Chris Henderson of 3 Doors Down
It’s not a big surprise to anyone that shortly after it’s release, the latest album from 3 Doors Down, aptly titled 3 Doors Down, has already secured the number one slot on Billboard charts. After all, their last album did as well in 2005. The first single “It’s Not My Time” quickly became a radio favorite before the album even dropped but that was just a small taste of what the album has to offer. With their fourth studio album and these guys seem to have writing an epic rock album down to a fine art, they understand what music fans are starving for and they’ve delivered it up on a silver platter this time around.
Already out on the road to support their latest gem, guitarist Chris Henderson took some time out of their busy schedule to talk to us about the new album, the new tour, and what has happened in his life between then and now.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | May 2008
Why the decision now, this far into your career, to name the album 3 Doors Down? What is the significance to you?
I think we did it because this was a difficult record to make and everyone really contributed and dug down deep to put these songs together. We hit a brick wall a few times which is never a good thing but we worked through it and kept on digging and figured it was appropriate to name it 3 Doors Down.
The band took about a year off before working on the new album, how important do you think that break was?
I think it was key, I really do. We have pretty much been working since 1999 non-stop and we tried to take a year off but didn’t quite get a year. There was always something going on. We tried to take some time off and then go in and write but we had to pick up a show here and there to keep the lights on.
To write the album, the band bedded down in a farmhouse in Tennessee living there for awhile to reconnect and get your creative juices flowing. What was that experience like for you?
It was pretty cool. The house we rented out was like an old cellar with a fireplace in it. We all lived upstairs and the downstairs kind of became the hangout. It is really easy to create when you’re just hanging, when you’re not going to work every day. We were far enough from our homes that we couldn’t go home every day but we were close enough so that if we wanted to go home for a weekend we could. We were just out of reach of all the craziness that goes along with rock and roll.
So did you guys just roll out of bed and start writing or was there some fun involved?
Well, we’d say we were going to start at five and then we’d start at eight and go through until sometimes two or three in the morning, it all depended. We had a rig in the house and our sound engineer is a pro tools master and he can run it and I can run it and between the two of us if someone needed to record something we could do it at any time. It was cool.
The first single “It’s Not My Time” has been doing very well, do you think it gives music fans a good indication of what the entire album sounds like or is it more of just a small taste?
It’s nowhere near the whole sound of the record; it’s basically just us reintroducing ourselves. We wanted it to be a good song and represent 3 Doors Down but at the same time we wanted to let fans know that there was something else coming, so that’s why the guitar sounds are so edgy, in my opinion anyway.
And the video for the single actually just debuted and has some really cool things going on in it, can you tell us a little bit about it?
The video is pretty cool; we’ve never done anything like it before. Instead of setting up in one or two locations like we would normally do and be shot at those locations we set up in eight different locations and it was kind of guerilla style. Literally the band would get out of the van, run and grab our instruments real quick, play one or two times then back to the van and off to another location. One time we actually shot in a skyway in Cincinnati and didn’t have permission to be there so the guys holding our guitars where hiding in our clothing racks and then when they’d yell action they’d hide again.
So did you get in any trouble for being there?
Nah, they were cool with it. We just didn’t have permission.
“She Don’t Want the World” has been called one of your most unique songs to date, can you tell us how this song came together?
Basically it’s just a song that developed electronically more than anything else. We tried to do different things to it to make it something else but we really just couldn’t, it is what it is. It’s not really a 3 Doors Down full blown performance, there’s one or two guitar parts and the drums are programmed, it’s really different and something we’ve never done but I think it was something that we had to get out of our system. It came out really cool and we’re proud of it.
The band has always supported our troops and you’ve even contributed a song to The National Guard called “Citizen Soldier” which made its way on to the new album, can you tell us how your partnership with The National Guard came to fruition?
The song was written in response to 9/11 but as you can imagine the lyrical content wasn’t fit for radio. The National Guard asked us to write a song for them so we did, changed the lyrics and used the same music. It’s worked out great, we are very proud to support the troops. Regardless of what your politics are, and mine are nobody’s business but I do support the troops. They don’t have a choice; they aren’t doing what they do for the money.
Your last album debuted on Billboard charts at #1, which is hard to beat. Does that add any pressure with this new album or is it more of a “been there done that” kind of feeling?
Well of course we want it to come in at number one but who really knows. Record sales are so weird now, what does it really mean at the end of the day? Another plaque to hang on the wall?
So no pressure?
No, I just want to be successful; I don’t care if we’re number 1, number 5 or number 10. It’s all about sleeping at night to me.
