An Intimate Setting with an Abundance of Talent and Gratitude
Is it even possible not to like 3 Doors Down? Seriously, I challenge anyone to play their Greatest Hits album at home or better yet in the car, and not sing along, tap your foot, shake your head, play air guitar or start banging on the steering wheel or dashboard. 3 Doors Down has steadily been on our minds, radios, mp3 players and in my case iPhone. (Love you too Spotify) 3 Doors Down’s rise has been fierce and meaningful, but at the same time I believe quite subtle. As I listen to their hits, with each song I can remember where I was and who I was with. Without fully being aware, from 2000 to now, they’ve been providing me and our entire country with a feel good soundtrack.
3 Doors Down is back on the road right now giving their fans something new, something different and something wonderful. Their “Songs from the Basement” tour invites the crowd to get to know the band and just how talented they really and truly are.
I was honored with the opportunity to see their show at The Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA on February 12, 2014. I could easily go into reviewing every part of the performance, but I am not going to. What I will say is that they were amazing, Brad Arnold was the perfect M.C. to welcome the whole crowd into their virtual basement proclaiming “This isn’t a Rock Show, this is band practice” and “we’re not rock stars, we’re rednecks”. His vocals were as usual strong and on point. His covers of Garth Brooks “The Dance” and Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” had the audience in awe. Chet Roberts cracked jokes and absolutely shredded the acoustic making it look easy; he even waved away a guitar tech that was planning on switching him out with an electric. Chris Henderson both killed on guitar as well as hit me with a souvenir guitar pick. Watching Chris play is truly a site, I know he’s paid plenty of dues, but now seems to play as naturally as he breathes. Justin Biltonen was calm, collective and grooved the bass all night remaining totally composed…until he noticed a gaggle of his groupies in the front screaming for him at which he would smile. Finally, Greg Upchurch on drums worked his ass off whether behind his kit or on the cajón, bringing audience members to their feet for a better look.
Here is in my opinion why this performance and therefore this whole tour is such a resounding success. The people in the venue having the most fun, that are the most appreciative, and most grateful are the band! What chance do the fans have when five guys are so obviously doing what they love and what they do best for us? The great time these five guys are having is instantly contagious. I’ve seen other reviews referencing the intimacy or the subtlety of this acoustic performance. True, however, I think better descriptions would be authentic and sincere. The five guys appear to feel blessed with what they have accomplished and grateful to be able to continue doing what they love and that shows in every single thing they do.
Prior to the show, I had a chance to sit down with Chris Henderson to find out more.
The Levity Ball: 3 Doors Down has sold 16 million albums, garnered 3 Grammy nominations, 2 American Music Awards, 5 BMI Pop Awards for songwriting including Songwriter of the Year for Brad and on and on. How do you process all of that?
Chris Henderson: “Oh man, I don’t know. I don’t think you really do process it. I think that you have moments where you’re just like, ‘Ah man, what, you know…wow,’ but I don’t think it ever kind of processes. I think it just is always an achievement that you just kind of look at and you don’t really understand, you know what I mean? I don’t really understand, like, the BMIs and the…and all those awards. People see them when they come in my house, and they’re like, “Oh my God, whoa!” And to me, it’s like ‘Well, you know…’ I don’t really even remember entering a contest, you know what I mean? So that’s why, to me, they’re just…they’re just things, but, it’s really kind of cool. I think the biggest, the biggest thing that impresses me the most about being in this band is just out longevity, just the fact that it’s been almost twenty years, and we’re still going, I’m still doing interviews, man! Hell, I thought I’d be working in a shipyard by now, you know? Or back on the police force somewhere, you know what I mean? Just doing stuff like that, but no, I’m still playing music. That’s surreal. That’s hard to process.
The Levity Ball: It took 4 years of work just to get “Kryptonite” simply played on the radio in 2000. Fast forward to 2012, 12 years later you find so much success and have so much recognized talent you release a Greatest Hits compilation. How do you handle that?
Chris Henderson: “You don’t. You just don’t. You know, when you get in this business, people start telling you how shit is. They, they’re like, ‘Alright, look, man. You know, you guys have a good song, great. Good for you, but, do it again.’ You know what I mean? ‘Do it again.’ Chances are you’re not gonna do it, and they always say that, you know, and, and you get built up by your own momentum, and then everyone is just there to kinda chop you down and let you know how the cow eats the cabbage, so to speak. So everyone was like, “Hey, ‘Kryptonite’ was good, you won some awards, bet you can’t do it again.” And then, we do another record and they’re like, “Oh, great, that was a good record, you know, ‘When I’m Gone’, ‘Here Without You’, I bet you can’t do it again.” And that, that’s the life of a band…and man, it eats on you and eats on you. So, to be sitting here, you know, fourteen years later, with a greatest hits record in the bag, already done, and we have enough songs to do another one? That’s, that’s pretty good. Yeah, that’s pretty neat.”
