3 Doors Down, the Mississippi rockers best known for their giant single “Kryptonite,” will return with a new album, Time Of My Life, this July. We quizzed frontman Brad Arnold about the band’s new single “When You’re Young,” the new album, the origin of “Kryptonite” and more.
Tell us about “When You’re Young.” What inspired it?
It’s a song about how hard it is to be young, basically, and how easy everybody says it is. It’s almost a mockery of people looking back and telling you, “enjoy these days, they’re the best of your life.” Maybe for some people they were, but for me… I mean I had a good childhood, but they are by no means the best days of my life. It’s hard to be young, and that song is basically talking about that fact.
Does being the age you are now make you more reflective, or give you more perspective on that time period?
It definitely does. It becomes further and further behind me very quickly [laughs], but at the same time looking back at those days and being able to look forward to the rest of my life does make me more reflective. It makes me very thankful for the way I got to grow up. Being around music, traveling, and meeting people, it really makes me appreciate the challenges in the environment I had to grow up in, because you come to realize so many people didn’t have that. People have had it so much harder than I have, and it really just makes me appreciative.
The album is called Time of My Life. Can you tell us about the song, “Time of My Life?”
It’s a fun song! It starts the record, but it doesn’t exactly sound like a 3 Doors Down song — it’s different than what we normally do. It’s heavy. It’s a rocker. It’s maybe themed around being on tour, but is definitely relate-able to someone who has never toured or anything like that. It’s basically about having a good time. Having the time of my life, man.
How does the songwriting usually work in the band? Has it changed much over the years?
It varies. Sometimes I’ll have a set of lyrics that we’ll put music to. A lot of times, I’ll have music and we’ll write lyrics around them. It’s a little different on every song. It’s kind of easy to start with lyrics once you have an idea to work off of. Sometimes the hardest part is having something to write about. You’re completely unrestrained with lyrics at first, but you’re also potentially uninspired. Writing music first, you have music as your inspiration, but once the music is there you are writing within a certain box.
We’ve always done it both ways, and it works both ways, but it just varies. Some of the songs on this record, we had the chance to co-write with some people, which we have never done before. It was really cool, and very inspiring. We were fortunate enough to get to write with really good writers like Bobby Huff, Zac Maloy, and some other guys.
Now are these guys pop writers, or rock writers?
They are predominantly rock guys. I think Marti Frederiksen may write a little country music stuff, but at the same time he wrote “Jaded” for Aerosmith. Or, a Brother Cane song called “I Got No Shame”. I used to love that song! He wrote that as well. Zac Maloy actually used to sing in the band called The Nixons. I remember those guys when I was a teenager. I went and saw them in concert and had a great time! It was a thrill to sit down and write a song with him. Things like that still kind of get me a little bit, you know? It was really cool. I think those guys vary a lot of what they write around different genres, but they’re really cool.
Was there a song that was particularly hard to write on the record?
I don’t know about necessarily hard to write. One of the first songs we wrote for this record is a song called “Round and Round”, and it’s kind of strange we named it this because we just went round and round with this song. We tried to put parts in it to make it better, make it more interesting, to push it into something better. At the end of the day, we came right back to the original version of the song and recorded it like that. It sounds awesome! We weren’t trying to beat the dead horse to make it better, we just wanted to exploit the opportunities to make it better if you can. Every time we tried to make it better, it just kind of took something away from it. It also gave us confidence, though, that when we went back to the original one that we had the song in its best form. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record. The few times we’ve been able to play it live, the audience has really gravitated to it also. It’s a fun song.
Was there one that came out really easily?
Well, at the beginning “Round and Round” came out easy. It was one of the first songs we wrote for the record down in my basement (where I’m sitting right now), and the song just kind of came right out. The same song was pretty easy to write the first time around.
Beyond the co-writing, was there anything that influenced the sound or approach to the album?
We were very inspired when we were writing it, but particularly when we were recording it. Even in deciding who would produce it, who would be Howard Benson, was very exciting. We knew we had a great producer to work with, who was really going to push us to be our best, so we began to push ourselves to be the best. That was a major inspiration for us, which ended up being the inspiration for the record. It was putting the goal in our mind to not just make another record, but to make a record we have never made before.
You guys have had massive success over the years. Does that make things easier, or does that get in your head?
I think to put the success aside, it takes the pressure off of you. To not take it so seriously, not in the sense that you don’t care if you make a good record or not, but in the sense that you don’t beat yourself up. “Man, I gotta do this or I gotta do this,” needs to be put aside. Looking back on the experience we’ve had, it has helped us in the confidence to develop this record, you know? I remember the first time I went into the studio, I probably looked like a deer in the headlights. Everything is so new, and you are so unfamiliar with everything. But, the more times you do it, the more comfortable you are with everything, the more confidence you develop. I think we went into this record with a lot of confidence, and knew that we could do it. Knowing we had the best team to do it, and that we did our work, I can honestly say that we did our best.
One of your most famous songs is “Kryptonite.” Do you remember what inspired that?
[laughs] I actually wrote that song in my high school algebra class 16 years ago. I guess the inspiration for that was just my friends. It just asks if I fall down, will you be there for me? Or, when I’m doing well, will you be there for me? A lot of times, it’s easier to be there for people when they’re down rather than when they’re good. They still need you to be there for them. That song is just kind of asking that question. It’s always been a pretty light-hearted song, and back in the day when I was writing it I probably wasn’t thinking about the inspiration too much. I just used to sit in my algebra class in high school and write songs. That was just one that came out one day. That little drum beat just kind of came off my desk, just sitting there tapping in class. I took that song to our band practice one day, we played through it a couple times, and they asked, “you have a guitar part for this?” So we fiddled around, and the first notes that we played are still the first guitar notes on the song. We did it in my bass player’s living room. He had just gotten home from work, and he was back cleaning up in the shower, and I’ll never forget. We were down the hallway on the drum set practicing that song, I was singing it, and Tod stuck his head out the door with a head full of shampoo and said, “what’s that?!” He said, “That’s a hit!!!” [laughs]. It ended up being a hit, so it worked out.
How do people react when you play that song live?
Oh, they love it man. It’s kind of that song we want to play early and get out of the way. We always enjoy playing it live. People ask me, “does it get old?” I guess if I was standing there playing it to myself it would get old, but it’s different with a crowd. They keep it new with you every night. I’m just incredibly grateful we wrote that song. It’s the song that got us going. That’s how we got our foot in the door.