3 Doors Down frontman and celebrated songwriter BRAD ARNOLD was preparing earlier this year to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the band’s 2000 debut album, the certified seven-times RIAA platinum The Better Life. But with the pandemic putting the Grammy Award®-nominated Mississippi rock band’s plans on hold, BRAD has used the quarantine to write and record his first solo record “Wicked Man.” This powerful song has been released today (August 14) on his new Wild at Heart label. Listen to the song here https://streamlink.to/WickedMan.
BRAD was inspired to write “Wicked Man” about the times we are living in. With his instantly distinctive vocals, BRAD unflinchingly sings: “They keep us entertained inside a world before our eyes/A never-ending circus to distract us from their lies.” Read more about the song in the Q&A below.
“Wicked Man” was recorded at Rivergate Studio in Hendersonville, TN and produced by 3DD drummer Greg Upchurch, who also wrote the music to the song. “I hope people like the song,” says BRAD. “I hope they take something from it.”
BRAD ARNOLD takes great pride in everything that 3 Doors Down has achieved. Formed in 1996, the band has captivated audiences worldwide. Their many accolades include selling 20 million albums globally, receiving a Grammy nomination, two American Music Awards, and five BMI Pop Awards for songwriting, including “Songwriter of the Year.” The rocker’s charitable arm, The Better Life Foundation (TBLF), has donated over $3 million dollars to veterans, children, women’s and humanitarian relief efforts domestically and around the globe.
ANTIHERO: You’ve got a new single out, Wicked Man. Who is the wicked man that you refer to in the song?
Brad Arnold: Man, I think that the wicked man is a personification, in a way, of what has to be going on in our world. it suggests to me that there is somebody back there with a stick, just poking it. I guess if you followed it, whoever that wicked man is, has probably got a pocket full of everybody else’s money.
ANTIHERO: Yeah. It’s a collaboration with your musical bandmate, Greg. I just wonder, in terms of creating something, you write the lyrics. Greg does the music. How does that work? Do you share ideas over the internet? Was this song actually done before the current pandemic?
Brad Arnold: Well, I guess writing the song is really never … I guess it never really happens totally the same way twice, but for this in particular song, Greg, it was all written during the pandemic, and Greg had sent me a guitar part, I guess maybe two or three months ago. I listened to it a few times and got it in my head and got my head wrapped around it and got it stuck there. It sounds silly. I have a tall shower and I sit in here, and I sing all the time. That’s where most of the lyrics for the song was probably a month’s worth of just sitting in here, just singing in the shower when I was … at night. Those lyrics, they just start snowballing together. It might happen in the shower. It might happen, working out in my yard. There’s no really … no set place. Just thinking about looking through social media and looking through the news about that song over, and not even really purposely thinking about it, just having it on my mind. It’s like those lyrics just came together about what’s going on in our world. I obviously was just talking to someone a few minutes ago, and what’s cool about technology now is the fact that you can write a song about current events and have the song out while the current event is still a current event. This literally, it wasn’t a complete song until about three weeks ago.
ANTIHERO: Has this then kickstarted the creative fires for a Brad Arnold solo album?
Brad Arnold: Well, Greg and I have written a couple more songs since then. He comes out here and we sit up here and play around for several hours. It’s definitely opened the door for me to record some things that may not be necessarily a 3 Doors Down song.
ANTIHERO: Unfortunately, the pandemic shot down the band’s plans to celebrate the 20th anniversary of your debut album. I just wondered if you’d maybe considered doing some form of online alternative, where you celebrate that anniversary. Maybe something similar to the acoustic back porch jam style?
Brad Arnold: Yeah. That would actually be cool. I’m not sure if for when it will happen, but there we’ve actually been talking about possibly doing a live concert for the web or for TV or for something, and then maybe recording it here in Nashville and broadcasting it somehow. I’d love to do that. That’d be fun because we’re itching to play a show, and that would be a great way to do it.
