3 Doors Down: Guitar.com Talks With Chris Henderson
Second albums can be a B*$@H. But Away From the Sun, the sophomore release from 3 Doors Down, shows solid growth from the down-South quintet. That, and a couple of solid hits too, which of course never hurts.
After the surprise hit of their first single "Kryptonite," from their 2000 debut, The Better Life, life changed drastically for the guys from Escatawpa, Mississippi. But then selling six or seven million albums will do that to anyone.
Few have had the good fortune of 3 Doors Down. The true story of how a group of friends from a small town in Mississippi became one of the most successful rock bands of the past few years is truly amazing, and inspiring. We've got it here for you, direct from guitarist Chris Henderson.
Guitar.com: Hey Chris, how's life? Where are you today?
Henderson: Vancouver, BC.
Guitar.com: That's a wonderful city. Have you been there a few times before?
Henderson: Oh yeah, we mixed our record here. And we've played here several times, so I'm very familiar with it.
Guitar.com: Who did you work with up there, mixing?
Henderson: Stauby! Randy Staub.
Guitar.com: Yeah, Vancouver is really an amazing place. Are you just up there for a show tonight?
Henderson: Yeah, we're playing at the Commodore tonight, and then off to Portland, Oregon. Back to the States, baby!
Guitar.com: How's it goin? You're out there with a relatively new record. How's the response been so far?
Henderson: It's been amazing. You know, you're always a little skeptical when you put out a new product to see if the kids are gonna dig it or not. But they're coming to the shows and they're getting into it.
Guitar.com: How has the touring life affected your guitar playing?
Henderson: Touring - the only thing it can do is help you play, it can't really hurt you because you play every night, six days a week. When I came off the road last year I was an amazing guitar player, for whatever reason. I'm not saying I was amazing like doing different things; I was amazing at what I do. And it's just from playing every single night. Those songs - I don't even think about them anymore. But it made writing this new record so much easier because I was a better player than I ever had been in my life. It was like getting a new set of tools to work with, if you want to explain it like that.
Guitar.com: You've been on the road for a few months now, and you played New Year's Eve with Creed?
Henderson: Yeah. That was a Paul Reed Smith show.
Guitar.com: How did you happen to just do one show, New Year's Eve in Philly?
Henderson: Creed asked us to do that. They wanted it to be a big extravagant show, and I think right now, with bigger bands that are out - I'm not trying to toot own horn - but right now, most of the bands that are out are either too big for Creed, or not big enough to draw any tickets. I think they were looking for that happy medium, and I think that we were just perfect. Nickelback would have been a good match too, but they're off the road right now. We're just perfect - we were on the road, we were in the area. So they asked us to do it and we said, 'Heck yeah!'
They get a bad rap man, those guys do. They're really some nice guys. And they're really great musicians. I love their music, I love to hang around with them. I love the whole tour mentality of hanging out with Creed because they know how to do it, y'know what I'm sayin'.
Guitar.com: Are there some other bands you'd like to work with?
Henderson: We're dyin' to take Saliva out, but I don't think it's gonna go down. They're nice guys and we love to hang with them, that's why we're trying to take them out. But it would be like a dual headliner thing. And when you get all those egos in one room it tends to mess friendships up. So we'd rather just keep the friendship. We brought Theory of a Deadman out. We're doing a show with them tonight as a matter of fact.
Guitar.com: What about the 5th Fleet thing?
Henderson: The Navy thing? We did a Navy installation tour, as they call it. We went out to the USS George Washington and played a couple of shows. That was off the coast of Lisbon, Portugal. Then we went to Rota, Spain, and played a show in Rota.
I met kids in Rota - American kids now - who had never seen the United States. These were 15 and 16 year old kids, who, let's say, mom and dad are in the Navy, born in Germany, first four or six years in Germany, and then next four years in Italy, and the next four years in France, and the next two years in Spain. And they knew the music. They knew the artists. They have MTV - they pipe it over there. It's like a two-hour delay or something like that. But they just don't ever get a chance to see the bands, so it was a wonderful experience to meet those kids and play for them. And it was like really small, private shows - on those bases. It was like less than 200 people sometimes.
Guitar.com: Wow, that's cool.
Henderson: I mean come on! That's very cool for a kid to be hanging out in Spain and go to the pool hall there on the base and see 3 Doors Down play. That was amazing.
Guitar.com: That's cool. Are these kids fully American and everything?
Henderson: Yeah, they're American kids. Obviously they speak two or three languages. They're American kids, they're just born abroad and have never set foot in the United States. There's no reason for them to, up to this point. I think that's kind of denyin', 'cause America is a beautiful country, man.
Guitar.com: What was the show on the ship like?
