake is a longtime fan of Christian music, Jesus Freak Cruiser, a techie, and a softball player. He lives in Texas with his wife and daughter. Special shoutout to the Wetzel family for letting me tag along with them to the Farewell Tour earlier this year, and for participating in this NRT journey.
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