Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger Shares the Meaning Behind the Song “Photograph”

Look at this photograph / Every time I do, it makes me laugh. Nickelback’s “Photograph” is one of the most recognizable songs in history. Whether you know it because you’re a fan of the band or as a by-product of their infamous reputation, the point is: you know it.

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Of all the songs about taking a trip down memory lane, “Photograph” is one of the most stirring. The listener can’t help but be affected by the emotion frontman Chad Kroeger puts into the lyrics.

American Songwriter recently sat down with Kroeger and Nickleback drummer Daniel Adair and asked them about the 2005 hit. Check out their perspective on the song, below.

Story Behind The Song

Look at this photograph
Every time I do, it makes me laugh
How did our eyes get so red?
And what the hell is on Joey’s head?

Every memory of walking out the front door
I found the photo of the friend that I was looking for
It’s hard to say it, time to say it
Goodbye, goodbye

I miss that town, I miss the faces
You can’t erase, you can’t replace it
I miss it now, I can’t believe it
So hard to stay, too hard to leave it

As the title suggests, the track is a snapshot of the band’s upbringing in Hanna, Canada. The entirety of the band – save Adair – is from the small town.

Throughout the song, Kroeger makes nods to his friends, family, and past transgressions, all through the rose-filtered tinge of nostalgia. The sentiment was made all the more special given that the group was already a household name by the time “Photograph” was released. Their star power had led them far away from home, but Kroeger and his bandmates kept Hanna close to their hearts with this hit.

When they filmed the accompanying music video for the track, the band took a trip back to their old stomping grounds.

“It was cool because we hadn’t been back to Hanna a long time,” Kroeger told American Songwriter. “It was also sad at the same time to see. In ‘Photograph,’ I’m talking about the movie theater being gone and all that, and sure enough, we got there and it was gone. I didn’t even know it was gone, but I say it in the song, which is hilarious.

“Our director, Nigel Dick, had shown up two days earlier and started grabbing all these people from town and shooting shots of them,” he continued. “I didn’t see any of that until I got the first cut of the video. I’m like, ‘I know those humans.'”

The band also revisited their old junior high, which was a particularly jarring moment for Kroeger.

“I broke into that exact school,” Kroeger said, referencing the lyric, criminal record says I broke in twice / I must have done it half a dozen times. “I think I have eleven counts of breaking and entering on my criminal record. God, I was a bad kid. If [Hanna] was an island, they would have either drowned me or I’d have been voted off real quick.

“My principal, Mr. Britton, came too,” he continued. “All the people that were there, were also there when all of it went down. It was crazy.”

Nearly two decades on, “Photograph” remains one of Nickelback’s signature efforts. Check out the full story behind the song below.

(Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)

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