If you were listening to the radio in the early 2000s, there is a good chance you’ve heard a lot of 3 Doors Down.
Songs like Kryptonite and Here Without You ruled the airwaves as the band propelled their debut record, The Better Life, to multi-platinum status– both in the United States and across the globe. The record launched a nearly 20-year career that earned the band multiple Grammy nominations. 3 Doors Down has sold over 20 million albums worldwide and has shared the stage with artists such as ZZ Top, Nickelback, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Daughtry, Alter Bridge, Megadeth and Seether.
Now, they’re back and ready to bring fresh music to their fans with their sixth studio album, Us And The Night, released in March. If you liked their sound back then, you’re going to love the new album as it is full of their special brand of energetic rock anthems and melodic rock melodies. What’s more– Brad Arnold (vocals), Chris Henderson (lead guitar), Greg Upchurch (drums), Chet Roberts (guitar) and Justin Biltonen (bass) are planning a nationwide summer tour in support of the album.
Since the recording of their last full-length album, the band has added guitarist Chet Roberts and bassist Justin Biltonen in the midst of releasing a greatest hits collection and performing on an extensive acoustic tour. We recently had a chance to speak with 3 Doors Down frontman Brad Arnold and he discussed the creative process for the Us And The Night, the contributions of Roberts and Biltonen to the band and also hit on a few key-tracks from the album. Arnold also discusses the positive efforts of The Better Life Foundation.
It’s been about five years since 3 Doors Down has released a new album. So what have these Mississippi rockers been up to since their last album, Time of My Life, hit the shelves back in 2011?
“Well, we were touring a lot. We toured off the last record for about a year and a half and then we came off a tour for that and then we put out a greatest hits record and toured off that for a little while. Then we did a year-long acoustic tour and before we knew it, four years had gone by since we had put out a record and I don’t know, it slipped on by us, honestly. We told ourselves we needed to get back in the studio. When we got back in the studio this time, we didn’t drag our feet but we took our time and just went in there and had fun. We have some new guys in the band this time and so that took a little bit of getting used to with them and with this record… with it being such a long time, we knew we needed to do a good job with it. But really, we just wanted to go back to having fun again and we really, really did that this time. We had a great time with this record.”
Us And The Night, produced by Matt Wallace (Maroon 5, Train, Faith No More), showcases the robust riffs and hooks that have helped make 3 Doors Down one of rock’s most instantly recognizable bands—with a twist.
With every new lineup comes a new recording experience and, according to Arnold, that’s just what happened for 3 Doors Down during the creation of Us And The Night. “To me, it’s closer to the vibe of our first record (The Better Life) because, you know, it’s been a little while since putting a record out. And what’s happened is with those new guys, in a way, it was kind of like starting over again a little bit– in a good way. After you’ve been writing as long as we have, it’s easy to start repeating yourself. That didn’t contribute to the band member changes, but having those new guys definitely brought about some new sounds. There was the excitement there of doing something new, that’s just how it was. I think we just tried to capture that idea of ‘We get to play in a rock band, so let’s have fun doing this.’ And, you know, I go back and I listened through some of the records recently because I don’t listen to them that much honestly, and you can kind of remember where you are in your life when you made those records. And this record, comparatively-speaking, is just a lot more fun than some of them have been,” said Arnold.
Arnold went on to reflect a little more deeply on the recording process with the new bandmates. “Those guys, it was the first time they were with us for a record and they did a great job. They really did! They most definitely brought some new flavors to the band that were very, very welcome. I enjoyed recording with those guys and I look forward to doing it again. They brought all those things to the record and they brought it some joy, as well. We just all get along. If there is one key, I think everyone in this band right now realized just how blessed we are to be in this band. When we are amongst a group of guys, to be sitting where they are sitting, myself included, I am incredibly thankful to be sitting right where I am. If that is the case, then you can move forward as a team. We all have a common goal. We all want to get out there and be successful, play Rock and Roll, and have some fun. You know, this band, we are in the best place that we’ve been in for a very, very long time. Everybody’s at a good place inside themselves and everybody feels good about playing their parts and putting on the best show that you could really ask to do and we have fun doing it. I keep saying that we have fun, but we do it too! That’s what it’s all about, you know? So those guys have definitely been a great contribution to the band and I am beyond happy to have them.”
