Back in September I first chatted to Brad Arnold on the release of his first solo single, “Wicked Man”. Embracing the current trend to play “live” streams, 3 Doors Down recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of their debut album, “The Better Life”. I caught up again with Brad to discuss those live streams, mentally how he has coped with a global pandemic, and also about a new 3 Doors Down album release.
ANTIHERO: Last time we chatted was back in September, and I think you were promoting your solo single, “Wicked Man”. You mentioned to me at that time, there were a couple more tracks that you had worked on with Greg. I just wondered if you’d had the chance to move towards that Brad Arnold solo album yet.
Brad Arnold: You know what? He’s coming over. I don’t know if it’ll be toward a solo album or not, but he’s actually coming over in a couple of days because I have a little promo thing to do here for BMI and he’s going to play … Actually, both my guitar players are going to be out of town, so Greg’s going to play guitar for me on a little thing that I have to do, and we’re going to work on another track that we had been working on, but I wasn’t really trying to write it, but I kind of write the best when I’m not trying to. And so, I have a song ready and we’re going to work on it actually this week, and I bet you that I have that one done pretty soon. And it’s actually a pretty cool little song. It’s totally different from Wicked Man. It’s just kind of a cute little love song sort of. But I think people will like it.
ANTIHERO: So, if those tracks aren’t going to be on a potential solo album, are we talking about a new 3 Doors Down album?
Brad Arnold: You know what? I think that could be happening before too terribly long too. I really hope so.
ANTIHERO: It’s been quite a while since the last time, I think. 2016, ‘Us and the Night’ came out.
Brad Arnold: I was reminded of that. Somebody sent me a text or something not long ago. Maybe it was even a post on Instagram or something. And it said, “So, ‘Us and the Night’ turns five this week.” And I was like, “Oh, it’s been five years since we put a record out.”
ANTIHERO: So, what do you think? A new one is due then?
Brad Arnold: I think it’s about due.
ANTIHERO: Good. I think we also discussed the last time the 20th anniversary of your debut album. And you sort of pointed out that you were thinking of maybe doing some live performances online, which of course you now have done.
Brad Arnold: Yeah. Yeah. Those were cool. They went really well. A company here approached us about doing that and then we did one that was The Better Life with the B-sides, and one was an acoustic set. And then the one the other night was kind of a greatest hits live electric show, and it went really well. People really enjoyed them, or they seemed too.
ANTIHERO: Given that in the UK, and in many countries, they still have some COVID restrictions. How did you go about rehearsing for those live online streaming shows?
Brad Arnold: We went to our studio, and it has little separate booths. You know, you have your vocal booth and drum room, and then somebody stood in the lounge, and the other guys, they stayed apart from each other in the control room there. We kind of already inadvertently had it set up like that, where it was just like, “Okay, that’s already taken care of. We’re good.”
ANTIHERO: And how was it to be actually performing live with the band again, although it wasn’t live?
Brad Arnold: It was fun. That was our first time on stage together, of any kind of stage, since September of 2019. And it was fun. It was weird because it’s like … But it’s kind of like riding a bike, you know? They say you never forget, but if you go a year without getting on a bike, it’s different.
ANTIHERO: Do you have any plans to release those live performances? I’m thinking maybe perhaps with profits that could be donated to your Better Life Foundation for people that might be missing it.
Brad Arnold: I’m not really sure what we’re going to do with that footage from that yet, but that’d be cool.
ANTIHERO: What about in terms of rehearsal for those shows? Given that the first album was released quite some time ago, were there any of those tracks that you haven’t played in quite a while that needed an extra, “Oh, how does this go again? It’s been so long?”
Brad Arnold: For those tracks, some of them, the B-sides especially, there was one, Wasted Me, that I always listen to, and I mean, man, I know lyrics from songs from the eighties, I mean, just a lot of songs, I love lyrics, and still, that song, I was like, “I do not remember these stinking words. I don’t remember the words.” But it took me a little bit to get them, and they came back to me. But you know, at the same time, I’m pretty quiet around the house because it’s just me and my wife here, you know, we live on a farm, and so I don’t really talk in that full of voice and stuff that much, and when I got ready to go sing, it definitely took me a little bit of getting back in the singing mode. I went back to my office and just started rehearsing a little bit, and when I started singing, I wasn’t ready and I had to go back and practice quite a bit.
ANTIHERO: Was there some of those tracks that maybe you hadn’t even performed live before? So obviously, when an album comes out, you don’t perform all the tracks originally.
Brad Arnold: Yeah. Well, most of our first record’s tracks, most of them that wound up on The Better Life, we had played live, simply because, you know, when you only have one record, you kind of got to play all your songs. But some of those B-sides, we hadn’t played live ever as the band that it is now. We hadn’t played them live since we were touring.
ANTIHERO: Obviously over the last year, you’ve had quite a bit of additional time on your hands. How have you filled the void of not playing live? I assume you weren’t just fishing for the last year.
Brad Arnold: I worked on my land a lot because the land that we live on was an old farm and so there’s a lot of old metal fences that are growing up within the trees and stuff, and I’ve been trying to clear out a lot of those tree lines. So, you are kind of pulling out the trees and the fence at the same time, and both kind of defend each other. Sometimes I’ve taken a long time to do it, but man, it’s one of those things that, at the end of the day, you get out there and you’ve been working hard on it all day and you can turn around at the end of the day and see exactly what you’ve done. And there were a lot of days of that, and it really does fill up the time and takes your mind away from all the things going on in the world. It’s a good thing.
ANTIHERO: I was going to ask you if you still do the drumming yourself, but I see a drum kit behind you, so you must be.
Brad Arnold: Absolutely. There’s that one and that one. Surrounded.
ANTIHERO: So, you still obviously play the drums.