As far as the tour, this year was our 20th year anniversary of our first record and we had a whole year’s worth of touring set out to go ahead and do this year. So God willing, we’ll just move that entire tour just one calendar year and pick up where we left off next year.
ANTIHERO: Yep. You mentioned there that it’s the 20th anniversary of that debut album. Just wondered if you could briefly share some memories or stories of creating that debut album. Did you have the songs already worked nights before you entered the studio or did you create them in the studio?
Brad Arnold: Well, for our first record, about half of the songs that wound up being on that record were only a demo CD that we recorded when we were just a local band down in South Mississippi. That demo CD included a Kryptonite, Loser, The Better Life, Life of My Own, and a few more. We didn’t have Be Like That and I’m not sure. Yeah, I think maybe it had Duck and Run on it, but I’m not positive of that.
So anyway, about half of that record was established, and once we got signed, we got signed as a result from Kryptonite being played on our local radio station and being successful on it. So we needed to write about half of another record. So we did. We wrote about five or six more songs, and one of those was Be Like That and I guess some of the ones that maybe already had written, but had already recorded that demo. But yeah, it was an amazing experience because it was our first time.
A lot of times, by the time someone is in a band that becomes successful, they’ve been in bands and they’ve been around the industry for years, and so nothing’s really a big surprise. Well, we were just like a deer in headlights because none of us had ever … We didn’t tour. We had never done anything like that. I had never been in a really nice studio. I remember walking in the studio for the first time that day and just being in awe. Everything we’d done on that first record, it was pretty much the first time we’d ever done it. I’d never even really been away from home too much.
We recorded that record. We’re from South Mississippi and we recorded that record in Memphis, Tennessee. So we were about six or seven hours away from home and we stayed at Embassy Suites. I remember honestly being homesick, just being gone to places to record the record. But they put us in a little band rental house, and the first one, it was haunted. It was haunted, so haunted. Man, from the first night we were there, it was like, “We are not staying here.”
But anyway, there were just so many great memories of recording that record. That was one of the last rock records that I can name, that was actually recorded on two inch tape, rather than digital media and Pro Tools or whatever. So we had to play it right. So that was an interesting experience, too. Everything was just so thrilling about it.
ANTIHERO: How has your personal vision for the band changed over those subsequent 20 years?
Brad Arnold: Oh, man. I feel like at least the ground underneath me has solidified. I didn’t know whether to run or jump or dance back then. We never knew what to expect because we were so naive going into it, and we always tried to treat every trip we went anywhere … Like our first trip to Europe, I have … You know what? Even as many times as we’ve been, I’m still glad that I did it. I have a Crown Royal whiskey bag that’s just full of Euro currencies from all the countries before they had the Euro. It’s from Denmark and all, because when we first started going over there, I never knew if I’d ever go back. So every time I went to a different country, I was like, “I want to say some of the money and take it home with me.” Now that money doesn’t exist, but I’m still glad that I did it, even though we still go to them.
But I guess over the years, I’ve learned just to be steady, just to be steady. We were just going as hard as we could back then. I’m glad we were because it took going as hard as we could to be successful. Now I’m just incredibly thankful that we can still just go and live off a lot of that work that was done back then. We write new songs and we put out new records, and I’m not ashamed to say at all that still the songs that people want to hear to this day, are still some of those old songs that we wrote way back when.
It’s still just … and you people will ask me, “Do you get tired of playing those old songs?” Absolutely not. Man, I love to look out there and see kids singing Kryptonite. Meanwhile, I realise I’m sitting here singing and thinking, “That song is older than you.” You know what I’m saying?
ANTIHERO: I do indeed. Has the band’s subsequent level of success from that debut moved the barriers higher with each album that you’ve brought out after that?
