Sole Founding Member Says Fan Appreciation Keeps Band Going Strong After 25 Years
Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer
Formed in 1996 as a trio, 3 Doors Down added a fourth member two years later before rocketing to overnight success with their mega-hit 'Kryptonite' in 2000. The single topped the Mainstream Rock Charts as well as reaching number three on Billboard's Top 40 Chart. Follow up singles 'Loser' and 'Duck and Run' went to number one on Mainstream Rock. By the end of 2000 the band's debut album 'The Better Life' would be among the top 10 selling releases for the year and has since been certified 6× platinum (selling over 6 million copies).
Lead singer and former drummer Brad Arnold has been there since day one. A small town (Escatawpa) Mississippi native Arnold along with guitarist Matt Roberts and bassist Todd Harrell toured throughout Mississippi and Alabama, adding rhythm guitarist Chris Henderson in 1998 just before they began to take off. With Roberts passing in 2016 and Harrell facing ongoing legal battles, Arnold and Henderson remain the two current members from the band's early years.
However, the genesis for 3 Doors Down can be traced further back to 1992, when a 15 year old Arnold wrote the outline for 'Kryptonite' during a high school math class. He admits it had less to do with interest than it did with scheduling. "I guess I would say I hate math. Most of my test scores were in the low 70's. I did enough to get by." He adds, "I took creative writing before math, so usually my mind was wandering even before I got to math class." Eight years later his creative writing would become one of 3 Doors Down's signature songs and propel the band into the rock n' roll history.
While radio stations welcomed 'Kryptonite' almost right away it was the eerie music video that help introduce the song and 3 Doors Down to America. "That was straight from the mind of Dean Karr, who did videos for artists like Marilyn Manson."
The music video presents an old man who was a big-time 1950s TV action hero trying to come to the rescue of a woman being harassed by her boyfriend. Although the old man dressed in super hero attire appears to be past his prime, he gets revenge in the end by diving thru a skylight and knocking the bad guy out, prompting a smirky thumbs up.
Arnold said the band had mixed reactions prior to shooting the video. "We read the treatment and weren't entirely on board, but since Karr had a strong track record and we were new to the genre we signed off on it. Obviously it turned out to be so cool. Radio played our song, but the video really helped put us on the map."
Ensuing videos for 'Loser' and 'Duck and Run' continued to provide a bit of mystique for the band with Arnold's persona allowing for a measure of angst and determination in his vocals. "I think it's a part of me. It's how I like to portray myself on stage." He agrees entertainers such as Gene Simmons and Alice Cooper play characters. "Most artists generally like being someone on stage and totally different off."
Proving they weren't a one trick pony, 3 Doors Down followed the success of 'The Better Life' with a 'Away From the Sun' in late 2002, producing radio friendly singles 'When I'm Gone', 'Here Without You', and 'The Road I'm On'. The band is out on tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of the album that went platinum two months after its release and has sold four millions to date.
"Honestly it's my favorite 3 Doors Down album. Our debut release was great, but it happened so quick and was more of a blur to me. With 'Away From the Sun' I have so many memories, like where we recorded the album and where we wrote most of the songs. We recorded it at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, and we had a blast, and I sense we all new it was going to be a great follow up to our first album."
Arnold co-wrote 'When I'm Gone' and 'Here Without You' with both songs dealing with different bouts of separation. "I assume I'm a lot like most writers. I write what I feel. We actually wrote 'When I'm Gone' on the road and performed in live before audiences in Europe. I think we collectively felt it was a hit and knew we would include on the album."
Uncharacteristically there are two videos accompanying 'When I'm Gone'. The official record label backed version portrays clips from when the band performed live for our troops on the USS George Washington, with the original or first draft a haunting video shot in a swamp as the band members are buried alive.
Arnold is showcased quite often in the swamp video. "And none of it was fake. I'm in a hole with a piece of plywood around my waist and another around my chest so I could breathe. They ended up burying me three times. Even more amazing is the fact we shot the video during a tropical storm. It made for amazing footage."
He adds, "That version went to post production and then we went on our military tour to entertain the troops. We had camera crews documenting our trip and the show on the USS George Washington. Somehow all that got made into a video and the label went with it."
Even though Arnold admits the song has no ties to the military, the lyrics and the video represent a strong message many in the armed forces deal with. "Whether it's a situation like military families face or anyone who's separated for long periods of time, it's basically saying 'love me when I'm gone'. I'm a fan of both videos, but the military one is a nice salute to our troops and no doubt a bit more touching."
To complement the anniversary of 'Away From the Sun' and their current tour of the same name, a deluxe digital version of the album is set for release. "I think that's great. We're adding a bunch of B-sides that didn't make the original, and they're adding an enhanced surround sound that will hopefully make it even more enjoyable for listeners." Along with the deluxe set comes a new video for 'Pop Song'. "It's live footage from the tour, so it's turned out to be a really cool video."
Six studio albums and 25 years down the road Arnold is thrilled to be doing what he feels he was meant to do. "With all the things that could have ended the band (Roberts death & Harrell's legal troubles) I'm surprised and happy we're still out here." Calling it quits is not part of the plan. "I never see the end in sight. Although there have been a couple of times it's felt like a runaway truck that's missed the safe exit." Adding, "By the grace of God were still at it, but I'd trade it all to have Matt and Todd back."
Arnold has chased his own demons over the years. He's proud to declare he's been sober now since 2016. "Seven, going on eight years in 2024." He says alcohol became habit forming and a crutch. "I used to think it was a way to calm myself prior to a show or to chase loneliness. There's not one aspect of my life that isn't better due to my sobriety. Honestly I still get a bit nervous just before I go on stage, but I don't need alcohol to lean on."
One of the biggest things Arnold is most proud of during 3 Doors Down's quarter century in the spotlight. "Definitely the fans. To have them stick with us throughout the years is amazing." He's come to appreciate another thing most take for granted. "Getting to see the country. We've travelled overseas, but honestly getting to see as much of this country (America) is rewarding. A lot of people don't get that chance. Thankfully touring has provided me that opportunity. For that reason I feel blessed."
Giving back is perhaps Arnold's greatest achievement. After their initial success in the early 2000's 3 Doors Down started The Better Life Foundation (TBLF) with a goal in mind to provide as many children as possible a better life. Since establishing TBLF has supported numerous charities across the including the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, and the Habitat for Humanity. "I love being part of that. We fund some really good causes, and more importantly we don't waste the money."
The band host a yearly show to raise funds, often with special guests. Past performers have included Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tracy Lawrence, and Switchfoot. "A lot of really good people work really hard to help put this together."
Initially the shows were hosted in their home state (Mississippi) at places like the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino in Tunica and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Biloxi. This year's event takes place in North Carolina. "It's over in Cherokee and Candlebox will take part as well." The show is scheduled for October 21st at Harrah's Cherokee Casino. More at https://www.thebetterlifefoundation.org/
Low country fans will have an opportunity to see 3 Doors Down in concert with touring partners Candlebox on Friday September 1st at Credit One Stadium. Arnold admits Charleston is one of the few cities he hasn't spent enough time discovering over the years. "I know we've played through there several times. Often I don't recall the particular venues we've played but I do know Charleston is a gorgeous city with a rich history."
He jokingly adds 'I do enjoy history much more than I do math." His father has a stronger connection to Charleston. "My dad served in the military and spent time on the Charleston Air Force Base. I hope to come back and spend time there, when I have more time to explore all Charleston has to offer."
For more on the 3 Doors Down and Candlebox concert at Credit One Stadium on Daniel Island and additional upcoming shows visit https://creditonestadium.com/events/