3 Doors Down Singer Brad Arnold Talks ‘Greatest Hits,’ Tour With Daughtry + More
3 Doors Down started off with a bang when their hit single ‘Kryptonite’ blew up back in 2000, creating a buzz for the band seemingly overnight. Their debut disc ‘The Better Life’ would go on to yield four hit singles and move more than 5 million copies, launching their career into an upward trajectory.
Now, more than a decade later, the band is reflecting back on their musical tenure with a new ‘Greatest Hits’ disc due out on Nov. 19. In addition to nine chart-topping rock hits, the release also includes three brand new tracks from the band, proving that they are still going strong over a decade later.
We recently caught up with 3 Doors Down frontman Brad Arnold to reflect on the band’s success, the impact their ‘The Better Life Foundation’ has had on him personally, how his songwriting has evolved throughout his career and 3DD's upcoming tour with Daughtry.
Congrats on the upcoming ‘Greatest Hits’ disc. Why did now feel like the right time for that?
It’s something that we’ve wanted to do for a while. We didn’t want to put it out too soon but we didn’t want to wait another five years to put it out either. We really are moving into a new chapter in our band. We’re not changing our sound or anything but we felt like this was good look back over the last 10 to 12 years for us. We just felt like it was the appropriate time to do it.
It must have been a great experience to sit back and reflect on all the music you’ve made throughout your career. Can you talk about the process of putting the disc together, was it hard to pick the songs?
You know what, it was. We obviously had a few songs that we knew had to be on there but then there were others that we weren’t sure about and we weren’t able to fit them all on, it was a hard decision to make.
It was interesting putting them together because we went back and we remixed and remastered them for it, and we didn’t try to make them sound different we just wanted to choose some more modern technology to have a better sound on the record. You can do so much more now than we could 10 years ago, so we went back and we made it in surround sound.
Honestly, if you were to put it in your computer, you probably couldn’t tell a huge difference between the new and the old, although the new to me sounds cleaner. You can tell that we used new technology to make it better. We really at the same focused on, when we were remixing them, to not change the sound of the songs. They were successful the way they were so we didn’t want to reinvent them. I don’t really think people would like that too much, if we changed them a lot. At the same time, it’s cool to hear a modern take on them.
I had been wondering if any of the songs had changed at all but it sounds like you stayed true to the original versions.
We did, and that’s harder to do than you’d think because you’re using one person to mix it and then he’s going back and mixing songs that 4 or 5 other producers have mixed in the past. I know it was a massive undertaking, but he did a great job on it.
‘Kryptonite’ is the song that launched your career – when you look back at that time in the band, what do you remember most about it?
I just remember how excited we were when it really started happening. We had written ‘Kryptonite’ a few years before that when we were just teenagers. We had a local radio station play it after we begged them to for like two years. We went to rerecord that song and we got going, and the song started going and it took off, and then it turned into a monster. I just remember the excitement. It was like, ‘Here we go man,’ we never dreamed that we’d get to do THIS, and here we are. Still even then, if you told me we’d be putting out a ‘Greatest Hits’ of other songs 10 years later, nowhere along the line could I have ever believed it.
I know one of the three new the songs called ‘Goodbyes’ is very personal to you; can you tell me where it came from and why it was important to you to write that one?
We co-wrote ‘Goodbyes’ with Marti Fredrikson, and that’s the fourth time I’ve written with Marti, and he has a good way of going about it. He’ll play on the guitar and Marti has a really cool melody going on in his head all of the time, he’ll sing along with the melody, not trying to make real words, just babbling different words, and then I start to feel an idea develop and run with it, and that’s how we’d written ‘When You’re Young,’ ‘Time of My Life’ and ‘One Light.’
Sometimes it’s hard to go in and say, let’s write a song at two o’clock on Tuesday, and make sure it’s a good one! Sometimes, they just don’t work like that. For that song, the music I just liked so much, I asked Marti if I could take it with me. I promised him it wouldn’t get stuck in a drawer and wasted, I’d write some lyrics to it, and that was in May, that we wrote the music.
About a month and a half ago, I was sitting down here, and there’s a man that lives down the road from me at my camp on the river down in South Mississippi. A man that lived down there, he was a real good guy, about 65 years old, we’d always sit around the fire together, have a couple of beers and throw wood on the fire. He had a stroke and he was in a coma for about a week, and that got me thinking about how it’s hard to let someone go like that.