Brad Arnold: Well, I think that maybe we just … We’ve never really aimed at writing themes for a song or anything that we really needed to write. But I think you just, maybe on a musicianship level or just the caring level or experience level, every time you go into the studio, you get better at making records, I think, because whether or not the songs themselves are better, you get better at making records because you just learn to pay attention more to the things that you’re doing, because you didn’t … because in the past records, you might’ve made a mistake that you left on there and nobody else realises it. But every time you listen to that song, it drives you crazy and you just learn to fix them things and really pay attention to what you’re doing.
At the same time, I think you get better at capturing emotions. That sounds weird. Well, how do you … I guess you just learn to relax. You get in there and play the songs of what you’re feeling. I think that just comes with … it only comes with experience and it definitely comes across in the songs, I think. You just write more mature, mature songs. I don’t mean that in a subject matter way. It’s just, you write songs that are, I don’t know. They just have a better flow. I think that just comes with writing over the years.
ANTIHERO: Yeah. When you write something like Here Without You, do you get a buzz or a chill at the time, and you say to yourself, “Whoa, that’s something special”? Or is it only when fans hear it played live that it takes on that life?
Brad Arnold: You know what? It absolutely … It takes the fans to make … Well, you write a song. You do write a song, and when you hear some songs, I’ll hear in the studio and it’s just like, “Man, that’s a damn good song.” But it might not ever be a successful song. Whereas honest to God, with Here Without You, I had to fight Matt, who’s our original guitar player. Me and Matt, I would straight up … We argued up in each other’s face and all but, about having that song on the record or not. He hated it. I wanted it there. I was like, “Man, I like that song.” He’s like, “That song is just a love song on our record.” I was like, “Man, I want it on there.” We were unsure, and I just said that to say that we weren’t even sure we wanted to put it on our record. I loved it. I liked the song. I ain’t going to say I loved it. I liked it. I thought it’d be a good song. Then when it came out, and still right now, that song has had some really long legs. That song still probably gets, for real, about almost a hundred million views a year on YouTube. I put it … I know that it got relisted because it’s an older song than that, so the song got put on there. They got taken off and then put back on there nine years ago because Universal took them off and put them back. Over the course of nine years, then not even counting the five years before that, that phones had 600 million views on YouTube. A hundred million of those really have been in the last year. It’s over all that time that you just look back and you go, “Holy shit, we almost didn’t put that on our record.” You know what I mean?
ANTIHERO: Just a final one then. Having done many interviews over the years, 20 years, since the band started off, what personal hero or inspiration would you actually like to sit down and interview yourself?
Brad Arnold: Oh, man. I don’t know. If there was somebody that I could sit down and talk with and that I’ve never met … You know what? I have met him. I’ve only … but it was just … It was wild backstage. We were in Europe. We were in Austria and Metallica was headlining the main thing, and we were playing the side stage. This is like a tent. But it was still a big stage. But they all set those times where fans have time to walk back and forth over there. We don’t really do that in America, but we don’t have festivals that big either. :But so they were playing right after us, I guess he had time, and I walked on stage. I was standing there, and I looked over and James Hetfield was standing there, and I was like, “Oh, shit.” I was so scared because, man, I grew up loving Metallica. I still love it. So, after the show, I just said hey to him just a second. But it was loud, and we couldn’t hardly understand, and it was probably 30 seconds. I would like to sit down and just … I don’t know if I’d be a very good interviewer, but I would like to just … I’d like to just talk to him. You know?
ANTIHERO: Brad, it’s been great. Hopefully, I’ll get to see you when all this is done and dusted back in the UK. I’ve been a fan of the band – Huge fan from the first album. It’s been great to talk to you.
Brad Arnold: Thank you so much, man. I appreciate it. I can’t wait to come back over there. Hopefully, the Download Festival will be back on next year, and we were scheduled to be there this year. Hopefully, man, man o’ man, I hope that that goes next year, and we can be there with you guys.
ANTIHERO: Cheers, Brad. Thank you very much for talking to me.
Brad Arnold: Thanks. Thank you, my friend. God bless you.