Three days before the release of the new album, RockUrLife had the opportunity to meet lead singer Brad Arnold during a quick promo day in Paris for “Us And The Night”. We talked about the past, present and future of the US alternative rock five piece, with humility!
Hi Brad, how are you?
Brad Arnold (vocals): Great! How are you?
Yeah fine, thank you!
Happy to be back in Paris?
B: Absolutely. it’s always a pleasure to come over here.
Last time you were here was for your show at the Bataclan venue, before the Paris attacks last November. What do you remember from that show?
B: I remember being at a great show. The crowd is always great here, and I just really remember having a fun time.
You’re back with the new album “Us And The Night”. How do you feel a few days before the release?
B: Very very nervous! (laughs) It’s always, this is the time. You put so much time writing the record and especially doing something different this time, little bit different sound, and having some new guys in the band. We know we like the songs, but you never know if the fans are gonna like the songs. So it comes out like in three days, so we just sit here kind of nervous and excited!
What happened during this long gap between the release of your previous one “Time Of My Life” and this new one?
B: We toured for the last record a year and a half, and then we put out the greatest hits record, and we toured for a little while and then we’ve done a whole year of an acoustic tour. Then we started writing this one and we spent a year and a half writing and recording this one. To us it didn’t seem like a bigger gap, but when we turned around: “Wow, it’s been five years!”. (laughs)
It’s the longest between two studio albums in your entire career.
B: Yeah, it’s been a long time.
What’s the story behind the title “Us And The Night”?
B: It’s taken from the title of the song on the record. That song is really talking about, it’s really just talking about kind of being in a team.
It’s like an invitation to take on a ride.
B: Yeah, absolutely. And just enjoying life and taking life as a ride, and sticking together. It’s sort of kind of “us against them” song, but at the same time, it’s just about being whether it’s as a band or as a couple, it’s the same: let’s enjoy the ride and just keep going until there’s nothing left.
How was the recording and writing process for this one?
B: It was similar to how we’ve done in the past, but at the same time, it was different because we have two new guys in the band. And they brought all different sounds to the table. I mean, we invited everybody to write on this record, whereas in the past sometimes it was just a couple of guys writing on the record. And we just kind of brought other eyes creatively this time and really try to do some different things and just really approach it open minded. And just having a lot of fun on this one, I think we had more fun recording and writing this record than we ever have.
As you said, it’s the first recording with Chet Roberts and Justin Biltonen. What ideas did they bring to the table?
B: Definitely brought some different guitar riffs, that we haven’t necessary play before. Everybody as musician kind of speak their own language in a way. So they brought almost different languages than we used to speak.
Are they responsible for one of the most surprising and ambitious tracks, “I Don’t Wanna Know”, which kind of has a flamenco vibe?
B: Yeah! I had the lyrics and the chorus of that song for a little while. I actually kind of wrote those chorus and lyrics a couple of years ago. It just kind of singing around in my head and they had that kind of almost a latin vibe to them in a little way. When I started singing one day, it ended up with that kind of latin vibe to it and we enjoyed it, so we just kind of write with that vibe. It’s really fun, I mean, we played it live for a while on tour before we recorded it. And we had a lot of compliments for that song, because it’s different when you play a live song because you know nobody is gonna to know it, so the first time they kind of sitting there, ended up with dancing and stuff so we just like: “Yeah we need to do that!”.
And at the same time there is a guitar solo in the middle of that song. How did you came with that?
B: I like guitar solos.
It feels like a flamenco song but at the same time a hard rock song with a heavy riff in the middle.
B: Yeah! (laughs) I think the guitar is a really important part of kind of latin music, they always kind of have this flamenco guitar sound in there, and it just fits so well with the song.
“Believe It” but also “Inside Of Me” are definitely written for live performances. Was it a goal for you during the writing process?