When you have a stroke it’s unexpected, I had just seen him four days before that. It got me thinking about him and his wife, and I wrote that song, he definitely got my thought process going. I wrote the song and two days later he passed away. It was hard on everybody that lives down there because it’s a real close-knit community. As soon as I wrote it I sent it down there to one of my buddies and asked him to let everyone hear it, and he said, “How about I let them hear that in about two weeks because they might not be ready for that right now.”
But yeah, it became really personal to me and you know it’s not necessarily the happiest song, but I think that song’s going to wind up being personal to a lot of people. It’s not always the happy songs that people get the most out of. It seems like ‘Here Without You’ and ‘Away from the Sun’ – songs like that, although to me I kind of look at ‘Here Without You’ as a bit of a happy song, although it seems sad, it talks about dreaming about somebody, and as long as you’re dreaming about them, you’re together, and I view that as a happy thought, but I know when I wrote ‘Away From the Sun’ I was in that place, and I’ve had so many people, with that song in particular, say that that song saved my life. What else could you do on this planet that’s any more fulfilling than knowing that you’re doing something that helps someone a lot, I know I’ve had songs in my life that have helped me. It’s almost like God sent them to you when you needed to hear them. Its like, “Man, I needed to hear that right now,” and I know that I’ve had those songs and I’m delighted to be able to possibly write just one of those songs for someone else.
I’m a firm believer in musical therapy.
Music is medicine for the soul!
You’ve said you’re not very political but that it was a great honor to perform at the Republican National Convention this year, can you tell us about the experience?
It was a cool experience, there were leaders coming from all around the country, and just the operations and productions of the RNC. It was down in Tampa and there were blocks and blocks of security. Once you got through the doors, you knew were safe, it was just amazing how much goes into it. I was talking to the guy that was our escort for the day and he was saying how he was about ready for it all to be over so he could go home and we asked him, “Well how long have you been here, a couple of weeks?” and he said “I’ve been here since May.” I was like, Holy Cow, they’ve been working on it since May, so I’m sure he was about ready to go home.
You mentioned the production of the convention, it’s not that far removed from a music tour right? I’m sure looking around you saw a few good ideas.
I tell ya what; they had some production going down there. We played on a side stage, but in between speakers on the main stage the floor would open up, the whole podium would go down in it, the floor would close – they definitely had it going on. I was thinking, “Can we borrow that for our drum set?”
As you stated earlier, you wrote songs with Marti Fredrikson. On your last album, for the first time, you started working with some outside songwriters, what did that outside perspective bring to your writing process and do you think that’s something you’ll continue to do with future new music?
Definitely, I love writing with all the guys in my band, and we’ve written a ton of songs together. When you write with the same guys all the time, it’s kind of easy to get in a rut; it’s easy to start writing things that sound like something else you’ve written in the past. I think it’s really important, I didn’t realize how important it was, but I think looking back on these last few songs that we’ve collaborated on, it’s really important to get out of your comfort zone and write with someone that you’ve never written with before because it brings in a whole new element and a new sound – just a new lick even, something that’s not so familiar to you. It stimulates your senses and makes you want to write something new. Marti is a great one to do it with, that dude is a great song writer and he’s just a fun dude to sit there and write with. We work well together, he’ll start babbling words, not even consciously forming words, and I’ll sit there and listen to him as he works on the melody. It could be one word here and one word there, and I’ll sit there with my notepad starting to piece things together and it’s just such a really cool experience to do that.
Your upcoming tour with Daughtry kicks off with a very special show – the annual concert for your ‘The Better Life Foundation' – what can you tell us about the foundation and what it’s meant to the band over the course of its existence?
That foundation has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. It’s hard for me honestly to look at it as giving back, because I swear to you, I’ve been given more simply by being a part of that foundation than I’ve ever done. It’s blessed me in so many ways. To be able to be the catalyst, because it all comes from our fans, I’m honored to be that catalyst. Looking at what it’s allowed it to do – whether for a special needs home or a kids camp or a children’s hospital, it’s just the best feeling in the world. I’m honored to be a part of it, there are a lot of people that work a lot harder than I do on it and I’m thankful for them.
This year, this is our ninth year, and it’s going to be our biggest one by far. Over the last couple of years we’ve added a motorcycle ride. The first year was a bit of a fluke because it was cold and rainy so some people couldn’t make it but last year we had 400 riders and this year we’re expecting around 600 riders at least and I’d say more than that. That ride is so fun, Bourget’s Bike Works, they build a bike for us every year for the Foundation and they donate it, and they are awesome motorcycles. The first couple of years we auctioned it off, but then not everyone can bid on it, so the last few years we’ve raffled it off and it was a lot more successful and allowed more people to take part in it.
