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Third Day Guitarist Talks Music and Memories

ONCE UPON A TIME
Mark grew up in the community of Marietta, Georgia. He remembers playing whiffle ball until dark and chasing lightening bugs. His mom was a teacher and later a librarian.  His dad was a former drill sergeant in the Army. Mark’s dad was his hero and he loved spending time with him. Church was a big focal point for his family. “My family went every time the doors were open,” shares Mark. As he grew up, he began noticing cracks in the world around him. “As much as the grown-ups in my life tried to shelter and protect me, I still caught the occasional glimpse of something big and scary lurking out there,” shares Mark. The news talked about hostages in Iran and there were children going missing in Atlanta. “Why would God let these things happen?” Mark wondered.

Prior to middle school, Mark became a Christian. Up until that point he believed if you went to church you were a Christian. While playing video games on Thanksgiving with his cousin, who had recently become a Christian, Mark asked Jesus into his heart. Later he was baptized and began reading the Bible.

At his mom’s request, Mark began playing the violin when he was six years old. He played for ten years and eventually played in the school orchestra. He soon moved on to the fiddle at his dad’s request and discovered he had a knack for entertaining. One night in the sixth grade after watching Amadeus, Mark remembers waking up and feeling like music was in his future. “I felt a strong pull toward music and truly believe that I was called into music the same way others are called into ministry,” shares Mark.

SUCKER PUNCH #1
When Mark was fourteen he was selling doughnuts for his church youth group. It was early in the morning and dark outside when he approached the first car at the intersection. After giving the customer his doughnuts and preparing to walk back to the curb, he failed to notice that the light had changed while he had been in the intersection. “I looked up and saw headlights, but there was no time to react,” shares Mark. He was hit by a truck and strewn across Hurt Road along with his money and doughnuts. He tried to get up but something was wrong with his leg . The paramedics took him to the hospital where doctors determined that he needed surgery because both bones below the knee were broken. The doctor called it a “ski slope fracture” which was pretty severe. In the hospital, his mom brought him a boom box and some cassettes. Mark says, “God gave me music as a calling and a purpose, but he also gave it to me to help navigate through the day to day.” Mark had a long road to recovery. He missed a lot of school, spent a lot of time on the couch watching TV, and being alone. “Happily ever after had been knocked out of me and I had been rattled to the core,” shares Mark. Before the accident, Mark’s primary activity had been basketball. His dad saw Mark’s interest in music and felt he could play guitar. On his fifteenth birthday, he got a guitar and began teaching himself a few chords.

SUCKER PUNCH #2
The next fall after the accident Mark went back to school. He had recovered fairly well from his injuries and things seemed to be getting back to normal. Then Mark and his family began to notice something was wrong with his dad who kept saying things that didn’t make sense. Mark hoped it was nothing serious. They found out he had brain cancer and had to do surgery. “It felt like I was getting hit by the truck all over again,” recalls Mark.” A year later when Mark was sixteen his dad died. “I handled my father’s death the way I handled everything else in high school: I pretty much avoided it. I simply kept my head down and tried to keep moving forward.”

THIRD DAY
During his senior year, Mark was able to march in the band again. Several of the guys in the marching band were aspiring rock musicians that would get together and jam often. They needed a lead singer so Mark asked Mac Powell (lead singer, Third Day) if he would like to join his band, Nuclear Hoedown. They performed at a school assembly and everyone loved the band. After graduation, he began to have several conversations with Mac more about the Bible.  Although Mark was saved in middle school, he wasn’t living out his faith other than showing up to church on Sunday. Then Mac announced he was quitting the band. Mac felt like he needed to give up worldly things and get rid of his secular music. A couple of weeks later, Mark offered a solution, “Do you want to start a Christian band?” At the time, Mark didn’t know much about Christian music. Mark recalls, “I wasn’t even sure this was what I wanted to do, but it just felt like a way we could keep making music together without compromising our faith.” A few weeks later they performed as a Christian band at Mac’s church. The sermon that night really spoke to Mark. The conversations he had with Mac about God, the things he’d been reading in the Bible, and his new interest in Christian music all pointed to the fact that he didn’t need a commitment to music but rather to Christ although the commitment to Christ he made while playing video games was real. When he made a commitment at the concert he says,  “The moment when I stopped striving to make something my own, to become famous, to write my own story -- this was the moment when I stepped into God’s story when I decided to use all my talents and give all that I had for him and to put Him first.”

The band was renamed Third Day. Mac and Mark started writing songs and performed their first official show  in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. From 1991 to 1995 Third Day members loaded up a little van, pulled all their gear in a trailer and drove fifteen hours, to play for about 100 people then turn around and drive all the way back home. That was Mark’s end-all, be-all dream for his life, but God had other plans. Today Third Day is an award-winning Christian rock band with thirteen albums and total sales approaching eight million. Their latest album, Revival, was released in September of this year.

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Guest Info

Guests
Credits

Author, Hurt Road, (Baker Publishing House, 2017)

Latest album, Revival, produced by Monroe Jones released in September

Founding member and guitarist for the award winning Christian rock band Third Day, with 13 albums and total sales approaching 8 million

Accomplished songwriter (Sky Falls Down, Alien, Show Me Your Glory, and more)

BA in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University

Married to Stephanie

Two children

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