When the band first took the radio by storm, it was circa 1999 with their hit song Kryptonite. Since then, Arnold said the band’s members have done a lot of evolving– both as rock stars and as human beings. “When we were writing our first record, we’d never really been outside of our hometown,” explained Arnold. “We were never a band that toured or anything; we were just a local band. We just played around our hometown and I think, now after touring for 16 years, and seeing the world and meeting new people, you have so much more of a broad outlook and you just see so much of what’s going on. I think that gives you a lot more fuel for your fire in writing and to understand and to put into the songs just a lot more feeling of things that people can identify with. That’s something that music has taught me over the years and touring all over and meeting all the people that we have, you know. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world. You really start to see that people are the same almost anywhere you go.”
After having garnered the kind of attention 3 Doors Down has seen throughout the past couple of decades, one would expect that level of success to go to one’s head. But it became crystal clear, when Arnold spoke about the title of the band’s latest album, that the band could not be more grounded in what they do. “We always kind of take a line of a song or the title of a song and make that the album title and we just kind of felt like that was a cool name but at the same time it really kind of showed where we are as a band now too. Us And The Night is really about not taking things too seriously and being a team and enjoying the ride and that’s really what we’re doing. I think sometimes, people that play in bands can take things a bit too seriously and it’s like ‘Alright, settle down, man. You just play in a rock band.’ We just take things pretty light-heartedly and have fun and realize that we want to keep going… that it’s just us and the night and we have fun doing it!”
There have been some pretty big changes within the music industry itself since the band busted through the gates of musical success. When 3 Doors Down’s debut album, The Better Life, was released back in 2000, the album sold over six million copies. But now, in the days of increased file-sharing and a fading importance of Billboard Magazines, one might wonder how modern artists gauge the success of their latest albums. “I like to gauge the success of it by looking off the stage and watching the audience,” said Arnold. “We play four songs I think now off the new record and we’re getting to the point now… the record’s been out long enough that you start to see people singing back to you from the songs off the new record. When an album first comes out and we play it to people, they don’t know it yet and they’re listening to you but they aren’t really starting to sing them back to you yet. I like to gauge the success by just looking off the stage and seeing people singing the songs back to you and what you hear on social media, about how people can identify with this song and that song. But I’ve always told people, young bands and all that when they say ‘Well, we like our songs and our friends like ‘em, but we can’t get that big break! How do you get so successful?’ And I say, ‘Man, don’t ever gauge your success off of how many records you sell or how big a show you play. If you’re doing what you love doing and you know those songs mean something to you and they mean something to your friends and your friends are digging it and you’re having fun… that’s all the success you need.’ It’s not how many records you can sell or how big of a venue you can sell-out. Those are all great things but it’s that feeling that you get when you look out there and know that song is connecting with somebody, that, really to me, is how you gauge success.”
Now that the fans have had a few months to savor Us And The Night, Arnold said he’s seen a few songs stand out from the album’s 11 tracks when it comes to fan-favorite tracks at their shows. “I think everybody likes The Broken,” Arnold said thoughtfully. “Our new single right now, Still Alive, we just put that out a couple weeks ago… we haven’t been able to gauge that one really well because we haven’t done any shows with it. It’s kind of hard to gauge a song when you play it first. But, The Broken is a song that people have really let us know that they like, and you can tell. That’s gonna be our next single after Still Alive. The song Inside of Me… people have really liked that one, and Fell From the Moon and both of those songs actually hold a lot of meaning to me, so that’s been pretty cool to see people gravitate towards those.”
Shortly before the release of their latest album, 3 Doors Down released a music video for the track In the Dark. The video stars actor RJ Mitte, best known for his roles in “Breaking Bad” and “Switched at Birth.” Mitte settles in to listen to a 3 Doors Down classic, but quickly finds himself at the will of a femme fatale. You can check out the full video here.
