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Hurt Road: The Music, the Memories and the Miles Between

By  |  October 9, 2017, 12:11pm  |  @DrewRyun


We all have those moments in life when we remember the first time we heard a favorite song or band. From that moment on, when we hear the first chords of that song, the memories come flooding in with them.

For me it was 1999. My good friend, Nate Miller, was visiting my brother and me. He was in med school and we were wrapping up our junior years in college at the University of Kansas. As I cranked out pancakes in our small two bedroom apartment on Tennessee Street, Nate said, “You guys ever heard of Third Day? You need to hear them. Just a sec.”

As I flipped pancakes, I heard him unzipping his bag and popping open a CD case to slip it into the player. Seconds later came the opening chords to “I’ve Always Loved You” and Nate singing along loudly.

Well, I don’t know how to explain it
But I know that words will hardly do
Miracles with signs and wonders
Aren’t enough for me to prove to you

Don’t you know I’ve always loved you
Even before there was time
Though you turn away, I’ll tell you still
Don’t you know I’ve always loved you, and I always will

I ducked my head out of the kitchen, “Who is this again? They’re really good!”

“Third Day, man. They are awesome.”

I am pretty sure we listened to “I’ve Always Loved You” 20 or more times that morning. Third Day wasn’t just a good Christian band as Billboard so famously noted, they were a GOOD band with a blend of acoustic and Southern Rock and with their CD, Time, they were on the rise in the music scene.

For the next few years, every time they released a CD, I bought it and friends and I would figure out the chords from their songs on our guitars.

Years later, I got a call from my sister who was working at the White House while I was at the Republican National Committee. “Third Day is in town. Want to grab lunch with them?”

In spite of the “mind blown” moment, I stammered that I did and over lunch got to know the band I had listened to for years. They invited me to join them backstage whenever our paths crossed.

I have done just that and from sound checks to grabbing pre-concert meals to diving deep into political and theological discussions to home renovation projects, I’ve gotten to know each of the Third Day guys just a little better.

During one such time, my wife, then fiancée, called and I took the call just as the guys were about to take the stage. Mac mouthed, “Is that your fiancée?”

I nodded.

“Give me the phone.”

I laughed and handed it over to him. “Hey Becca, it’s Mac Powell.” They chatted for a minute or so, he handed the phone back, “Well done, my man.”

Over these times I have pieced their stories together-where they’ve come from, how Third Day began, but in all honesty, I have never really known the story behind the story.

When I saw Mark Lee, the guitarist, was releasing his autobiography, Hurt Road, I made a mental note to buy it. He beat me to the punch and messaged me: “Send me your address, I am mailing you a copy!”

When it came, mid-day a few weeks ago, I put work on hold and just dove in.

Hurt Road is a conversational book, weaving in Mark’s life with Third Day’s origin story and the success that followed. Sprinkling in spiritual and life lessons as well as a behind the scenes look at life on tour, Hurt Road is an everyman’s journey of high school band members who started a garage band who became multi-Grammy Award winners, sold 7 million albums and became the first Christian band to grace the cover of Billboard magazine.

And it all started with a conversation between two marching band members in the school hallway.

“Hey, man. Do you want to be in my band?” Mark asked Mac. “We’re working up a song for the talent show.”

“I don’t play guitar.”

“No, man. We want you to sing,” replied Mark.

“Sure, that would be great!”

I think what I like most about Hurt Road, however, is the transparency of it. It is human nature to put the famous on pedestals. We think they live lives free of the “common” problems everyone else has, that they don’t face the same trials we do, the same griefs, the same struggles, but as Mark so artfully writes, they do.

When the lights dim and the concert crowds dissipate, the Third Day guys are very much like you and me. They have families to raise, bills to pay, a desire to become better at what they do and paramount to all this, a deep desire to follow Christ. While I was and am a big fan of their music, it was the latter that drew me to them.

All this and more comes through in Hurt Road. If you want to know the Third Day guys and their lead guitarist, Mark Lee, just a little better, go grab a copy of the book today and do what I did-dive in.