Henderson: It was amazing man. That ship had been to sea for like 90 days straight. It holds 6,000 people, and this was like they're first or second day of liberty. But there were 4,500 people standing in front of us. Do the math: That's 75 percent of that ship didn't get off because they wanted to stay and watch us play. That made us feel so good as a band. It was our first show in a whole year, and we were really scared: Our first show with a new drummer. My butt-hole was tight man! (laughs) I could have stuffed a piece of coal up there and s--t it out. But it was amazing. What a feeling. And after the first two or three notes I was fine. I had a little anxiety going up on stage, like I was getting light-headed, like I was going to pass out because I was scared...
Guitar.com: How did you come up with the idea for shooting the video like that?
Henderson: With the military? That just kind of happened naturally. We just sent a cameraman out with us 'cause we thought we could get all kinds of cool footage. And so we just had our cameraman go with us and he just recorded everything. We brought all that stuff home. We did a proper video in Mississippi, with our whole families. My wife was in it, my kids were all in it. It's a great video, but it's never going to get played now because when we sent all that stuff back [from the Navy shoot] we were like, 'Wow, that's a lot better than what we paid millions of dollars for! Let's just use that.' And the guy who directed it, Jeff Panzer, he did a wonderful job inter-cutting scenes and putting them in the right spots, so it was cool.
Guitar.com: How is your new drummer, Daniel Adair, working out?
Henderson: He is definitely the man. Our last drummer - bless his heart, he was a great guy, nice guy - but he does not hold a candle to Daniel Adair. Daniel is such a powerful drummer, he adds a whole new dynamic to the band that you just wouldn't believe live. I can't step back and look, all I get is feedback from other people. But to hear people talk about how our show is, compared to what it was, it's amazing. I'm excited about it. It's exciting for a band to grow like that, 'cause we thought we'd hit a plateau, that our shows were never going to get any better.
And then when Rich decided he wanted to leave, it was a blessing in disguise. We were a little apprehensive about what we were going to do, but things happen for a reason.
Guitar.com: How did you get involved with 3 Doors Down to begin with?
Henderson: I've always known these guys. I grew up with them. I've known them since I was - I don't remember meeting them, I just remember knowing them. It's that kind of thing. So I mean, 25 years, knowing these guys - even though Matt and Brad are only 23 years old, I've known them since they're were s--ttin'. I don't know. I went to school with Brad's sister and have always known all his brothers and stuff.
Guitar.com: That's cool.
Henderson: Yeah. When the band was formed, I was the original guitar player in the band - me and Matt both. At the time, Brad was singing and playing drums. He was only like 14 or 15. And he just wasn't that good of a drummer. And hell, I had a house and a car I had to pay for. I wanted to go and make some money. So I was in another band at the same time, a working band that worked and paid. So I opted for that. And then God saw willing for me to come back. Todd called me one day and said they wanted me to come back. So I said, 'All right, here I come.' And then it was a year or so later when the band had seasoned itself... So I was very lucky. I'm very lucky to be talking to you right now. I could very well be pumping gas back in Mississippi, playing in the same band.
Guitar.com: How involved are you in the songwriting?
Henderson: I write well about half the music. Me and Matt split it basically. He'll write a whole song, and I'll write a whole song. And that's just kind of how it happens.
Guitar.com: Then you bring them to the band and start rehearsing them and changing them.
Henderson: Yeah. That's how our songs get written.
Guitar.com: How do you handle the changes people suggest to your songs?
Henderson: Oh, that's fine. That's how bands write. If you can't handle constructive criticism, then you really have no business in the room. Egos are hard to deal with sometimes, but we do it. If Matt has an idea, I respect it. If I have an idea, he respects it. Nothing gets thrown away that's good. If it's bad, it's bad - we all know it's bad. So it gets tossed, and that's just the way it is. Nothing good ever hits the floor.
Guitar.com: When the first single started taking off, when "Kryptonite" started taking off, did that change your life a lot? Well, obviously it did - you're on the road, you've got albums coming out. But how did it affect you personally?
Henderson: Yeah, well my life changed 100 percent. I went from making $28,000 a year to who knows what I made the first year. And from punching a time clock to sleeping all day. (laughs). And staying up and drinking free beer every night all night long - and that was my job. It was kind of surreal. I kind of lived that life for a couple years and just kind of did as much partying as was possible for any human being to endure.
Guitar.com: (laughing) That's what we would all do out there, bud.
Guitar.com: That's cool.
Henderson: I mean, you gotta do it man. Come on! When the band got signed, I was 28. It was like being 16 again. And I wasn't gonna miss out on that, so I went out balls to the wall, man - both feet flying. Just drinking anything I could get my hands on, and just partying, and just doing the whole rock star thing. But I kept it in perspective. I never treated any of the people like dirt, like most guys do. But I did have a good time. (laughs)
Guitar.com: That's good to hear. You know, with Guitar.com, we try to be educational or inspirational. What kind of advice do you have for young guitar players out there?