LB: Looking at other successful bands out there with the trend being bigger, more elaborate, you guys are going the opposite direction, raw, natural, acoustic creating a more intimate atmosphere for your fans. Virtually welcoming them into the basement! Whose idea was that?
CH: “It was more the fans’ idea. I think, you know, it’s genius. Well I think the idea came up, “Okay, maybe we should do an acoustic show.” And the band immediately was like, “Nah, I don’t know.” You know what I mean? “We’re an electric band, we’re all about video, and fire, and shooting stuff, you know. We’re all about that. And, one of our fans was like, “No, man, you should really do it because… this is why.” And we got that kind of point of view. So Brad and I were just sitting there talking, and we were like, “Alright, let’s try it. Let’s do one show. We’ll book one show acoustic and I’ll tell you, it was nerve wracking, because we hadn’t ever really done it, and our other guitar player Chet swore he was gonna throw up before the show.
CH: “He’s like, “Man, I’m so nervous. I just don’t know these songs like this.” I was like “Man, calm down, we’ve been rehearsing, it’s gonna be fine.” But, we did that show, and, through social media we were able to connect with a lot of our fans, many who have become our friends over the years. We’d talk to them back and forth, and people were like, “That was incredible. The most incredible show I’ve ever seen, and not because it was big and loud, but because it sounded good. And it was great songs, and it was a different atmosphere, which gave us the idea to do it.”
LB: We’re about the same age and we both grew up during the era where every successful band was doing an MTV “Unplugged.” They’d do the MTV “Unplugged” and then right after that you’d see the MTV “Unplugged” CD/DVD released. Any thoughts of putting ‘Songs from the Basement’ out there as a set?
CH: “Maybe not as a DVD, but probably gonna do a record. Probably gonna do a record, and, just, why not? And, and the reason I say that is because, you know, back in the day, when you had to record a live record you had to bring a truck in, and you had to bring in engineers, and you had to bring in all these mixtures, and such. You don’t have to do that anymore, man. Like, recording rigs have become home-based, and our sound guy is a producer in his own right, and so he brings a pro-tools rig out, hooks it in, and bam! Every night we record. So at the end of this, he’s gonna literally have thirty-seven shows to pick through and find the best ones, and just make a record out of it. And so, we’re gonna, there’s gonna be a “Songs from the Basement” record.”
LB: What from your standpoint is challenging about this tour versus previous tours?
CH: “The challenge? The challenge for this show is kind of, you have to do a lot more work between songs, to kinda keep the crowd, they expect like, big things, and then it takes them awhile, so the challenge, and it’s not really a challenge because it works itself out, is just grabbing the crowd and, and keeping them, keeping a hold of them for, for a few songs until they settle into the show. Because you can lose them really fast.”
CH: “Yeah, you can. Because, you know, they don’t know what to expect. They’ve never seen us acoustic before. They think it’s gonna be one way, but then it turns out to be another way, so, you know. You just gotta be prepared for that. And, that’s the only challenge. And like I said, it’s not really that big a deal.”
LB: VIP packages right now seem to be the “in” thing. I think there’s one, I saw for the new Motley Crue show, for $3,000.00 or maybe more, you could hang out with the band all night.
CH: “Wow, $3,000.00?!”
LB: Yep. You guys are offering a VIP deal and inviting fans literally on stage during the show. What brought this about and how has it been working out?
CH: “It’s going great. It’s really cool, man. It’s really cool, and I mean, it’s a different, different vibe. They get to see what we see. You know what I mean? No one gets to experience that, you know, which I think is cool. At the beginning we thought maybe we might have some crazy people up there, but, everything’s been great. People enjoy it, they really like it. After the show we’ll meet all of them, again, because we’re meeting them before the show, but we’ll go over and be like, “Hey, how was it?” and they’re like, “Man, great, great, great. Yeah, this was really cool, best experience I’ve ever had.”
LB: My website is called the ‘The Levity Ball’ out of respect for one of my childhood heroes, Alice Cooper; it’s the title of one of his earlier songs. Who are some of your early music influences?
