Religion

Make A Difference Tour comes to Columbus Sunday

U2’s album “The Joshua Tree,” depicting wide-open landscapes, drew David Carr like a moth to a flame. A pre-teen when he first heard it, Carr still recalls its mystery and depth.

He began spending hours on end in his childhood home, practicing his drums in the basement.

“It’s just an album but there’s a certain spirit there,” Carr said of the 1987 work, in a recent phone interview.

The drummer for Third Day will be in town Sunday with his band, along with other Christian artists Michael W. Smith, TobyMac, Jason Gray and author Max Lucado.

The “Make a Difference” Tour, which kicked off in late September in Ohio, is spotlighting the worldwide charity World Vision. Third Day has been a supporter for 12 years. It aids the poor, namely children.

The Beginning

A few years after the inspiration from U2, Carr began playing publicly himself. He started out with a group called the Bullard Family Singers. They played one night in 1992, ahead of Third Day, at a north Georgia church. Carr was accompanied by Tai Anderson.

“It was several brothers and their sister,” Carr said of the Bullards. “Tai and I left and didn’t stick around. Later on the youth pastor said Third Day was amazing. ‘You should try to make contact with them,’ ” he said.

Carr and Anderson were later invited to join the band. The album that Carr produced would be released the next year under the title “Long Time Forgotten.”

In 1993, the band started playing more around Atlanta and saved $3,000 to record a full-length album. Also during this time original member Billy Wilkins, who was working as a school teacher, left the group, according to the group’s bio.

Third Day continued to work on their first full-length album at Furies Studios in Atlanta. The album was released in 1994 with 2,000 copies available. In 1995, the band started looking for a new second guitarist. They had heard Brad Avery play with singer Chris Carder and asked him to join.

Third Day then started playing at a Marietta venue called the Strand Theatre. An indie label, Gray Dot Records, released the album “Third Day.” It sold 20,000 copies. Shortly after, Reunion Records signed the band to a multi-album deal.

Decisions

Carr was a senior at Chamblee High School near Atlanta when he started with Third Day. “My teachers said, ‘You’re not going to get anywhere.’ ... I would never tell someone not to go to college. I went to Georgia State for 1 1/2 years but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I felt like (music) was a career trajectory worth pursuing.”

His mother Judy was upset when he quit college “but she’s quite a trooper. Now I think she’s really proud. She’s always at our shows.”

The “Making a Difference” tour kicked off Sept. 30 in Ohio. Third Day’s newest album is “Live Revelations” (Essential Records).

“It’s been overwhelming,” Carr said of the early buzz. “With the Internet, many people share music and it’s so quick. The whole industry has to change with that.”

Third Day decided not to put restrictions on photos or videos, at concerts or with its music.

“We say, ‘Take all the photos and videos you want.’ It builds a buzz,” Carr said.

He’s anxious to hear what the critics will say.

“Our dearest and most devoted fans say we could sing the phone book and they’d love it; so we’ll see,” Carr said.

“It’s a big cliche but this album is returning to our roots. It’s all over the place. It’s a little more experimental. It’s not ‘produced’-sounding, like it came from a machine. It’s more organic and raw. We put it down and we didn’t change a lot.”

The name Third Day comes from Christians’ belief that Jesus rose from the dead three days after death.

After garnering award after award in their nearly 20-year history, Third Day doesn’t seem to rest on its laurels.

“Quite frankly, it makes it easier to move forward. Every success is the motivation for the next one,” Carr said.

“There are times when things seem perfect, and sometimes we don’t know what we’re supposed to do. God’s the one steering the ship. Our motivation comes and goes and our zeal may waver but he gives us strength.”

Carr and his family are members of Trinity Anglican Mission Church in Atlanta, a church connected to Anglican Christians in Rwanda.

Before the concert Sunday, author Max Lucado will host a dinner for local senior pastors.

Here are brief bios on the other artists:

TobyMac

Newest album: “Tonight.” He began in the group dcTalk (winner of four Grammys, and more than 8 million albums sold) and performs with the Diverse City Band. A self-professed perfectionist, TobyMac said he works hard to make great music. “Sometimes I feel like I’m slightly under-gifted,” he has said. “I usually don’t sit down and write a great song in just a few minutes like others can. But I think my work ethic makes up for that.”

He went solo when dcTalk disbanded in 2000.

Max Lucado

An author for more than 25 years, his books have sold more than 65 million copies. He has won three Christian Book of the Year awards — in 1999 for “Just Like Jesus,” in 1997 for “In the Grip of Grace” and in 1995 for “When God Whispers Your Name.” In 2005, Reader’s Digest magazine dubbed him “America’s Best Preacher” and in 2004, Christianity Today magazine called him “America’s Pastor.”

His works have appeared on every major national bestseller list including Publishers Weekly, USA Today, The New York Times, Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and Christian Booksellers Association.

Lucado is a Minister of Preaching at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, where he’s served since 1988. He has been married to Denalyn Preston Lucado since 1981, and they have three grown daughters: Jenna, Andrea and Sara.

Michael W. Smith

He turned 53 on Thursday. A native of West Virginia, Smith wrote his first song at age 5, according to his Web site. He attended Marshall University in West Virginia but after one semester dropped out to move to Nashville and pursue a music career. In 1982, Smith was asked to play keyboards in a band that was backing up young artist Amy Grant. He also wrote songs for himself.

Grant’s managers, Mike Blanton and Dan Harrell, could not find a Christian record label that would sign Michael or a young New Yorker named Kathy Troccoli. Believing in these two young talents, they started Reunion Records.

Smith’s record debut, “Michael W. Smith Project,” came out in 1983. Smith wrote all the music and his wife Debbie wrote the lyrics. The popular song “Friends” debuted on this album. His 1990 album, “Go West Young Man,” saw the song “Place in This World” hit the top 5 in pop charts, and helped earn him American Music Award’s New Artist of the Year.

He has 22 albums and 10 books to his name, as well as Dove awards and Grammys. He and Debbie have five children and three grandchildren.

In 1996, Smith founded Rocketown Records with Reunion executive Don Donahue.

In 1999, a prayer group of Michael and Debbie’s that had been meeting at their farm grew into a church. The couple helped start New River Fellowship with pastor and mentor Don Finto, former senior pastor of Nashville’s Belmont Church where Michael and Debbie had attended for many years.

Jason Gray

“When I’m willing to work out of my weakness, there are more chances for God to show up and for the unexpected to happen. My strengths — which are really quite modest — are limited to me, but with my weaknesses, the possibilities are boundless,” Jason Gray says on his Web site bio.

While his work has garnered gushing critical accolades, it wasn’t primarily the literate craftsmanship of his songs that drew the immediate respect of his peers and a solid fan base to him. It was, instead, Gray’s candor, his transparency, his willingness to expose his own weaknesses night after night that created a bond with audiences and prompted Centricity Music to sign him in 2006, according to his site.

Gray says he grew up as a chronic stutterer in an abusive home. His music bridges smooth pop melodies — from a Brandon Heath on the one hand, and a Mark Heard or a Rich Mullins on the other.

Gray says he’s content to leave the genre-parsing to others.

“I wrestle against that because it can be a heart killer and completely irrelevant to God’s calling in my life. I’d rather be real than impressive,” Gray said.

Allison Kennedy, reporter, can be reached at 706-576-6237

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