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Third Day front man at home with country music

Third Day vocalist Mac Powell headlines Joe’s Bar Sept. 14 with solo country music show.

Third Day vocalist Mac Powell headlines Joe’s Bar on Sept. 14, with a solo country music show.

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♦ 8 p.m. Sept. 14

♦ Joe’s Bar, 940 W. Weed

♦ Tickets, $8

♦ (312) 337-3486;

Updated: September 12, 2012 6:03PM

If there ever was a man open to following life’s little nudges courtesy ofThe Man Upstairs, it would be Mac Powell. As the longtime front man for the multiplatinum-selling Christian rock band Third Day, Powell says it was years worth of these little divine nudges that ultimately encouraged him to follow his gut and make a go of it as a solo country music artist.

So, thank you God . . . and Keith Urban.

“Yeah . . . getting the chance to hang out and talk with Keith Urban was yet another nudge to see just what country music had to offer,” recalls Powell of country music’s favorite Aussie during a recent interview. “Keith had recorded a song of ours called ‘Call My Name,’ and I just couldn’t get over the fact that someone so huge within the country music industry had noticed me and a song that I had wrote.”

Of course, Powell is no stranger to the stage. He has traveled the world, sold millions of albums and earned four Grammy awards during his years with Third Day. And while Third Day is set to put out a new release this fall, Powell says country music has always held a special place in his heart.

“Growing up in the south, I was always listening to country music,” says Powell, who released his self-titled country debut Aug. 21. “When you have a southern accent and sing this southern rock music, you get a lot of people asking you if you think about making a country music record. Honestly, I never thought I had time because of Third Day.”

Indeed, the overwhelming popularity and nonstop schedule of Third Day seemed to always get in the way of his country music dreams.

“I kept it very guarded, and maybe shared what I was thinking only with my wife and two or three other people,” says Powell, who counts country hit makers Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band and Billy Currington as some of his favorites. “I really wasn’t sure what the reaction would be from our Third Day fans and the band itself. Luckily, I have received an extremely encouraging reaction from fans. “Sure, there were some who didn’t want to hear me singing something they are not used to but whenever you do anything different, there is going to be some negativity. Once I assured everyone that I am not leaving Third Day, everyone seemed to relax. I basically told the band that this has been in my heart for a long time and I simply couldn’t move forward until I did it.”

Powell says country and Christian music’s shared ties of faith and family has helped make the transition a bit easier, along with a very special mentor.

“I never met him, but Johnny Cash was one of those guys that had his share of struggles, but also had an unwavering faith that helped him get through it,” he says. “He had one foot in both worlds. I have been in Christian music for so long, but I feel comfortable in country music too. I am who I am, and that’s going to come through whether I am on stage with Third Day or the country thing. There is no hiding who I am and what I have been singing for the past 20 years. I don’t have to pretend to be anyone else than I am.”

Powell’s show at Joe’s Bar on Sept. 14 will serve as the first stop on his fall solo tour.

“I’m ‘old schooling’ it with a van and trailer this time,” he laughs. “It’s not like I am riding on a comfortable million-dollar bus anymore. We will probably be rehearsing on the way to Chicago. You guys will be the guinea pigs . . . and believe me, there is an excitement to that.”

Tricia Despres is a local free-lance writer.

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