Can you believe 3 Doors Down has offered up post-grunge rock n’ roll for more than a decade? When you first heard their music you may have still been in high school or college, and now you’re driving the minivan with two kids in the back. They’ve had a long successful career thus far, achieving musical fame right out of the gate. They’ve racked up numerous accomplishments selling more than 16 million albums worldwide, achieving three Grammy nominations, two American Music Awards, and five BMI Pop Awards for songwriting. Their debut album in 2000, The Better Life, is now certified six times platinum, and brought us one of their biggest hits, Kryptonite. In 2002, their album, Away from the Sun, left us with radio favorites When I’m Gone and Here Without You. Both their 2005 platinum certified album, Seventeen Days, and the 2008 album, 3 Doors Down, debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 Chart. When Billboard released its Top 100 Pop Songs for 1992-2012 (based on Top 40 radio airplay), the band appeared twice in the top 25. Here Without You showed up in the #8 spot, and Kryptonite was #25. They’ve shared the stage with bands like Megadeth, Staind, Nickelback, ZZ Top, Hinder, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Shinedown, Seether and Daughtry. And there’s no stopping them now.
Their story is one of true talent, success, friendship, a dedication to teamwork, and using their success to pay it forward. So how did 3 Doors Down climb the ladder of success so quickly, what are their plans for the future, and how do they plan to give back to not only their fans, but globally? Lead guitarist Chris Henderson recapped the 3 Doors Down story as the band was preparing for the second night of their co-headlining tour with Daughtry, which kicked off November 17, 2012.
Before Brad Arnold was the lead singer in a chart-topping rock band, he was a 15-year-old sitting in Algebra class. How could he have known he’d be putting the wheels in motion when instead of focusing on math, he was writing the words to their #1 hit, Kryptonite. “Yeah, he was sitting in high school Algebra class writing the lyrics on a notepad instead of doing his homework,” said Henderson. “He literally brought the words to band practice that night and within five minutes one of the biggest songs of that decade was written. The whirlwind, the chain reaction of that night, that moment in high school when that kid hit that paper. The chain reaction that started that instant is one that will be immortalized forever and ever and ever.”
The history of how people meet and come together is always interesting and the story of how the men from 3 Doors Down met, is no different. Sometimes people are just destined to meet to do something bigger than themselves, together. Original members Arnold, Todd Harrell (bass), Matt Roberts (guitar) and Henderson all grew up in a town of about 1,800 people in Mississippi, 35 miles east of Biloxi. Arnold and Roberts played t-ball together, while Harrell and Henderson played junior high and high school football together. Harrell dated Arnold’s sister at one point. Henderson was good friends with a girl who dated Roberts’ brother. Henderson laughed as it sounds more like a “Jerry Springer story.” Growing up in a small town, they were clearly no strangers to each other as they were running in the same circles but it would take some time for them to come together as a band. Arnold and Roberts were playing in a garage band while Harrell and Henderson, being a bit older, were already out of school, playing in bars in a band named The Union. When The Union broke-up, Harrell went to play with Roberts and Arnold, but Henderson moved on to playing with another band, before joining 3 Doors Down a few years later and solidifying their line-up.
The band initially performed around the Biloxi area, playing originals as well as covering Metallica, Bush and Pearl Jam songs. Once they established a following, they recorded their first EP, solely for the intent to record an album, not expecting immediate fame. When Kryptonite was played on a radio ad to promote one of their gigs, the operations manager for Biloxi’s WCPR, Kenny Vest, liked it and added it to the station’s rotation. It wasn’t long before the song was sitting in the #1 spot, for an astonishing 15 weeks. Next operations manager Brad Hardin, from WXTB in Tampa, Florida heard the EP and played it for his staff. They were as impressed as he, and the station become the second place Kryptonite could be heard on the airwaves, with a strong following ensuing as the request lines started blowing up. Monte Lipman, President and CEO of Republic Records, was the first label executive to take notice. After meeting with 3 Doors Down, he booked them at a New York showcase held at the CBGB. While Lipman remembers the first show being pretty bad, he knew what they lacked as performers they made up in their music, and they could be taught to perform better. Soon after the band headed into the studio and released their debut album, The Better Life.
The current line-up still includes original members vocalist Brad Arnold, lead guitarist Chris Henderson and bassist Todd Harrell, but they’ve had a few changes in the line-up over the years. Originally Arnold was the lead vocalist as well as the drummer, until Arnold was encouraged to take on a solid front-man position. They’ve hosted a few short-term drummers through the years, including using a session musician, and in 2000 Richard Liles came on for about one year. In 2005, the band welcomed Puddle of Mudd’s Greg Upchurch as their permanent drummer, who replaced Daniel Adair, when Adair left the band to become the drummer for Nickelback, after performing with 3 Doors Down from 2002-2005.