B: We really didn’t think about it too much. I mean, because we didn’t have a certain direction that we wanted to go on this record other than we just didn’t wanna do the same thing that we have done before. And both those songs were really about believing in yourself, those songs kind of translate live. “Believe It” is kind of more of a story telling song and “Inside Of Me” is a more introspective song. They really have a lot in common: just like setting out for a goal and believing in yourself.
And there are other themes, especially love, which is a theme that you write about a lot.
B: Yeah. I think that it’s something that everybody can identify with, the good sides of love and potentially the bad sides. And they both kind of discuss on that record a little bit. (laughs)
This time, you choose to work with Matt Wallace (Faith No More, Train). How was it?
B: He was great! We talked to three producers for this record, and we chose Matt. He had a really cool way of approaching a record. He kind of approached it so like a coach. He wouldn’t come in and change something that need changing just for the sake of changing it, but he was really good at when there’s something left that he thought maybe could added to the song, he was really good in getting that out for you. And he wasn’t a pushy producer, he was just like: “Come along with me”. He was a very team oriented producer. He done a great job, he’s a pleasure to work with.
“Us And The Night” is like a mix of spontaneity from the first record “The Better Life” (2000) with the heavy stuff since the album “3 Doors Down” (2008) and a diversity in term of sound. Do you agree with that definition?
B: I do.
In that sense, it feels like you’re going back to the roots but with a new and fresh vibe.
B: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. We wanted to go back to our roots and at the same time, we got the experience of having done it several times and being a little more polished, and with having the new guys having some fresh ideas in there as well.
You said in an interview that the band is at the best place ever.
B: Absolutely. We’re in the best place we’ve ever been in. We just having fun with it again. I think it’s easy to get in a routine after doing it for a long time. And we don’t feel we’re on the road anymore. It feels like we have a new life. And after doing the greatest hits record, that was kind of like a closing of the first chapter of our career. And now we start a new chapter, with new members and a new sound. It’s just kind of a new belief in a way. Just bought right there and having fun again.
So you consider that in a certain way your greatest hits was a closure for the previous band 3 Doors Down, and now 3 Doors Down is a brand new band.
B: Yeah, absolutely. I think it was important for us to close that book, or at least close that chapter, and just start a new one.
Your new music video for “In The Dark” features RJ Mitte from the TV show “Breaking Bad”, how did you come to work with him?
B: Actually it was the director’s idea. They bring you several kind of treatment storyline for the video and he said for this one we can get him to play in it and we were like: “Totally!”. And he’ve done a great job in the video, which is also interesting as well. I like story videos, more so than band performing videos because they just kind of old. It’s like a cut to the band, cut back to the story, cut back to the band. And when you just have the story video, it gives the director more time to tell the story. And he did a great job on that one.
There’s also a reference to your hit “Here Without You” on the first scene, when the girl plugs off the guy’s headspeakers and “In The Dark” plays off the speakers. Is it somehow a way to say “fuck it, we’re not only that one hit wonder band”?
B: Exactly. It’s a really cool reference to the song. It kind of reminds people that it’s there. That’s what it means to be!. In some way, it can be a kind of a reflexion: “Oh yeah, that’s them too!” but it’s like: “that was then, and this is now!”.
Because so many people discovered 3 Doors Down with that song.
B: Yeah, that song was a blessing to us, I still enjoy playing that song and I like see how big it became. But at the same time it’s like you have to put down in a way and start with something else.
Looking back, did you know that it would become such a successful classic love song?
B: I didn’t. I always like that song. But I didn’t really know what it would become. “Here Without You” will always be one of my favorite songs that we’ve done. And it was just amazing to see that song came out like 12 years ago, and it seems as just the last few years that song take on a new life again. And the new generation starts to listen to it as well.
What can you tell us about that song that people don’t know yet?
B: A lot of people kind of thought that song as a sad song. But I always thought as a happy song because of the line: “You’re still with me in my dreams and tonight there’s only you and me”. And that line of that song always gave me cumfort because I can dream about my wife listen to it, and just imagine her there with me.
