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Concert Preview: 3 Doors Down Singer Celebrating Sobriety, New Album, Tour

Published: May 12, 2016 at 12:00 am

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With excitement over their newest release, <i>Us and The Night</i>, percolating, 3 Doors Down is bringing their latest tour to The Grand Theater at Foxwoods in Mashantucket on May 22. Ahead of the show, band leader Brad Arnold (second from left) and…
With excitement over their newest release, Us and The Night, percolating, 3 Doors Down is bringing their latest tour to The Grand Theater at Foxwoods in Mashantucket on May 22. Ahead of the show, band leader Brad Arnold (second from left) and Chris Henderson (far right) called in to talk with The Newtown Bee about the creative process of putting their new project together, and in Arnold's case, shedding some old demons that have made him a happier and healthier creative force.
MASHANTUCKET - New music isn't the only thing 3 Doors Down founder and frontman Brad Arnold is bringing along as he and his band head out on the road in support of their latest album, Us And The Dark. Arnold will be bringing along a fresh attitude that comes with his newfound sobriety.

Arnold and guitarist Chris Henderson called in for an exclusive interview with The Newtown Bee ahead of their May 22 show at The Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino to talk about the process of putting their new project together. But when the subject turned to former bandmate and lifelong friend Todd Harrell, who was charged and imprisoned last year after being connected to an opioid-fueled car crash that killed a Tennessee man, Arnold made a surprising admission.

"I think except for the new guys, pretty much everybody in our band has dealt with something - I'll tell you that I've had a problem with drinking for a long time," Arnold said. "And as of today, I'm at

2½Ã‚ months without a drink. So I'm going through this recovery myself."

Arnold said when he looked at other much more established and mature bands, he noticed more and more of the members who may have spent their earlier years partying all the time have reverted to a clean and sober lifestyle, which has helped promote their longevity.

"I think I finally got to a point in my life where I watched alcohol and I watched drugs affect enough people negatively, that I am 100 percent supportive of anything I can do to keep anybody sober," Arnold pledged. "I'm still new to sobriety but I'm a huge supporter.  I feel better than I've felt since I was a little kid. My biggest regret is not doing it sooner. I believe anybody can come to it in their own time, but it was definitely my time, brother!"

A band profile at billboard.com talks about how 3 Doors Down exploded from the tiny town of Escatawpa, Mississippi, hitting their peak in the 2000s with a string of post-grunge singles, most notably "Kryptonite," "When I'm Gone," and the ballad "Here Without You." "Kryptonite," with its minor-key shuffle and references to Superman, was the catalyst for the band's career, generating an unprecedented buzz at a local radio station - Biloxi's WCPR - during the band's independent days.

After starting out as the band's drummer and singer in a trio configuration, Arnold moved to the front position right around the time Henderson came on board - and the straight ahead rock outfit hit the big time headlining shows and opening or co-headlining with a number of top acts including ZZ Top and Daughtry.

Today's lineup consists of Arnold and Henderson along with Puddle of Mud drummer Greg Upchurch, former guitar tech Chet Roberts, and bassist Justin Biltonen, who replaced Harrell after he was indefinitely suspended after facing vehicular manslaughter, and a subsequent DUI charge.

Arnold and Henderson both were eager to dive into a conversation about Us And The Night, but didn't shy away from a few questions about their storied beginnings and upkeep of their "family business."

Newtown Bee: It's been nearly 20 years, so you've spent roughly half your lives working with 3 Doors Down. That's way longer than most people in any profession can expect to be on the same job. Has this kind of turned into a rock and roll family business for you by now?

Chris Henderson: I've been in this band 20 years - hell, you do 20 years in the military and it's retirement age. It's definitely a family business. I don't know if I could do anything else at this point. (laughing) I do have a few projects, but my career is definitely the band. I guess if something happened there I could always go over to Subway and make sandwiches.

Brad Arnold: It's the only thing I've ever done. We started this band when I was 16 and I'm 37 now - heck, I've been in this band more than half my life. I mean, I had some crappy jobs when I was a teenager, but by the grace of God, playing in a rock band has really been my career. And you know what, John, it's been a blessing, an absolute blessing. If you had told me when I was 15 that I was going to become a rock star for half my life, I wouldn't have believed you. I would have hoped you were right though (laughing).

Bee: But thinking back to those early few months as "Kryptonite" took off, did you find you were checking yourself to stay grounded, or pinching yourself to be sure you weren't dreaming?

Henderson: Maybe we were pinching ourselves because things started moving so fast. We're from the south, so the situation didn't really shake us off our grounding too much. But it was pretty surreal for a long time, playing show after show after show, and waking up in the morning looking in the mirror and saying, "wow, I'm in Paris again." Even today it's like that, 20 years later.

Arnold: It happened to us like it happens in the movies. We never really tried to get signed, we just wanted to hear our song on our local radio station.