Chet Roberts replaced founding member Matt Roberts on guitar earlier in 2012, due to Matt’s declining health related to circulation problems which were reportedly worsened by the stress of touring. The band doesn’t regularly keep in contact with Roberts as Henderson explained, “We hear through the grapevine that he’s doing fine, he’s doing well. He’s got this whole other company that he runs so he’s doing that now. He’s out of music completely. We kinda knew when he left that he wouldn’t be back. We got another guy. We’re moving on with the other guy. That’s just the way that is. We wish him the best.”
Having went through some line-up changes, the band sees no value in letting it affect them. “It can affect the band if you let it,” stated Henderson. “With losing Matt, we could’ve been like there goes Matt, and what do we do now, let’s shut it down. But we don’t. The thing about it is the music business is filled with so many 100% professional musicians. You can find someone to replace a musician with a phone call. It’s a little different because you have to work a new guy in. But a new guy will mold to the greater powers. That one guy will become what the other four want him to be. This new guy got swallowed up by us and became one of us.”
And the transition was made smoother, when they lost Roberts, considering their newest guitarist was previously Henderson’s guitar tech. He knows the guys, he knows the songs. “He happened to be my guitar tech so that worked out great” Henderson said, “the first couple shows he did he had to tech, and then he had to play.”
All the guys live in Nashville, making the line between work and play blur. They all get together to watch football, even when they are not working on music. They’ve built a family as a band and have found the keys to making it work, suppressing the arguments and problems some bands face. Henderson explained their maturity and lack of “ego” cushions them from experiencing too many band dramas. “I think if we were younger, if we were all in our 20s, maybe so. Ego plays a big part in it. I think we’ve been doing this so long, we’ve been out with so many bands and we’ve seen so many egos. And so many egos come and go. That we know better. And that’s one of those things that will crush you in this business is your ego. We just don’t have time for that shit. Everyone kinda gets it. You gotta be on a team to make it to the playoffs. You gotta be on a team to make it to the championships. You can’t do it by yourself.”
And if there are disagreements — how the band should operate, what songs they should write — “We just fight. Punch each other in the face. It gets straightened out. That’s the way we do it, man. We’re from Mississippi,” joked Henderson.
3 Doors Down kicked off their tour with Daughtry performing at the 9th annual The Better Life Foundation concert, held at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Mississippi. “It was amazing,” stated Henderson. “It was the biggest one we’ve ever done. It was sold out.” Previous performers at the yearly concert benefit have included Staind, Hinder, Switchfoot, Tracey Lawrence, Sara Evans, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Shinedown and others. The foundation’s birth was encouraged when 3 Doors Down participated in a prior charity event several years earlier. When the band started looking at the books, they figured out the charity never even got paid. “It kinda hurt our feelings to see the money get squandered like that,” stated Henderson, “It was just so dirty. We felt so downgraded after we did it.” So the guys decided to start their own charity, where everything is $1 in, $1 out.
In 2003, 3 Doors Down started The Better Life Foundation. The mission is to raise funds for children in need of food, shelter or medical assistance as well as help children and young adults with special needs. The foundation’s mission statement is “Changing the World, One Life at a Time,” and all funds raised go to organizations or hospitals that fulfill the mission. The foundation has raised more than two million dollars for local children’s charities since its inception. Each year a silent auction is held in conjunction with the event, and this year’s silent auction included signed guitars and drumheads donated by 3 Doors Down, Los Lonely Boys, Korn, Bush, Theory of A Deadman, Godsmack, Staind, Chevelle, Nickelback and Josh Groban. Signed jerseys, footballs and helmets were also donated for the silent auction by Dallas Cowboy Miles Austin and Miami Dolphin Anthony Fasano, the Carolina Panthers, the N.Y. Jets, Brett Favre and Chris Carter.
But their giving spirit doesn’t stop there, with the foundation’s annual concert growing each year. In just the last few years, they added the Ride For A Cause to the festivities. The hour-long motorcycle ride is held the day of the concert. Anyone can ride in after paying a small registration fee and all registration fees go to support solders coming back from deployment. People can also donate directly to the cause. This year about 400 people participated, including Arnold, Henderson, Roberts and Harrell, who were able to ride in the event with bikes donated from Bourget’s Bike Works. Dixie Thunder Run, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing emergency financial assistance to military families, sponsors the ride.
