Ever since 2000, when 3 Doors Down became a steady rock-radio presence with its debut album, the now-multiplatinum-certified The Better Life, the amount of time between subsequent all-new studio efforts has grown. First it was two years, then three years became the norm.
The band’s current stretch of almost five years is set to end March 11 with the arrival of Us and the Night (Republic Records). Bridging the gap between Night and Time of My Life was a 2012 greatest-hits set, featuring such signature songs as “Kryptonite,” “Loser” and “Here Without You,” plus three new recordings. That compilation, according to singer Brad Arnold, marked a turning point for the now-five-member band in more ways than one. Subsequent events — among them teaming up with producer Matt Wallace — contributed to sonic expansion and what Arnold calls 3DD’s first “sexy, playful song,” the single “In the Dark.”
Arnold recently checked in from Nashville, Tennessee, to talk about working on Us and the Night in Music City, who deserves the credit for the new “In the Dark” video (featuring Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte) and more.
Medleyville.us: For a still-active band, a best-of collection can signal the start of a new or different musical chapter. Were you thinking along those lines, either at the time of your band’s 2012 greatest-hits collection or as you started work on Us and the Night?
Brad Arnold: “I think it was a little bit of both. We knew that the greatest hits was going to be kind of a wrap-up of the first chapter of this band. And from there, when we started working on this record, and with some new members in the band and some new flavors and ideas coming in, it drove it home that it’s absolutely [the right time] for the next chapter in this band and do something different — not start over, but start fresh.
“I am just really happy with the direction the band is going in now. … We really opened up our minds and opened up our horizons a little bit. Nothing is out of bounds for us to try.”
Was there any thought in the back of your mind about how fans would react to any changes or differences?
Arnold: “Absolutely (laughs). I’m scared every time we write a record. We can like it all day long, but if the fans don’t like it, then we’ll find ourselves in a bad position. And the whole time [we were making Us and the Night], we were sitting there wringing our hands, thinking, ‘Man, I like this a lot, but I really hope the fans like it, too.’ ”
Us and the Night was made in Nashville throughout 2015. In what ways did the band benefit from working like that over an extended period of time?
Arnold: “We all moved to Nashville a few years ago. [Being in the same city] really allows you to take your time and not hurry as opposed to going to L.A. or elsewhere. Working in your hometown — and working in the studio that we own, and not paying so much money per day [to rent a facility] — really allowed us to take our time, instead of us saying to ourselves, ‘Guys, we gotta get this done. It’s costing us a fortune.’
“[Working near home] can also allow you to slack a little bit, too, but we tried not to do that. We spent a lot of days up there in that studio writing and recording and exploring ideas. It took me a while to write lyrics this time because I didn’t want to push it. There has been such a big gap between this record and our last [new] record, if it wasn’t something we felt was really good, it’s kind of pointless to do it. It’s been long enough that if we didn’t come out with something we believed in, it could just as easily be the end of us.”
Talk about the concept behind the video for the single “In the Dark” and getting Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte to be one of the main characters.
Arnold: “I have to give the credit for that video to management and the production team; they submitted some ideas to us. I’m all about a video that doesn’t have the band in it. God knows we’re not a pretty bunch of guys; nobody wants to look at us (laughs). We’ve always been a radio band through the years for the most part, and I don’t mind that a bit. To me, that goes back to when people didn’t really know what bands looked like anyway — they just liked the music.
“So to me, not having the band in the video gives it more time to tell a story. And when they said they got him for the video, I said, ‘Really? Wow.’ He’s a great actor and did a great job in the video, and it turned out great.”
The album’s opening song, “The Broken,” with its refrain “stand up and take back your world today,” seems like a prime song for a political campaign. Are you at all concerned about a politician possibly using that song without permission in this election year?
Arnold: “You know, I haven’t really thought about it. I guess we’ll have to approach that if the situation arises. With all politics aside, and with respect to both parties, this is a prime time for that song to be heard. It’s a call-out to young people: If you don’t like what’s going on in the world, then stand up and voice your opinion and let your voice be heard. That is the whole idea behind that song, and it couldn’t come at a more appropriate time than in an election year.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
3 Doors Down on tour (schedule subject to change):
• March 20: Universal Studios — Orlando, Florida
• April 8: Route 66 Casino — Albuquerque, New Mexico
• April 9: Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casio — Mescalero, New Mexico
• April 15, 16: IP Casino — Biloxi, Mississippi
• April 30: Welcome to Rockville Festival — Jacksonville, Florida