We were from south Mississippi, and we recorded a little demo and we begged our local radio station to play it. So they played it on their home grown shows where they featured local music once a month, then they played it a few times and we pestered the local program director enough so he bumped it into the regular play list and it became the most requested song they ever had. Then the record label found us.

It wasn't until a few years later when I started meeting other bands and learning about the absolute struggles they faced just striving to get played, I didn't realize - that's not how it happens, not everybody brings their demo to a radio station and they play it and it takes off.

Bee: Flash forward to 2016, and now you have Us And The Night - but things are a lot different trying to get your new music played outside the concert arena.

Arnold: It really has - but you just have to roll with it. We've just had to evolve the way we do things over the years and keep going. You have to switch gears when you're looking at shrinking record sales and you can't get your new songs played on the radio. Thank goodness for the Internet, which helps us stay close to our fans and helps them stay close to us.

At the same time, everybody else is doing the same thing, fighting for everybody's attention. Everybody wants new music now, now, now - and it's been five years since our last new music, and we've just sort of had to roll with it.

Bee: Back in the day, as you guys graduated from opening acts to headliners, did you get any advice from any of the artists you had a chance to support?

Arnold: For me it wasn't anything anybody specifically told us. I think it was things I observed standing back in the corner with my hands in my pockets.

It's funny, as we got a bit bigger we saw bands who were behind us, and how these baby bands thought they were rock stars. Then you start working with bands who have been at this for 30 or 40 years, and you really see what being rock stars is all about. You know if I really want to be around for 40 years or more, I want to be acting like (Rush guitarist) Alex Lifeson. We got to work with him really early in our career and he's a freakin' rock god. But he's the nicest dude you'll ever meet. Charlie Daniels is another friend, and seeing his humility, he's the sweetest guy you ever want to meet.

Henderson: Yeah, we worked with Alex on a five song EP we were doing. I think one of the songs he produced made it onto Away From The Sun. He was a real quirky guy, but fun loving. A deep and passionate musician. I really admired his passion for life and his love of life. He was able to share a lot of that happiness with me.

There have been a few other important mentors along the way. I think Sevendust really took an interest in us, not only showing us what to do but more importantly what not to do, especially on the road. They played a key role in our career because we were able to experience them as the real people they are.

Bee: Us And The Night sounds very polished from a production standpoint, but it has a kind of practiced, confident energy that really pumps through every song. Would you say the new songs represent a significant maturation of your sound?

Arnold: I really think so. We'd been touring and stuff, put out the greatest hits, then did a whole year with an acoustic show, had a couple of personnel changes and so we were working. At the same time we always had the best intentions of writing while we were on tour, but I never write on tour. I tell you the only lyrics I ever wrote on tour was "When I'm Gone."

When you're playing so much, the last thing I want to do is settle down and write songs. So there was a big gap for me in writing, and a lot happened in my life over those years. But you come back fresh and maybe you have a little different approach and maturity. You're further along and more seasoned, which I think really contributed a lot to the way this new record sounds.

Henderson: I think Us And The Night is a culmination of everything we've ever done - the different styles of recording and the different styles of playing we've encountered. We did our first record direct to tape so we all had to be performing. But over the years as (recording software) Pro Tools came out, it got to the point where you could really play a few notes and you could build a lot of the song with the computer. We did that for awhile.

But on the new album, you hear a lot more of the raw rock because while we used the technology, we performed everything as musicians instead of piecing it together on the computer. Everything is live, and a lot of it was put down in one take.

Bee: What kind of ideas, if any, did Chet (Roberts) or your other new member Justin (Biltonen) bring to the creative process either in the songwriting or in the recording process?

Henderson: As far as writing goes, they never had any rules to live by. A lot of songwriters have these unwritten laws that are dictated by radio and the labels. But these guys didn't know them because they hadn't been writing for records over the years. Their writing was raw and aggressive and it was fun to watch. It was just go for it - and it showed me how I used to do things. And you know what, it was a lot more fun.

Arnold: We really encouraged those guys to write this time. As a matter of fact all five of us wrote a lot this time.

You know Greg has been in the band 11 or 12 years now, but he never really wrote before. He wasn't discouraged, but he wasn't encouraged either. But he was a full-time writer on this one. We told the guys anything y'all got, bring it. Don't think anything is out of bounds.

We opened up our minds this time. We always said we wanted to leave ourselves a left turn - we never wanted to keep writing the same thing over and over. But you know what? To be honest, a couple of the last records started kind of repeating the same sounds - some of the subjects and some of the same licks. It was getting monotonous, and I'm sure it was for the fans, too. That's why we ended up with a lot of different flavors on this record.

Somebody asked me the other day what direction we were going on this album, and I said "all of them."

Click here for more information on the May 22 Foxwoods show with 3 Doors Down and opening support from Blackberry Smoke.

On March 11, 3 Doors Down premiered their new single "In the Dark" on GMA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xYnw-hWOXc

 

Check out 3 Doors Down playing their breakout hit "Kryptonite" from this 2009 AOL Session:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3lSLLklu7Q

 

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