3 Doors Down hail from Escatapwa, Mississippi, just outside of Biloxi, which geographically puts it far from the musical spheres that usually lead to international success. With the support of local radio (WCPR) and the sincere desire to break out to other parts of the world, the band quickly scaled what initially seemed an insurmountable wall. The Better Life is the quartets Universal/Republic debut. Produced by Paul Ebersold (Sister Hazel) and mixed by Toby Wright (Korn, Alice in Chains), the album consists of the kind of straight-ahead rock songs youd expect from a young band raised on FM radio. Guitarist Chris Henderson describes his idea of roots music as AC/DC, to which we nod affirmatively. What better roots can a hard rock band have?
Henderson and company have been on the road with Creed and Sevendust, and the single "Kryptonite" has quickly penetrated the often altered consciousness of those bands' fans. 3 Doors Downs twin-guitar attack has matured with time and practice -- according to Henderson, some 70 shows in 80 days. Guitar.com caught up with him during a rare break in the action.
Guitar.com: What is the scene like in Mississippi?
Chris Henderson: Non-existent. Very small, a handful of bands. Out there out of the 12 or 13 anybody's even heard of in the local scene, three or four them will be original and the rest will be cover bands. It's hard to get anybody to come hear you if they don't know what you're playing, so it's really rough down there. It's one of the smallest markets in America.
Guitar.com: What do most people down there do?
Henderson: Shipbuilding, a lot of chemical plants. I have a heavy construction background. Music's always been my dream. I was never going to kid myself, though. I knew it was a long shot. I always held down a good job and made music my hobby until I saw the chance to really take a grab at it and then I went for it 100 percent.
Guitar.com: How did you eventually leave that market?
Henderson: When we got signed, really. Going out of our market was almost suicide. To go to Mobile or New Orleans it would cost us more money to get there than we'd make at the bar. What we did was make a self-titled CD for $1500 and sold it at shows. People kind of caught onto it, word of mouth-wise. We started drawing a few people to our shows, just a few, not anything elaborate, four or five hundred sometimes. But we'd go on the Homegrown show there at the local radio station -- I think we went on six or seven times -- every other month and they'd play "Kryptonite" or one of the cuts off the album and one day the program director just happened to be driving down the road and he heard it, liked it, said let's add it and see what happens. It went to number one and that was a year ago. It's at number three now, so it's still in the top ten over there.
Guitar.com: It was just a matter of getting on the local radio then.
Henderson: Yeah, we were just beating the bushes. We did everything we had to do at all costs to get on the radio. Any shows they asked us to play, wash a car whatever, just play our song. We all had a good feeling that it was a strong song and we could be a signed band someday. It was a reality one day. The record company came and got us. It happened really fast. Somebody at Universal got a copy of our CD somehow.
Guitar.com: They flew you guys in to New York to play CBGB's?
Henderson: We played CBGB's for a showcase and they showed us around the city. We did a bunch of acoustic showcases for the label and at night we played CBGB's for I don't know how many labels, but label people, managers and publishing people were there and they all looked at their watches and talked on their cell phones while we were playing. It was intensely embarrassing. But we got a record deal, so we did something right.
Guitar.com: What's big in Mississippi and what were the band's influences?
Henderson: Oh, the mainstream rock stuff. Kid Rock's huge. Being from Mississippi and growing up down there I'm obviously influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan. I didn't want to pigeonhole myself so I forced myself to listen to everything and ended up getting a real broad taste of music. I listen to a lot of jazz now and some real heavy stuff, a lot of stuff a lot of people don't really listen to, like punk. If it's good music, I'll listen to it. But where I pull my music from is my roots like AC/DC. Rock music to me is the bloodline for everything. A lot of funk, like Prince, Commodores, Parliament-Funkadelic, everything man, anything I can get my hands on.
Guitar.com: What other guitar players do you dig?
Henderson: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani -- I tried to learn every lick he ever wrote. Marty Stuart from bluegrass. I wanted to get into that chicken pickin.
Guitar.com: How many tunes from that first, self-pressed CD made it on to the major label debut?
Henderson: Six, I think. We kept writing but we kept a few in our pocket for the next record.
Guitar.com: What did you learn from touring with Creed and Sevendust?
Henderson: Man, those guys are so professional. We thought we were doing pretty good on our own until we saw those guys. We figured out how far we were. They made everything look so damn easy and they were having such a good time. You find out talking to them later, they were having a good time. That's where we were making our mistake. We were trying too hard to put on a good show. They got to us early and we made a lot of adjustments. We move a lot more. If you're having fun, everyone else is having fun too.