Mac summarized our interview with him by saying, “… often interviews for me are like therapy, being able to talk about these ideas and these thoughts.” We hope this interview had that effect on Mac!
We dove into our interview with the question: Is “Mac” his real name? The answer is yes! His full name is Johnny Mac Powell. “A good, southern name,” he says. He likes “Mac” because it’s unique and gives all the credit to his mom for choosing it.
Then, we turned to Mac’s most recent radio release for his new album “New Creation”, “River of Life.” The track echoes the spirit of many gospel songs.
“I just love the invitation that we’re offered,” Mac said. “Throughout Scripture, water is used so often for cleansing, for new life, for healing, and so we wanted to write a song inviting people to have that transformation, that time of healing.”
Water is used as a symbol and an image in Genesis all the way through Revelation. In Isaiah, the source of salvation is described as a well. The Psalms paint a picture of what it’s like to thirst for God’s presence. In John, Jesus tells the woman at the well that He offers “living water” that will quench her longing-this passage particularly resonates with Mac. The idea of an unending source of life is a solid source of comfort for us!
Mac also recalls the passage in Revelation that illustrates the river of life, which helped inspire his song, “River of Life.” Unending life flows from the Father and the Son. The imagery of this river is an invitation for us to submerge ourselves in the love, grace, hope, and peace that God promises.
It’s difficult to listen to his worship in “River of Life” without feeling the sense of hope infused in the music and lyrics. The opening lines of the song are an invitation for us to seek the change we so desperately need:
Brothers, sisters come on down to that river
Guaranteed you’ll never be the same (Mac Powell, “River of Life”)
Mac Powell’s “River of Life” explores the multifaceted nature of the river of life and all it’s able to do for us as believers.
After listening to this compelling new song, we got to talking about the music business. We asked Mac if he knew he wanted to go back into music after Third Day disbanded.
“For me, there was never a second option,” Mac responded. “I knew I was going to continue to make music. There’s nothing else that I can do; there’s nothing else that I would rather do. I love traveling; I love making music and gathering together with my brothers and sisters and celebrating life and what God’s done for us.”
Third Day’s disbanding might feel recent for us, but for Mac, the end of their music-making journey arrived five years ago. For a period of time, Mac made independent country records and toured them. His goal has been to reach audiences “outside of the walls of the church.”
This goal has been on Mac’s heart for a long time: to encourage people who wouldn’t typically attend a Christian concert. He hopes to return to country music again one day, but he knows that Christian music is where he belongs.
This album marks the beginning of a new experience for Mac Powell. He signed with a new record label, Capitol Christian Music Group, and he’s making music with other songwriters. Co-writing music is a new experience for Mac, and while he didn’t anticipate enjoying it, he’s found great value in working with other talented writers. It’s a new, fresh process that allowed Mac to create an album he loves, titled “New Creation.”
Mac’s favorite song on the “New Creation” album is “Love is the Reason.” The song opens with the lines:
Mama dragged us to church every Sunday,
and heaven knows I didn’t want to go (Mac Powell, “Love is the Reason”)
Mac chuckled and said, “Yeah, I think a lot of people can relate to that.” The song is partly autobiographical and partly creative storytelling (for instance, the song references the speaker’s brother, and Mac doesn’t have a brother).
The song’s purpose is to honor people who make sacrifices for the good of others. Parents like his who fight life’s hard battles, even seemingly small ones like getting everyone to church. Soldiers who leave their loved ones behind to fight for our country’s freedom. Ultimately, the song points to the sacrificial love that Jesus showed us on the cross.
Throughout his years as a musician, Mac Powell has spoken to numerous people his music impacted. He’s learned the impact of music both from his own listeners and from his own experience. Music has the power to bring us transformation, to impact how we think and feel and see the world.
Songs that tell a story have an especially potent effect on us. People connect with each other through listening to and telling stories.
One artist in particular affected young Mac Powell in this way. When Mac had just graduated high school, he went to a concert starring his favorite artist, Rich Mullins. He had the opportunity to speak with him, and young Mac told Rich Mullins that his music had helped him in his walk with Christ and had shown him that he too wanted to make music that would encourage others in their faith.
In response, Rich Mullins looked straight into Mac Powell’s eyes and said, “Thanks!” before turning to walk away. (Don’t worry, he’s had other chances to speak with Mullins since then.) Because of the way this response made Mac feel, he takes it to heart when fans tell him what his music has meant to them while he’s on tour.
Mac Powell clearly has a special voice, and we wanted to know if any specific people in Mac’s life encouraged him to pursue music growing up. He shared that both his parents grew up singing and playing the guitar with their family. He sang in his church’s choir as a child, and this helped build his love for singing and his confidence in performing.
In high school, teachers told him he had a gift and encouraged him to cultivate it. In college, his voice teacher gave him pieces that fit his voice and fostered his talent. Then, of course, came the other members of Third Day, who gave Mac the courage to live out his calling.
We’re grateful for those who poured into Mac Powell’s life and encouraged him to make music because it’s had a profound impact on us!
Tune in to Life 96.5 to hear Mac Powell’s “River of Life” and other hope-filled songs!
Listen to more episodes of the “On the Road” podcast on our website.