Brad Arnold Interview: Frontman Talks 3 Doors Down Summer Tour, Says New Album Should Drop Soon
Image attributed to Brad Arnold
3 Doors Down originally consisted of Brad Arnold (vocals/drums), Todd Harrell (bass) and Matt Roberts (guitar). They were joined later by guitarist Chris Henderson and drummer Richard Liles. In 2012, Roberts departed due to health issues, Harrell is currently suspended indefinitely from the band after being charged with vehicular homicide and arrested for a DUI. They were replaced by Chet Roberts and Justin Biltonen respectively. Greg Upchurch (Puddle of Mud) now plays drums in the group.
The rock band’s current summer tour ends in Kettering, Ohio, on August 22, 2015 (all dates can be found on 3doorsdown.com). The tour features a joint run with Seether for more than a dozen dates as well as the selections of Theory of a Deadman or Collective Soul as support in markets where Seether is not appearing.
"I’m really excited about the new music. We spent a year and a half writing this record, just wrote when we had time. Sometimes the songs come right out, and sometimes it takes a minute. This one took a minute, but I think it’s going to be well worth the time we put into it."
3 Doors Down rose to international fame with their first single, “Kryptonite,” and are also known for the songs “When I’m Gone,” “Here Without You,” “Loser,” “Duck and Run,” “Let Me Go,” “Shine,” and “Landing in London.” Thirty-six year old Arnold, an Escatawpa, Mississippi native, and his wife, Jennifer, live on a ranch in Nashville, Tennessee.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Brad, thanks for taking the time today.
Brad Arnold: Thank you. I’m probably doing something that people usually aren’t doing when you are interviewing them. I’m driving a tractor, bush-hogging a field so my horses won’t get out in this high grass (laughs). We just moved to a fifty-acre farm, and I have to get out here and do it when I can.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): (laughs) You’re right. I think you’re the first person driving a tractor while talking to me for an interview, and usually the other folks make comments about my accent.
Brad Arnold: Sounds pretty normal to me. They’re the ones with the accent (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): (laughs) Are you guys in the studio right now?
Brad Arnold: Yes we are, and I actually have to go sing some vocals today. That’s why I’m out here doing this in the morning, so I can have it done by the time we record later. It’s going great, too. I’m really excited about the new music. We spent a year and a half writing this record, just wrote when we had time. Sometimes the songs come right out, and sometimes it takes a minute. This one took a minute, but I think it’s going to be well worth the time we put into it.
Sometimes when it takes a little longer like that, you can get discouraged, but we just kept writing. Now in the studio we’ve got drums, guitars and bass, and I’ve sang vocals the last couple of days. You start hearing them come together and say, “Oh heck yeah.” Matt Wallace is producing it. He’s a great guy. His approach is a little bit more like coaching than producing and just leads you through it. I’m really excited about it. It’s different this time, but not different as in a “What are they thinking?” kind of way.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have any guest performers on the record?
Brad Arnold: It’s just us so far. I can’t say that when we get into it, we won’t have somebody come in and sing with us. But there’s only one song that would lend itself for that, and we’ll see how it goes. We’ve got a couple of new guys in the band now, and they’ve brought some new flavors. I think that’s what made the sound evolve and change a little bit.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That was going to be my next question. Since the band has gone through some personnel changes, has the original sound changed a great deal?
Brad Arnold: It still flows really well with these guys. It’s good to have some new blood and some new sounds. In a way, it has changed. I was listening to some of the songs the other day, and in a way it kicks back to maybe a little more modern day version of our first record. A lot of these new songs would fit right there with the first record, and I think that’s what people really like. They liked the songs off the first album. Some of them are not so deep that you can’t definitely get something out of them, but in some you might think, “Ah, lay off the philosophy a little bit.” (laughs)
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you still in contact with Matt (Roberts) and Todd (Harrell)?
Brad Arnold: I talked to Todd a couple of months ago, but I haven’t talked to Matt in a while. I heard Matt’s doing well. My parents live in the same town as his parents in south Mississippi, and his daddy told mine that Matt was doing good. I think he’s going to college, but I’m not really sure for what. I wish him all the best.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Todd has had his problems with addictions and the vehicular homicide charge.