Yeah so many people think it’s about depression, missing someone etc.
B: Yeah and it is kind of a sad song, but it also got its happy points in it.
About ballads, there’s only two on that new record, “Pieces Of Me” and “Fell From The Moon”. Did you have to write ballads just on purpose because you feel you have to or because you enjoy writing ballads?
B: I enjoy writing ballads, I do. Some records tend to have a couple more a little bit slower songs on it, but we really at the same time this record to rock! And that’s one thing that we set out to do is write a little bit heavier record. And we knew there will be some ballads on there but we didn’t want like four.
What can you tell us about these two songs?
B: “Pieces Of Me” is probably the most personal song to me on the record, because it’s talking about struggles that we go through and try to get rid of the weak part of yourself and focus on the strong part of yourself. And I thing that a lot of people can relate to that. Because everybody got the point in their life that they wish they can rid of. And you just got to be strong enough to throw those parts away and focus on the good parts.
“Fell From The Moon” has a lot of meaning to me also. That song is just really talking about even be on the top of the world how easily we can fall.
At first, when we read the tracklist of the album, there’s some kind of a dark progression. It begins with “The Broken”, then “In The Dark”, to finish with “Fell To The Moon”.
B: I don’t know, it’s not purposely mean to be dark, I think some of the song titles just kind of sound that way! (laughs)
Yeah because we listen to this record, there are in fact happy songs.
B: Yeah! I think just the titles are little bit deceiving. (laughs)
What’s next for 3 Doors Down?
B: Lots of touring, lots of touring in America, hopefully in Europe also.
Any chance to see you live maybe in France?
B: Absolutely! We’re trying to plan a trip to come over here probably in October or November.
US alternative rock bands are so rare to play here in France. Daughtry, Theory Of A Dead Man, they never came here.
B: Really? I don’t know!
A few months ago, we talked to Bryce from Lifehouse, and they never came here for fifteen years. It was their first two sold out shows in Paris ever.
B: Really? Dang! Lifehouse never come over here?
Never. He told us that they wanted to explore other regions in order to establish a fanbase so that they can came more. Is it the same for 3 Doors Down, especially with France?
B: Yeah we always love coming over here. We’re not as big here as we are in The States but we’ve been coming over. The first time we came was in 2002 or something like that and we probably played in Paris maybe five times. But we’re gonna keep coming back until we finally get there!
What do you think about the alternative rock scene nowadays?
B: I think rock is coming back around. For a little while rock n’roll was kind of struggling. And it seems that other genres of music kind of start to take over. But you know what they say “rock n’roll never dies” and rock n’roll will never die. It kind of goes under the radar for a little while but now it’s coming back and that works out very good for us!
What bands are you listening to currently?
B: Actually, I’ve just downloaded a new Disturbed song minutes ago, “The Sound Of Silence”. And I really like Nothing More. There’s few bands out right now, Panic! At The Disco is cool, all a lot of stuff. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music.
What other kinds of music for example?
B: I think my favorite other kind of music right now, I just got the Jason Isbell record maybe two weeks ago, “Southeastern”, and that’s a great record. I listen to a lot of country music, maybe not that much than I used to, because country is a little bit on a weird spot right now, but a little bit of everything.
When you’re not on the road with the band, what are you doing?
B: I’m running a farm in Tennessee, so when I’m not doing music I pretty much take care of the farm, I take care of my wife, I take care of the horses, and travel with my rock wife when she’s racing horses and I really enjoy that a lot. So that takes much of my time.
To finish with our traditional question: as our website is called “RockUrLife”, what rocks your life, Brad?
B: Fans, I love the fans. That what makes our work worth. Just to meet people from around the world, and hear that their like your music and can identify with it. All the travels, all the late nights, early mornings and stuff, it’s all about the fans.
Ok thank you!
B: Too, thank you man, I appreciate your time!