3 Doors Down -- the Mississippi quintet who sprang to national attention thanks to the 2000 single “Kryptonite” from their debut album, The Better Life -- built their name on a relentless touring schedule. So it was no surprise that by the time the group’s fourth album, simply titled 3 Doors Down, arrived in May of this year, the band had already been on the road for two months promoting it. After a brief break, 3 Doors Down kicked off a second leg last night in St. Louis. On the eve of the new tour, I spoke with guitarist Chris Henderson to discuss life on the road, what prompted the band to take a year off and how his disappointment with the last album inspired the making of 3 Doors Down.
The stereotype is that rock stars don’t get up until the afternoon at the earliest. But we’re talking at 9:30 in the morning.
I like to get up [early] but sometimes I just can’t. Sometimes we don’t start work until 10:30 or 11 [at night], and you’ll be up wired till 3 or 4 in the morning just by default, not really partying but just ‘cuz you didn’t get off stage until 1:30 in the morning. But typically, I like to get up and be the first guy out of bed. [laughs] And have my coffee.
Your publicist was mentioning you just survived a pretty long day.
We flew from Hawaii yesterday. We left at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and we arrived in Atlanta at 6 o’clock in the morning. Basically, we took a redeye and slept on the plane, which, you know, there’s no way to sleep on a plane without medication. So we get to Atlanta, everybody’s just wrecked. And then we got here [St. Louis] -- we ended up sleeping, but a big storm blows through, wakes everybody up. So we only slept like two, three hours. They wake us up for sound-check, then a lightning strike hits a power pole and knocks the power out. We didn’t even get on stage last night until 1:30 in the morning. We’re rehearsing until 3 o’clock in the morning, so it’s basically a haze at this point. I don’t even remember doing it or what songs we did.
Just hearing that sounds exhausting.
I got some sleep last night, but I had to get up pretty early. I could have slept about another 17, 18 hours, I think. But I had to do [phone interviews]. But don’t let me [complain], because this isn’t that bad of a job. [laughs]
A lot of fans don’t understand all the behind-the-scenes demands that go on when a band is touring.
Yeah, a lot of people have definite misconceptions about what goes on in this lifestyle.
Were there any misconceptions you had when you were young and just starting to tour?
Oh, tons of things. I think the first thing that hit me was realizing that milk and honey didn’t flow out of every faucet backstage. When you’re beginning, a lot of times nothing’s flowing out of the faucet. You know what I mean? You’re lucky to have a bathroom. And then, you’re living in a van with seven sweaty guys, and you start adding crew people, and then you got nine sweaty guys in a van. And you do that for about three years.
Was there a particular incident when you realized 3 Doors Down had finally arrived?
There’s no way to put your finger on exactly when that happened because of the way American culture is set up towards entertainment. Americans are very “what’s hot now.” They still love the band, don’t get me wrong, but you may not always be in the forefront of what’s going on. Bands like us will take three steps forward, three steps back, two steps forward, three steps back, one step forward, three steps back – there’s always those three steps back. You gotta start over every time you go away. Right when you get to the point where you think, “Hey, this is what it’s going to be like forever now. We’ve reached this status,” six months later, something happens and you’re like “Oh god, back to the bars. Can we make it through this again?” And that’s the way America is -- you’ve gotta kinda get used to ups and downs, ups and downs, up and downs.
Your last album, Seventeen Days, was the band’s least commercially successful, although it still went platinum. Did that make you guys rethink your strategy when you made 3 Doors Down?
Well, that was a real easy decision to make because Seventeen Days happened so fast. Like, literally, some of those songs were written in 15 minutes. There were so many deadlines -- deadlines for artwork, deadlines for music, deadlines for recording, deadlines for mastering, deadlines for mixing. It was deadline after deadline after deadline. I’m not gonna speak for the whole band on this -- this is just me talking to you -- but I didn’t personally feel that [producer] Johnny K got a full shot at what he’s capable of doing on that record because of those deadlines. We were in the studio for 24 hours at a time sometimes, and I’m a very hands-on guy -- if this band is in the studio, even if we’re cutting spoons, I’m there -- but I spent so much time in the studio, I was over it. If we had had more time to spend on Seventeen Days, it would have been a different record.
Did you know right away that Seventeen Days suffered from being rushed?
That whole process happened so fast, man. It was a whirlwind. We never stopped. Really, this band hadn’t stopped touring since the day “Kryptonite” hit the radio until two years ago when we took a whole year off without speaking to each other -- well, not without speaking to each other, but not speaking about music.
That year off – was that prompted by a band meeting? How did it happen?
I think everyone in the band, without even having to say it, knew. After the last Seventeen Days shows, there was some talk of Europe, there was some talk of maybe doing Asian and South American dates. And all of us collectively at the same time in the same room -- without ever saying we were tired -- we all looked at each other and said, “You know what? Don’t call me. We’ll get together some other time and maybe we’ll talk about it. I’ll see you guys later.” And we all just went home and decompressed. I mean, some divorces happened, some issues that were put on the backburner for so long festered into things you couldn’t control. We had to go home and take care of ourselves for the first time in seven years.