Brad Arnold: The last I heard from Todd is that he sounded really good, and the last time one of my buddies saw him he looked really well. Todd has had his problems, but he’s my brother. We grew up in the same little town. Todd’s a few years older than me, and I’ve known him since I was a little boy. Todd will always be my brother through ups and downs or whatever. I’ll never turn my back on him, and I’m always going to love him. We had to go on and move on, and that’s something you’ve got to do, but at the same time, I still love him.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What were you guys doing for work before the music success hit you?
Brad Arnold: Exactly what I’m doing right now, driving a tractor (laughs). I guess I just came full circle on that one, didn’t I? My dad worked at the Chevron Refinery down in Pascagoula, and I worked at the tank fields and drove a bushhog ten hours a day. The job I had right after that was working at a furniture store mainly driving a forklift. I always enjoyed that kind of stuff.
This farm is a lot to keep up, a lot of work. I get up at 5:30 or 6:00 every morning, go outside and start working. Some days I’ll work out here until the sun goes down, and then I’ll do stuff inside. I did have five acres where I didn’t have a whole lot to do outside. But I’m an outside person. I do not like to be in the studio. I just cannot do it. Life doesn’t happen in the studio. It happens outside, and I wrote probably half our first record driving that tractor down there in the tank fields.
Getting out here and doing all this on the farm has taken me out of a funk that I was in for a little while. I just felt like I didn’t have a whole lot to say, you know. I just felt a little trapped there in that little house. I had neighbors all around me. Since I moved down here, it has opened me right back up to where I feel like I was that same kid driving that tractor in the tank fields.
Right before I started talking to you, I was listening to one of the new songs that needs some work on lyrics. I listened to it through, and now I can work it out to make the words flow better. That’s where I write. This is my studio, and so I’m really thankful to be sitting where I’m sitting.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What were you thinking back in high school algebra class when you scribbled the words “kryptonite” and “superman”?
Brad Arnold: I don’t know. That song was kind of about my friends. It was asking the question, “If I fall down, will you be there for me, or if I’m doing good, will you be there for me?” I didn’t realize what a question that was or how that question would pop up again and again in my life and in my wife’s life. She barrel races horses and has been competing on a bigger circuit up here with a lot more competition.
You know, when you get out there and kind of hit and miss with things, it’s easy for people to be your friend. They’re like, “Oh you’ll get it. You’ll get it.” Then when you start succeeding, they stop talking to you. It’s the same way with a band or anything in life. It’s easy for people to be there for you when you’re down, but what about when you’re doing good? I guess that’s mainly what that song is about. It probably means more to me now than it did when I wrote it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Very interesting, Brad. Was it just fate that brought you and Bob Seger together for “Landing in London” off the Seventeen Days album?
Brad Arnold: Absolutely. There’s a funny story to that. We were up here in Nashville recording at Ocean Way Studios. We were in one studio, and Bob was in another, and the two studios shared a lounge. You know, I remember the picture of Bob Seger standing on the train tracks of that album cover. That had been years and years ago, and that record may have come out when I was a little boy or maybe before I was even a little boy (laughs). But I always loved his music and didn’t really know what he looked like now, and I never know anybody’s name.
I stood out there in the lounge and talked with Bob, shot pool and drank coffee for days with him. Miss Sharon, the studio manager at the time, said, “I see you and Bob are getting along pretty well out there.” I said, “Is that his name?” She said, “Brad. That’s Bob Seger.” I was like, “What!” (laughs) I hung out with him for five days but didn’t know who he was. He just looked different. After that I just tried to play like I didn’t know, so I wouldn’t feel like a complete idiot (laughs).
I asked Bob the next day if he’d come and listen to some of my songs. He said he liked them, and it moved on from there. He didn’t seem inspired by “Landing in London” or anything, but I thought that song was kind of reminiscent of his “Turn The Page.” I asked him if he’d join me in singing “Landing in London,” and he told me to let him have the demo overnight, and he would let me know the next morning. I don’t think I slept that night at all because I was so nervous. Of course, the next day he told me that he’d like to sing with me, and the song turned out great.
A couple of months later we were playing a show in Detroit. I think the last time Bob had been on stage was seven or eight years prior to that, and I wasn’t sure if he would show up to sing. We had the stage real dark, and I started singing the first half of the song. Bob joined me in the second half, and they had one spotlight on him. Detroit is Bob’s hometown, and the place just erupted when he started singing. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. It was so cool.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You guys were pretty young when big things started happening, and the music business can be ruthless. Have you had any bad experiences in the music industry?