CH: “My early music influences. I think, probably as far as a musicians in general, I wanna say, probably Queen the band, itself, maybe Rush. But my brother was the one that really kind of…I had seven brothers and one sister growing up, and one of my brothers is a professional musician as well. He’s always turning me on to records and giving me things, and he’s like, “Here, listen to this. Check this out.” And when I was four or five years old, I was listening to music with him. So I wanna say Queen to begin with but then at school I started developing my own taste in music, and I was from Mississippi, so I was exposed to gospel, and country, and blues, and, you know, traditional blues, not the pop shit that people get into. I mean, that came later for me, but the original, traditional blues. So I really took all of that, and then found that one band for me that had those elements, and Lynyrd Skynyrd was that band. I became a huge Lynyrd Skynyrd fan. I tried to learn to play all of it, and, you know, by the time I was sixteen I could play most of it. While other people were doing Poison and Motley Crue and stuff, I was playing Skynyrd. What’s cool is that it translates well into what we do now. So that’s where I started. I really became a big fan of the 80’s bands. And then, after that, you know, the 90’s started coming and the grunge era hit. I didn’t really get so much into the grunge as I did like some progressive stuff. So I started listening to Dream Theater, things like that. Trick bands, math rock.”
LB: Favorite venue that you’ve played?
CH: “Madison Square Garden”
LB: New artist that impress you?
CH: “New Medicine”
LB: Artists you’d like to work with or at least meet?
CH: “Metallica, I’ve already met them, but I’d like to work with them.”
LB: What inspires you when you’re composing?
CH: “Ah, man. You know what, life in general.”
LB: Thoughts on the music industry, right now.
LB: We don’t have time, do we? [laughter]
CH: “No we do not, it’s a mess. But it’ll get straightened out, hopefully.”
LB: I going to give you some phrases and I just want you to say what comes to mind.
LB: Luv You Heath
CH: “Ah, healthy. Yeah!”
LB: PB&J Luv Bar
CH: “PB&J Luv Bar! My favorite!” [laughter]
CH: “Better Life Foundation. Man, the first thing that comes to mind there is just giving. Giving, giving and giving without anything in return.”
CH: “J.C. Runyon Foundation, oh, man, um, another good, giving foundation, without anything in return.”
LB: The reason I brought up the J.C. Runyon Foundation, besides running this site, I am a Primary Clinical Counselor at a 28-Day Inpatient treatment facility for substance abuse. We typically have about 68 patients at any given time. You celebrated two years in January and are being honored by the J.C. Runyon Foundation in March?
CH: “Yeah, so. Well, it would’ve been four, I had a little mishap, which happens, you know, but I got right back in. So eight days later, I got back in. It was one of those things where like, when it happened to me, the program was set in, and I went into this place where I was like, what?! Every day I was obsessing, not about drugs and alcohol, but the fact that I did drugs and alcohol. So, it’s like alright, cool. Enough! Enough’s done, and I checked back into the treatment center and did another twenty-eight days, because I thought, you know, what the Hell. When I got there, my counselor was like, you know, you’re one of the greats because you’ve been clean, and now you’re here to talk about the relapse. You know what I mean? It was like, don’t be shy, talk about that. So, that’s what I did.”
LB: That’s great! Good for you!
CH: “So now I go to treatment centers all over the place all the time and talk, and that’s how J.C Runyon came up.”
LB: Very cool. I wish you had more time; I’d drag you down to our place. Any words of encouragement I could pass on to my patients?
CH: “Yeah, I would love it, man, I’d love it! Um, but words of encouragement, I would say, you know, just from like, from me? I think, um. Man, I wish I had a definitive answer. I hold on tight on a lot. I’m surrounded by people out here that use, a lot.”
LB: I was going to ask, how do you manage recovery on tour?
CH: “It’s sponsorship…sponsorship. I carry literature with me; I work the steps while I’m out here, a lot. It can be hard to find a good quiet spot, to work the steps. But, a lot of phone calls, man. You know, the phone weighs so much when you first get into recovery, but as you progress forward this thing becomes the tool, man. The survival tool. It’s almost like Batman’s tool belt, you know. And a lot of apps and a lot of literature I get ‘Just for the Day’ sent right to me, and every day I’m up in the morning reading my literature, and it’s, you know, that’s how I do it. Just stay plugged in, man.”
LB: Chris, what you just said…describing the actual work that you do for your recovery is more encouraging than any statement you could have come up with.
CH: “Oh, alright. That’s fantastic.”
LB: My friend, The Levity Ball and I would like to thank you so very much for spending some time with us before the show.
CH: “Thank you, man!”
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TOUR DATES: http://www.3doorsdown.com