From the first day that the band came together until this very day, what has been your proudest moment as a member of 3 Doors Down?
My proudest moment and I’m sure there are other times when I’ve been just as proud, but after Hurricane Katrina hit we were able to do some really cool things for people that were affected by it. Not just once, several times, and not the same people, different people. One of the things we did that I was really proud to be a part of, the city of Waveland, MS was basically wiped off the face of the earth. The whole city was devastated, not just a few houses, all of the houses, not just a few buildings, every building, all the schools, all the hospitals – gone. They didn’t have any infrastructure at all, they didn’t have any fire trucks or police cars, telephones, computers nothing. The fire department was basically sleeping on a cement slab that had just been under ten feet of water. It was filthy. They are trying to rescue people from the destruction and working twenty four hours a day trying to get people out alive and they didn’t even have a place to sleep. One of the coolest things that we’ve ever done is we bought them a fire truck. It wasn’t a very cool one but it was functional, and they still own it. We bought them three police cars and some computers so they could get back on their feet and we gave them our tour bus for a month so they would have someplace to sleep.
So did you rig the police car and fire truck sirens to ring a 3 Doors Down tune?
No but I guarantee I’ve got a get out of jail free card in that town.
And you were personally affected by Katrina as well so it’s pretty admirable that you were looking out for everyone else while you went through your own hardships..
It was really a nightmare. It really did hit me. I couldn’t even get into my house because of the filth and the muck. I started in my garage and it took three or four days of just cleaning. I had been on the road for basically two years straight and hadn’t seen my kids and my family and that’s what I came home to. My family evacuated but we went from living in the home where my kids were born and grew up to living in a travel trailer and not even on our own property because it was condemned from the salt water and the fuel and and all the bodies floating around. It was just crazy. We had to live in Alabama for three months and I drove back and forth each day to clean. One day I just lost it. I was sitting in my house and the emotions welled up and I couldn’t control it. It was one of the worst experiences that I’ve ever had, I’ll say that.
Well, I think it’s great how much awareness the band has brought to the issue through your charitable events. The band started The Better Life Foundation and has raised over 2 million dollars since you started it. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Better Life is what made the fire trucks and police cars possible. To this day we still take a dollar from every ticket sold and Monster Music donates ten dollars from every one of our live DVDs that they sell. Its money coming from all different places, The National Guard and AIG are big contributors, people really care. It really worked out.
I know you have your own signature guitar out now through PRS Guitars. I read a story that a fan sent in to the band where he told about you playing his guitar during one of your shows before giving it back to him. I think it’s these kinds of things that really give fans a deep appreciation for what you do. With the level of success that you’ve experienced how do you not let it go to your head?
I don’t know any other way. That’s one of the reasons I play PRS Guitars because of the way that the company is and the way that I am and the way I want my kids to be. It’s all relative, be real and true and have a good time and really there’s room for everyone to have fun here. And I think about how cool it would have been when I was a kid if my favorite guitar player played my guitar on stage.
Forget about when you were a kid, even now that’s pretty awesome..
Yeah exactly. I gave Garrett Robinson one of my guitars to sign and he played it, not onstage, just backstage in the dressing room but still it was so cool. This was before I had my signature but I said that if I ever was lucky enough to get a signature guitar I wanted to be a nice enough guitar where someone could go and purchase it in a music store and go right into the studio and work with it, I want it to be that kind of instrument so PRS made that kind of instrument for me. The guitars they built for me are the ones they sell, it’s the same thing all the way through and it’s really unheard of but I just wanted to prove it to people. So if anybody has one and they want me to play it bring it on out!
Purchase the new album
Yeah I might buy one myself now just so I can get you to play it on stage for me!
I’ll sure do it. It’s going to sound great, it’s a great guitar, as a matter of fact, it’s a masterpiece!
What’s the one thing you look back upon now with regards to the music industry and think “if I only knew then what I know now?”
All kinds of stuff. If I knew that downloading was coming I would have tried to prepare for that. Downloading has slit some throats in this industry, guys like us don’t feel it as much as the little guys do but there are bands that don’t exist because of it now. They don’t have a chance. When the business changes it takes years for it to come around and for people to get their feet back on the ground. There is lot of good bands out there that people are never going to hear now, a lot of broken lives.
The rumor is that there will be a summer tour with 3 Doors Down, Staind and Hinder, can you confirm this?
Yes. We’ll be all over North America, it’s going to be a good time, and we’re looking forward to it. I can’t wait!