We met Third Day’s Mark Lee outside the Strand Theater in historic Marietta, Georgia. It’s a building that witnessed the earliest days of the band, now releasing their 13th studio album, Revival (August 4, 2017, Provident Label Group/Sony Music—buy). Just like The Strand, one of those legendary venues with so many stories hidden in its hardwoods, Lee is a teller of tales. In September he releases Hurt Road: The Music, The Memories, And The Miles Between (September 5, 2017, Revell Books—buy), an autobiography chronicling his journey from a childhood on these streets outside Atlanta to the founding and extraordinary path of the multi-GRAMMY-winning band.
It’s a story told in a charming, personable voice, with an unassuming profundity and lasting spiritual lessons. It’s a little odd, meeting someone for the first time after you’ve essentially just heard them telling you their life story. But the conversation was easy, and an interesting glimpse into the making of a memoir.
CCM Magazine: We recently read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born To Run. He mentions how he was just writing little stories, almost journaling through the years, and realized along the way, “This is my story, and this could make a book.” I wondered what your process was like. Are these collected stories, or did you sit down and say, “It’s time for me to pen my memoirs?”
Mark Lee: It really is a little bit of both, so I’ll back up a little bit. I grew up around here. My mom was a school librarian, always bringing books home. I would just devour them and ask her to bring more and so, I’ve always been into books. I always figured that at some point I was going to get into either blogging or a book.
Then, maybe twenty years ago, I started journaling as a way to try to get some songwriting ideas for lyrics. I found that I liked it just for its own end, not just for trying to write songs. When the blogging thing took off fifteen years ago, I started doing that and really enjoyed that. That was when people started saying, “Hey man, you should write a book.” So, I started a book. Maybe five times I started a book! I’d get a little ways down the road and then I would think, “I don’t know what this is. I need to get busy doing something else.”
CCM: Was it always an autobiography?
ML: Every time it was different. Fiction, Young Adult, Christian Living. Then in 2014, it was about this time of year. My kids were starting back to school, we had a gap in touring, and I knew I had some time to write so I decided, “All right, I’m going to do it. This is it. I’m tired of starting, stopping, whatever.” I told my wife, “I’m going to start writing,” and I told her about my idea for a C.S. Lewis-like fantasy fiction story. I was excited about it, but then she said, “You just don’t need to do that right now. Your story is so much more interesting than anything you’re going to come up with, and you need to share that with people.” She wasn’t saying the other idea was bad or wrong, but she simply encouraged, the first thing you write, it ought to be telling your story. I knew she was right.
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