Brad Arnold: We’ve been blessed. We’ve been with Universal our entire career, and they’ve never pushed us to do anything we didn’t want to do, and they’ve never tied our hands when we wanted to do something. They’ve given us free rein, but we’ve never gone crazy with it. They’re really open to us trying different things and on this record especially. They really encouraged us to do some different stuff, and they’re happy how the demos turned out. But I think we all have our ups and downs.
By the grace of God, we were successful right off the bat. You know, you catch a little flack from some bands that have paid their dues a little longer. We were a local band for five years, but we never really tried to get a record deal, so it was from the grace of God and from a demo down in Biloxi at a local radio station that got played a lot. We take a little flack from those bands that … I say that wrong. We didn’t really catch the flack from the bands that have worked a long time. We caught flack from the bands that were just kind of flash-in-the-pan, but thought they were everything. In the last sixteen years, I can’t tell you how many of those bands we’ve seen come and go, and I guarantee you that 90% of it is their attitude.
We’ve always just tried to have fun with it. If you have something to say, say it, but at the same time, I don’t try to be a politician or a preacher or get up on my soapbox and talk about the world. When people do that, I just want to grab them by the shoulders, shake them and say, “Look, you are not a philosopher. You play in a band. Just shut up and play songs!”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You believe that musicians should just stay out of politics?
Brad Arnold: I believe they should. I thoroughly think they should unless they have some knowledge of the subject and something valid to say about it. But just because people cheer for you on the stage and like your songs doesn’t really make you any smarter (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you always been interested in music as far back as you can remember?
Brad Arnold: I have because I was the youngest of seven kids and grew up in an Assembly of God church. There was always singing going on in church and always singing going on in my house. My dad would have Marty Robbins playing in the house. My sister Allison was always going around the house singing. I have two brothers, and the youngest of the two who is a little older than me, played drums in school. I have a picture when I was a year old beating on his snare drum.
I started out as a drummer and became a singer because nobody else would. I’d constantly steal my mom’s pots and pans, have them set up on the stairs and beat on them until she got ready to cook, and then I’d lose them one by one as she needed them. Mom and Dad, God bless them, were so patient and tolerant of me learning how to play, even setting the drums up in my room. My mom was a teacher, and she worked a lot of extra hours to buy me my first set of drums.
Oh man, the patience they must’ve had because there are not many sounds on this planet that are more aggravating than a kid trying to learn how to play the drums (laughs). They’d always just let me go at it. I started playing in bars when I was sixteen. They weren’t in love with that, but they knew where I was and knew I was making money. They’ve always been supportive of me. Music has always been a part of my life and always will be.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You will still be performing at 60?
Brad Arnold: I believe I will be in some form or fashion. I may be on stage with my cane (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): If you weren’t doing music, you’d be on the tractor 24/7?
Brad Arnold: Absolutely. I mainly bought this ranch for my wife because it has an indoor arena for her to practice and train the horses no matter what the weather. But there’s so much land out here. I do want to start farming a little bit. I want to raise cows. I can’t do much while I’m on tour because she’d probably strangle me when I got home.
I planted a garden the other day, probably at least a quarter of an acre. My friends are like, “Who are y’all going to feed with that garden? That’s a lot.” I’ve never planted a garden, and I’ll be home for the next few days to get things really going. Of course, my wife says, “Who’s going to take care of that when you’re running off singing?”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is Jennifer pretty understanding and patient while you’re on the road?
Brad Arnold: She is very understanding. I know she gets lonely, and I hate leaving her. That’s the only thing I don’t like about touring. I hate leaving my wife, but the fans are out there. They make it worth it, so I enjoy playing for them. I love to play in a different place every day. I’m just really thankful for her understanding because I know it’s so much harder on her since she stays at home by herself with her pit bull for protection and companionship. I know it’s rough on her, and I really appreciate her support.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, I hope the tour is successful, Brad. Is there a tentative date for the new album release?
Brad Arnold: Not yet, but it won’t be long because we’re knocking it out pretty quickly. We’re not rushing through it, but we really nailed our parts down before we got in the studio, and I think that’s important to save time. But it’s going really efficiently, and everybody’s doing his job. Everybody knows their parts enough so we can get in there and elaborate and really give those songs some flavor. I would say this record should be out sometime in late summer or early fall.
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