So I’m really looking forward to that ride and the concert is going to be awesome, it’s going to be a really great start for the tour because it’s going to start us out on a light note, because there’s a lot of fun stuff going on there, but it’s also going to give a nice, firm, positive push to the tour. I really couldn’t ask for a better way to start the tour.
You mentioned the band entering a new era, and I can only assume that you referring to the lineup changes that occurred over the last year. I know that you and former guitarist Matt Roberts go back a long time and were friends as kids, talk about the impact it had on the band when he left, it had to be an emotional thing?
I look over there sometimes and I miss him. Matt and I have been friends since we were little kids; we use to play t-ball together. It was hard to see him go, it honestly was, and it was a little emotional. Like I said, I miss him being here sometimes. Chet [Roberts] does a great job, I look over there and he’s just got this big old grin on his face and he’s running around. You do look back, especially now for the ‘Greatest Hits’ and you have these memories of what we all done together so it was a difficult time to see him go.
Chet [Roberts] seems to have has adapted to the lineup perfectly. I saw the band live shortly after he joined the band and the chemistry seemed to be pretty strong, so while it was hard, it seems like you found the right guy to fill those big shoes.
We definitely did. We already had some confidence in Chet because before he was our guitar player he was Chris’ guitar tech, so he’s been around a little while and we all knew him. I knew he could fill the shoes because a couple of months prior to that we went to do an acoustic thing and Matt had something going on so just Chris and I were going to go, but Chet was going to come as our tech, and we were like, well, if you’re already coming, bring your guitar and play with us. He did so well with that show, singing backup, we didn’t ever go and look for another guitar player, we just said, ‘Get your guitar Chet, it’s time to play.’
That almost sounds like a movie, but it’s definitely got to be every guitar tech’s dream come true.
The first show he played with us, right before the ZZ Top tour, we played three shows down in Brazil. Those crowds down in Brazil are amazing, so his first show was in front of an enthusiastic Brazilian crowd. Boy, I looked over there at him and I was so proud because he’s been in bands and he’s been in a few touring bands that just never took off. I just looked over there and he was smiling so big, and it was just a proud moment.
Since we are talking about your ‘Greatest Hits,’ looking back throughout your career, is there a particular moment that stands out as one of your most rewarding?
I think the most rewarding thing for me really, and I know I sound redundant in saying it, but the most rewarding thing for me in our career has really been ‘The Better Life’ foundation. I look back at different points in our career too, like when we first went Gold, that was huge. They always told us that the hardest thing to do was to go Gold, and after you reached that, you had your momentum and Platinum is not so hard after that.
We started touring when I was 20 years old and I still lived at home with my parents. I continued to live there until I got married a couple of years later so the first place my gold record ever hung was in my bedroom at my Mom and Dad’s house. I remember I had had a picture hanging above my bed and it was a proud day to take that picture down and hang up my gold record. I brought all my friends in and we’d all sit there and look at it.
So the big question is, where is it now?
It’s actually hanging in my studio at my house, in my little writing spot in my mancave.
You’re going from playing with rock legends like ZZ top to this new tour with rock newcomers Daughtry – it’s a good sign for the current state of rock don’t you think?
I do. I really do feel like that. This tour is really going to be, honestly, it’s going to be a tour that is greater than all of its parts. There’s a lot of chemistry, Chris [Daughtry] and I are good friends, and we’ve been friends since the start of his career. We’ve done a little writing together here and there, and so, I’m really excited about this tour. Every night he and I are going to get together and sing a song together – maybe a cover or one of our own songs, and I’m really looking forward to that. He came to Nashville last year and he and I sang The Allman Brothers song ‘Whipping Post’ and that was so much fun, and that’s kind of what sparked wanting to do that collaboration every night.
Chris and I have tried to make this tour happen for quite awhile, it just never worked out. So it’s 19 shows now but we haven’t even started the tour yet. It goes to December now and we’re already wanting to bring it back out and start it back up in January and stay out from January through March. We want to see how far this tour can go; I don’t have a doubt in my mind that people will walk out of the show saying ‘Man, that was a good show.’ It’s also a show that a parent can bring their kids to and not worry about hearing the F-bomb dropped onstage every few words. None of these bands on this tour cuss on the stage, you may here “hell” or “damn” but that’s about it. I like to look out there and see a Daddy standing with a son or a daughter, or even a family standing there. Many times parents drag their kids and its Mommy and Daddy enjoying it and the kids thinking its pretty lame or the opposite, but I think this will be a show that a family can come to where everyone will have a good time at.