Backstage Exclusive: Third Day Rocks Leno

By Deborah_EvansPrice | By Deborah Evans Price, senior editor, www.watchgmctv.com
Posted: Fri, 08/01/2008 - 18:50

album promo image for Backstage Exclusive: Third Day Rocks Leno

Red Light Management's Shawn McSpadden, Tai Anderson, Mac Powell, keyboardist Scotty Wilbanks, Mark Lee and David Carr

Deborah Evans Price, senior music editor, GospelMusicChannel.com takes you backstage on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

The day a new record releases is always special for a recording artist, but July 29 was an especially memorable street date for Third Day. In an unusual coup for a Christian act, the band landed an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, performing their No. 1 single "Call My Name."

The day began for Third Day's Mac Powell, Tai Anderson, David Carr and Mark Lee with a 10:30 call time on the Leno set at NBC studios in Burbank, CA. Though the show airs after late local newscasts across the country, it tapes at 4 p.m. on the west coast. The band began rehearsing and it was cool to see the Leno crew responding to the music. Wendy, who handles audio, became an instant fan, and Gary, the lighting guy, asked what their other songs were like and commented on how much he liked Mac's voice. As a longtime fan, it was a thrill to see other people discover the guys for the first time.

Suddenly during the middle of rehearsal the floor began to move and the band's manager Shawn McSpadden looked at me and said rather calmly, "I think this is an earthquake." Indeed he was right and in moments we were ushered out to the parking lot where we stood around Jay Leno's vintage orange Lamborghini and felt the earth move under our feet. It was a surreal moment. No one panicked. It was exciting but somewhat unsettling.

"I thought 'How are they moving the stage because this is part of the building? This isn't a separate stage,'" said Mac following the quake, which measured 5.4 on the Richter scale.

"Then I thought 'No, that's not right.' And I thought 'Maybe we're on some kind of rug and they're pulling it out from underneath us.' Then I thought that it could be an earthquake or Third Day could be rocking California so hard that it makes the ground shake," he said with a laugh.

When the threat had passed, everyone headed back in to resume rehearsal. During the lunch break, the guys confessed to a little nervousness. "Any kind of TV or video thing always makes me nervous," Mac admitted. "People ask all the time if I get nervous before going on stage, and I don't before a normal concert or show. It's always when you're doing something outside of the norm. There's going to be a few million people watching tonight and it makes me a little nervous, but even more excited than nervous."

"Normally I'm one of the least to get nervous," said Tai, "but I just feel like this is really a big deal. I'm really trying to soak this in, and doing that is making me appreciate this as a big opportunity. I feel like it's bigger than just us. I feel like we're representing all of Christian music...we're really proud to be a part of that. It's a great place to be and this is the kind of opportunity that shows Christian music is not just a subgenre defined by its lyrical content or where people spend their Sunday mornings. Christian music can really stand on its own."

After lunch, the guys returned to their dressing room and were called down for "blocking," another rehearsal in which the cameramen determine how best to shoot the performance. All went smoothly and Leno staffers who had been observing nodded approvingly.

Around 3:30 a nice guy named Dan came to retrieve Third Day's guests to be seated in the audience, and the band got dressed for the show. Just before the taping, Leno, casually clad in jeans and a denim shirt came out to chat with the audience. He was charming as he joked, and brought some crowd members up for photos and a little pre-show banter before exiting to change into a suit.

The taping began with Leno's monologue and a funny vacation segment before bringing out guests Seth Rogin and Joan Allen to be interviewed and promote their respective new films. Finally it's the moment the Gomers (a.k.a. rabid Third Day fans) have been waiting for and the band is introduced. The performance is flawless and the sound is great, not an easy feat during a television taping. Mac, Tai, Mark and David along with Scotty Wilbanks on keyboards all looked and sounded terrific. Leno moved from his desk to the side of the stage as they performed then joined them on stage after their song. Then he posed with the band for photos and thanked them for coming.

"We were so excited about the opportunity and now we're glad it's over," Mac said backstage after the show as he and the other guys breathed a collective sigh of relief. They watched a playback of the performance as Provident Music Group CEO Terry Hemmings, Red Light Management's Bruce Flohr, Provident's Jackie Marushka and Jennifer King, Shawn McSpadden, and LA journalist Melinda Newman gathered to congratulate the guys on a job well done.

"It took all that work and we traveled across the country for three minutes and 30 seconds," Mark laughs. "It's all a blur, but I feel really good about it."

What did Leno say to the guys afterward? "He said 'great job! We loved having you guys and don't let it be another four years before you come back,'" says Mac, who had appeared on Leno once before with Bart Millard and Steven Curtis Chapman performing a song from "The Passion of the Christ" soundtrack.

As they pack up and get ready to head to a show in Phoenix, they reflect on the memorable day. "Being on stage at the Tonight Show doing our sound check during an earthquake: that's the story we're going to take away from today," says Mark. "That's the first time I've been in anything like that."

"For me, the thing I'll remember is that it's album release day," says Mac. "For us to have this album, which is one of our favorite records, and to be able to kick it off by being on the Tonight Show, that's what I'll remember."


About the Writer

Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to Country Weekly, CMA Close Up, Devo'Zine, Christian Single, HomeLife, BMI Music World, and other publications.

A Nashville resident since 1983, Deborah has held editorial posts at Radio & Records, Country News, American Songwriter and Billboard. Amy Grant, Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, 3 Doors Down, Third Day, Don Henley, Bon Jovi, Chris Rice, Sandra Bullock, Mercy Me, Alan Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman are among her many interviews. Additionally, she's a sought-after music industry analyst who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, TNN, The Today Show, and ABC PrimeTime Live, among other outlets.

Deborah is a member of the Gospel Music Association's board of directors and a graduate of Leadership Music. She resides south of Nashville with her husband, Gary, and 18-year-old son Trey.