According to Arnold, In the Dark also serves as a perfect example of the fresh and full-bodied talent the new lineup has to offer. “In the Dark is a little bit of a different type of song for us. That song was actually originally written by Chet on his iPad on GarageBand. Chet is one of those guys that can take an instrument he’s never picked up before. Give him two hours, and he’ll have you a song of some sort. It definitely got a lot edgier as we started working on the song. We all kind of have those lighthearted songs, a lot of them have been kind of introspective and kind of what’s going on within ourselves. And In the Dark is just a bit more playful. To me, it’s kind of a frisky little song and it’s just fun. It feels good. It’s just kind of a song that gets you moving. It was a nice change to put out a song like that,” said Arnold.
3 Doors Down has figured out a way to use their success for the benefit of others by creating a charity called The Better Life Foundation (TBLF). The foundation, started in 2003, aims to make a positive change in the lives of children in need of food, shelter and medical assistance, and to enhance the lives of children and young adults with special needs. According to the TBLF website, the foundation works to raise money each year that will be distributed to hospitals and organizations that will help serve their mission, “so these children are offered a better life in which they can develop their potential, achieve their goals, and, become caring and responsible adults.” Since its inception, TBLF has supported organizations nationwide, such as The Children’s Coalition, Boys and Girls Club of the Gulf Coast, USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital, and Habitat for Humanity.
Through the effort, the band is set to perform their 13th annual performance at the Harrahs Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, North Carolina on November 12. The event will be sponsored by Paul Benton. In past years, the band has often performed at The Horseshoe Hotel and Casino in Tunica, MS. “The charity has grown a lot. Every year, it seems like we do something new,” said Arnold. “When we started that foundation out, we started out through Mississippi coast and through Alabama and Florida and Louisiana and stuff like that and over the years, we started to contribute to things in the northeast and around different places in the country. When people have asked us to contribute to things and I really pay attention to where that money goes. It’s a dollar in and a dollar out foundation. We really are careful about what we contribute to and make sure that money is going to be used in a way that it should be. We also, just last year, had our first chance to do an international project over in Africa. We were able to buy some beds for a refugee camp for children that both parents have passed away from disease, or what-have-you. These kids come into this place without anything and the camp was getting such an influx of kids they didn’t have anywhere for them to sleep. So, we wound up buying extra beds for that last year and hopefully we’ll do that again this year.”
“I’m excited this year because we had it for the last several years just south of Memphis,” continued Arnold. “ It’s a great place over there at those casinos but this year we’re actually moving over to Cherokee, North Carolina, and that’s a lot more central to a lot of different cities… Charlotte and Atlanta and all those places. So, I think we’re going to have a lot more people there this year and we’re gonna raise a lot more money. I think it’s gonna be a lot more fun over there. There are a lot more things going on. The venue, The Harrahs Cherokee Casino Resort, is twice as big as it was last year and it’s supposed to be a really nice place. I’m excited to watch the event itself grow and it looks like this year it could be twice as big as it’s ever been. So that’s really exciting.”
On top of their performance for The Better Life Foundation, 3 Doors Down has also been touring with fellow rock bands, Pop Evil and Red Sun Rising, during the band’s Us And The Night tour. Even so, Arnold assured fans they won’t have to wait long before 3 Doors Down comes out with another album. “We’ve just been doing a lot of touring right now and we definitely won’t be waiting another five years before we put another record out. [laughs] We know this record’s really young right now but I think we’re also gonna start thinking about ideas for the next album soon. We’re actually doing a two-week run right now. We’re playing today in San Diego and doing some stuff out here on the West Coast. We’ll go home for a little while then go out in the fall. Then we go over to Europe and play over there for about three weeks. After that, we’ll keep this record going into next year and then start working on a new one. We will definitely be busy!”
With everything going on in the lives of 3 Doors Down members currently, Arnold did not forget to take a moment to thank the fans at the end of our interview. “I would just like to say thank you and God bless you guys for letting us live out our dreams. You know, we are so fortunate to get to do what we do… and it’s all by the grace of God and we have the best fans on the face of this Earth! We’ve gotten to do this for so long that we’re all incredibly thankful.”