Brad Arnold: I do some. I still am not any good, but I still like playing them.
ANTIHERO: Have you found any maybe new interests or hobbies over the past year?
Brad Arnold: No, I pretty much do enough stuff around here that I just stayed busy doing the stuff that I like doing.
ANTIHERO: Personally, over the last year I’ve had five or six months with no work and no paid income, and I found that impacted my own mental health. I just wondered as you said, you’ve been off the road, which essentially, you’re a road warrior. I just wondered if the whole layoff had any impact on your own mental health over the last year.
Brad Arnold: I think that it affected everybody some, but I think in modern society, we just get so busy filling our days up with so much stuff, that it was important for me to start letting one thing fill up a day. If I can do one thing today, if it takes all day, well, man, I’m just going to do that one thing and then I’m going to enjoy it, you know? And I find that just learning to appreciate small things and not having to cram so much stuff in my days, because there’s not a lot to do, allows me to kind of take …
You know, I think a lot of times we find it hard to enjoy things because there’s always something else we need to be doing. Well, at least in 2020, nobody was making any money and stuff, but at the same time there are simple things that I enjoy doing that I got to do because I didn’t feel like there was anything else that I needed to be doing. There was nothing more important than maybe if I wanted to just sit here and read a little while or something. And I like reading, but I never read because I got other stuff I need to do. You know? I had plenty of time this year to read, whether it was the Bible or whether it was a book about, you know, whatever. And had more time to meditate and stuff like that.
And I’m really thankful for that. I’m really thankful that I learned about meditation. I’m the last person I ever thought would meditate, but I like it just for … And not like a whole big out there stuff, but just sitting and quieting my mind and focusing on my breath for a little while. And having time to do that, I think it helped me as much as other things kind of hurt me.
And I think the main thing that hurt me mentally was just paying too much attention to hearsay and stuff in social media and in the media, and so much information and misinformation, and you’re not sure what’s true. So, the best thing that did it for me, for a while, I just took all the news and all the social media, I just took it off my phone. And I was like, “You know what? I settled the water for a little while.” You know, sometimes you just got to let the water settle so you can see your reflection, and I found it really hard to do that with so much information and bad information going into my brain.
ANTIHERO: You have established The Better Life Foundation and have, in the past, battled your own personal demons, alcohol. What has made a better life for Brad Arnold?
Brad Arnold: Definitely getting rid of alcohol. Definitely, definitely, definitely made a better life. The Better Life Foundation has given me a better life for sure because I love being able to see … You know, we’re just the catalyst for it. All the money that goes into that comes from fans, and people, that they give to us. But being able to see what that’s done over the years has definitely enriched my life.
And fans, man. Just fans. I find it hard to call them fans …they are more like friends. They like our songs, you know? And getting to meet people all over the world like that over the years, that has enriched my life more so than anything. They say every road that you get to go is like reading a different page of a book. And I’ve got to read a lot of pages of a lot of books because we’ve got to see a lot of places and meet a lot of people and learn that everybody is a lot more alike than I ever thought they were. Those are the things that have brought me to a better life, I believe.
ANTIHERO: Do you still have life dreams, goals, and ambitions?
Brad Arnold: Absolutely.
ANTIHERO: And what are they?
Brad Arnold: One of them is to get me a camper and drive it across America. Now, I’ve done that on a tour bus for years, but I’ve always had somewhere to be. And I want to get in just a small one and just go. And me and my wife, and my wife rodeos, she races horses, and we’ve done that across a lot of Texas, and she went out to Wyoming and stuff like that. But then again, you’ve always got somewhere that you got to be. You’re on a schedule. I want to spend like two months in a camper or RV or whatever, and just go somewhere and stay there until I’m ready to go somewhere else, and then stay there until I’m ready to go somewhere else, and just go around.
I love national parks. Love national parks. And actually, my buddy in England, the other day … He’s a good friend of mine and I’ve known him for … He used to be a fan of the band, and now, when we come over, he goes out and he does our merch. He lives … And man, I can’t even remember where it’s at now, but he lives right on the coast. He lives right next to a big, huge, beautiful national park. And I was like, “Man”, because I’m a national park geek, I love them. I said, “Man, next time we come to the UK, you’ve got to take me there.” He’s like, “I’ll be glad to.” And I can’t wait to go there.
So that’s what I love to do. I love to be outside because it doesn’t matter who you are, when you’re in a national park or in the woods, we’re all the same, you know what I’m saying? And you can just stand there and appreciate what God made.
ANTIHERO: I’m sure you’re itching to get back playing live again as well when you can have a live audience. Obviously, in those streaming shows, there was no audience, but I’m sure you must really miss that interaction with fans right there.
Brad Arnold: Absolutely, man. I can’t wait to look down and see some people’s faces in the crowd.
ANTIHERO: Just a final one then. What would be the pros and cons of being a professional musician outside of the pandemic at the moment?
Brad Arnold: Well, you know, I think anytime something that you love becomes your job, it can take the love out of it, you know? And so, you still have to keep the passion for loving to be a musician first and letting it be a job second, you know? And you have to be careful of that. But I’ve always said, you know, I love music, I hate the music business. Thankfully, we’ve just always surrounded ourselves with people that handle that side of it, and so it allows you to just be an artist. And everybody that we work with has always allowed us to do that, and so it allows us to stay on the pro side of things and not have to deal with the parts that we don’t like.
ANTIHERO: That’s great, Brad. Thank you very much for chatting to me. Hopefully, I’ll get to see you playing live again in the UK.
Brad Arnold: Absolutely, man. Absolutely. Thank you for your time today and thank you for interviewing me again.
ANTIHERO: No problem. It has been a pleasure. Thank you very much.
Brad Arnold: Absolutely. Have a great evening.