3 Doors Down, through The Better Life Foundation, was able to help during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes in United States history. When Waveland, Mississippi was hit hard by the hurricane, the charity purchased police cars and fire trucks to assist with rescue efforts. The foundation also worked with Wal-Mart to provide rescue supplies. And the foundation provided additional funding to help support the town’s rebuilding efforts.
But not all their efforts are received with such praise. This year the band was asked to perform at the Republication National Convention in August, where they premiered their new song, One Light. On the experience, Henderson said, “A lot of bands shy away from those kind of things. But really who cares at the end of the day. It’s just a show. It was a different type of atmosphere. Kind of a stale atmosphere. It wasn’t a rock type thing. It was weird.”
The negative backlash from their participation was almost immediate. “We got everything you could imagine,” said Henderson. “People are fucking mad when it comes to their politics. It’s terrible. The band’s facebook was blowing up. We were getting things like they were burning our records and never going to spend another dime on the band. Some pretty hurtful things were said to us. The good news is we don’t care about that stuff so it worked out pretty good for us.”
Their newest record, The Greatest Hits, was released on November 19, 2012. The album’s tracks comprise nine of their #1 hits, including Kryptonite, When I’m Gone, Here Without You, It’s Not My Time, Let Me Go, Be Like That, Loser, Away From The Sun and Duck and Run, along with three new songs, One Light, There’s a Life & Goodbyes. Henderson explained the reasoning behind doing a greatest hits album as opposed to releasing an album with all new tracks. “The thought behind the greatest hits is number one we’re far enough in our careers to put one out. We had a change in the band recently with our other guitar player leaving and we needed to put a record out. The timing of him leaving was kinda messed up. So we were like you know what, this is a sign from above that we’re supposed to do something besides write a full record and try to cram this thing down people’s throats. We needed to do something different, something people aren’t expecting. So that’s what we did. We put out a greatest hits record. And we wrote three new songs. The greatest hits package is a vehicle for getting the new songs out and to reintroduce people to 3 Doors Down. And then we’ll go to work on the new record.” A new release is in the works and possibly expected in late 2013.
On the new record, Henderson stated they’ve already started receiving positive feedback. “Everyone loves One Light. The fans are really liking the song Goodbyes. The people in Europe are really liking There’s A Life.” Songwriter/producer Marti Frederiksen, known for his work with numerous hard rock bands including Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, Foreigner and Buckcherry, co-wrote the tracks One Light and Goodbyes. The lyrics for Goodbyes came from a personal experience of Arnold’s, when one of his friends passed away. While Henderson didn’t feel he could adequately recount Arnold’s experience, he explained,”It’s really one of those things that comes from deep inside his heart. He writes about real stuff. Things that come out of his brain, and come out of his heart.”
Arnold is known to the band, and to their fan base, as a naturally talented songwriter. It’s what appeals to the people listening to their songs. The emotions and stories apparent in their lyrics are topics anybody can identify with: loneliness, being underappreciated, or dealing with any of life’s other complexities. Arnold tries to write songs with that focus, but also tries to leave the songs open-ended so the listener can conform it to fit to their own situation.
3 Doors Down is notorious for performing 250 to 300 shows a year, particularly during their first six to seven years. Earlier this year the band was part of the “Gang of Outlaws Tour” with headliner ZZ Top and opener Gretchen Wilson. And it doesn’t sound like they have plans to slow down. There is more in store for the fans with the current Daughtry tour. They have dates set with Daughtry until December, but plan to do another leg of the tour after the first of the year. According to Henderson, they may even take the tour to Europe and return again to the United States for another leg.
But while they have toured quite a bit, they understand the importance in keeping the show fresh. They are currently revamping the live show, through the use of social media; particularly Twitter. Through the band’s Twitter account they take fan requests, and may even play those requests the night of the show. Their Twitter account has also become an outlet for them to give away tickets or invite fans to sound check or VIP parties with both 3 Doors Down and Daughtry. Henderson provided us an example of how a typical Twitter contest may work. “We’ll tweet some landmark out in town here, like the local park or something. We’ll give them a scavenger hunt. If you can send us a photo with you and the largest ball of yarn with today’s date on it, the first person who can do that gets two tickets.”
If 3 Doors Down is coming to a town near you, and you aren’t following them on Twitter, you should be. They will offer promotions in every city they visit. Follow their main account @3DoorsDown, as well as Henderson, @Chris3DD, Arnold, @Brad3DD and Harrell, @ToddH3DD.