Henderson: You know what, I think there should be more guys out, playing. You get a lot of these guitar players that just want to sit and practice for 27 hours a day, and that's great - you become a great player. But I think playing should be done in front of people. It's an art that you should share.
My advice to any guitar player - any musician period - is to get out there. Let people see you. Let people see how good you are - or how bad you are, it doesn't matter. It's all part of it. Just getting' out there and getting stage time is the most important thing. I think even after two years on the road, for myself, I'm still learning. But I'm learning at a faster pace because I'm playing with other people, and I'm doing it in front of people. That's why you started. That's why you picked up the guitar in the first place, was to perform.
Guitar.com: I think that one of the ways many local bands and artists - I've moved around the country a lot and have been a player for many, many years, and been a music journalist for many years - and I think one of the ways that many local artists fail themselves, is that they don't get out and play enough, and they don't work hard enough at promoting themselves.
Henderson: No, and it's very, very important, to promote yourself. You're right. They don't.
Guitar.com: How did you guys handle that, and how did you get a song on a local radio station?
Henderson: Well, what we did, is, we went to our local radio station every day. And just, 'Hey man, look, we've got a record, please listen to it.' And of course they didn't. They were like, 'Yeah, sure kid, we'll listen to it,' and then throw it in the trash.
We just kept bringing them. And we had faith in our product. We thought we wrote decent songs. Based on what we heard on the radio we thought, 'If that s--t's getting' played on the radio, damn! Why can't "Kryptonite?"' We loved that song. We thought it had potential, and we just had to get it to the right person. And so we just went to that radio station every day and got to know the DJs, and we went to all the remotes, and played free shows.
They have this big show called CPR-Fest (WCPR, Biloxi, MS http://www.wcprfm.com/) where they had a local stage. And we volunteered - they let the kids camp out - and we volunteered to play the party, the campfire. We just did any f-in' thing they would let us do. It didn't matter. We were like, 'Come on, we'll wash your car, we'll go to the cell phone remote, whatever you need.' We did that for seven years.
And finally, after doing that for seven years, they finally just one day said, 'All right, let's hear the record.' And we played it for them and they were like, 'Damn, it's pretty good.' So then they asked us to go on the local music hour they had Sunday night from 8 to 9. They said, 'Come out, we'll play a couple of your songs.' We asked them to play "Kryptonite," they interviewed the band. And the next day it was the #1 most requested song - it wasn't even added to their play list, but it was the #1 most requested song of the week, in one day, like the last day of the countdown, or whatever. It wasn't even on their playlist, but people were calling asking about the song they played the night before. So they added it. And here I sit.
Guitar.com: That's cool. That's really cool. And then from there labels started to get the idea?
Henderson: Yeah, they added it on a Friday, I think. We went to a Limp Bizkit concert and the Program Director said, 'We're gonna add your record, we think we can get you a record deal.' They added it on a Friday, and I think I was in New York the next Thursday. It happened really fast. Like I said, it was the #1 most requested song. I don't know how they do it, I think the labels get some kind of reports - the local reps do, from their local radio stations. They get the Top 10, because every local rep has a band being played on that station. And they get these print outs and they saw 3 Doors Down on there the first week, and they were like, 'Who the hell is this?' And that's kind of how it got started.
Guitar.com: So the radio station was instrumental in you getting a deal.
Henderson: The radio station was the deal.
Guitar.com: Besides them playing the song, did they make contact with the label reps for you?
Henderson: Well, yeah, actually the Program Director let us use his office to meet - well, the label made contact with us. The label called that local radio station and said, 'Who are these guys, where are they from?' And the radio station people said, 'Oh yeah, we know them well.' But none of them had any of our phone numbers because we always just came by there. They never called or anything, we always called them. They didn't know how to get in touch with us.
So what they did, they announced - I was standing at work one day listening - and they said, 'Any member of 3 Doors Down listening, please call the radio station.'
Henderson: So I did. I called the radio station and said, 'Hey this is Chris from 3 Doors, what's goin' on?' and he said, 'You need to talk to the P.D.' The Program Director's name was Kenny Vest, and he said, 'Man, I gotta say congratulations first off, but Republic Records is looking at you. They just called and want to know how to get in touch with you.' And I was like, 'Bulls--t! That's bulls--t!' And he's like, 'No, I'm not kidding.'
So I said, 'Well, here's my number.' And I gave him everybody in the band's number. But he lost it. He lost the paperwork. So let me tell you what the label did: They got the local rep to come down to Pascagoula and they got a phone book, and they called every Henderson, Roberts, Harrell, and Arnold in the book until they finally got Matt's daddy. That's how they got us man. And it was awesome. It was like, that kind of s--t doesn't happen man.