3 Doors Down

Brad Arnold opens up about sobriety, ‘Kryptonite’ and math class

Special to the Union Leader
August 08. 2018 1:40PM
The multiplatinum rock band 3 Doors Down has sold 20 milion albums across the world. Top tunes include "Kryptonite," "When I'm Gone," "Here without You" and "It's Not My Time." 
If you go...
WHO: 3 Doors Down with Collective Soul and Soul Asylum

WHERE: Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion, Gilford

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday

TICKETS: banknhpavilion.com or 293-4700

With a string of charting songs, 3 Doors Down has seen huge success over the past 20 years, but the journey hasn’t been without a generous helping of pain and struggle.

The hard-rock grunge band garnered early popularity in 2000 for massive hits “Kryptonite” and “Loser,” while the power ballads “Here Without You” and “When I’m Gone” highlighted the group’s 2002 sophomore effort. The next two albums, in 2005 and 2008, each reached No. 1 on Billboard’s popularity charts.

But substance abuse issues have dogged the band. Former bassist Todd Harrell in 2015 was sentenced to two years in prison following drug and vehicular homicide charges in a 2013 crash that led to a man’s death.

According to lead singer-songwriter Brad Arnold, other members of the band have sought help for addiction, himself among them. The Mississippi native and a founding member of the band says choosing rehab was the best thing he ever did.

“I ... oh my gosh, I don’t miss it at all. I am so much happier now,” he says, adding that he’s been sober since 2016.

In advance of 3 Doors Down’s show with Collective Soul and Soul Asylum at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford Friday night, Arnold spoke with NHWeekend about the origins of “Kryptonite,” his songwriting process, and what finally convinced him to stop drinking.

How does your songwriting happen?

Honestly, I write most of my songs working out in my yard or something, or riding a lawn mower, or anything other than trying to write a song. I just ride along to the humming. You always have that song you want in your head, and sometimes (if) you just let loose on them they’ll pop up.

“Kryptonite” was your first big hit. What was your mindset when you wrote it?

(When) I wrote that song, I was a teenager. I was in high school in algebra class. I’d get my writing exercises going during creative writing, then I’d go and get my belly full, and then I’d go into math class, kind of hating math. I tended to write a lot of songs that were based around friendships and relationships. I would sit in that class, and it just poured out. And “Kryptonite” was amongst some of those songs.

Did you write it all in one shot?

I wrote it in probably 10 minutes and then took it to band practice that day, and we put the music to it in probably another 20 minutes. It’s weird how that works sometimes. Sometimes you can work on a song for days, and it’ll wind up being an OK song. But songs that wind up being — sometimes — your best songs ... it’s like you don’t write them, you just write ‘em down. They just kind of come out.

That’s a tough slot, having algebra right after lunch.

I know. And I am not a fan of math. Thank God for computers.

But you got through it and got to move on.

Exactly. I think a couple of my teachers just wanted to get rid of me (laughs).

Was the video for “Loser” shot in an actual high school? It looked pretty accurate.

It was shot at a high school out in California. There’s a boy (who’s) supposed to be a high-school version of me. If you’ll notice in one of the scenes, he’s writing in his class, and it shows a shot over his shoulder — the lyrics of “Kryptonite.”

Are you open to speaking about your sobriety?

Yeah. Absolutely.

What made you stop drinking?

The biggest thing about it was I could trace almost every problem in my life to alcohol, even while I was drinking. I got to a point that I knew that I was drinking too much, and I needed to stop.

And our guitar player — he’s in recovery, and he’d been through his own addictions, and Greg (Upchurch), our drummer, had been through alcohol (problems) as well. I’m sitting (there) miserable all the time and feeling like crap all day, every day, until I started drinking earlier and earlier.

I’ve seen these guys, how much happier they were, and seeing all my problems. And I just wanted that happiness. We went on a tour over in Japan to play for the troops. I was about halfway through that week, and I couldn’t even remember this week. It wasn’t like I was just blacked-out drunk or did anything stupid. I just couldn’t even remember what I was doing. I just became so frustrated, and I knew I had a moment. I was like, ‘I have to stop this.’

Did you notice a difference in your creativity between being sober and drinking?

Absolutely. (Before) I’d go to band practice or something and I’d be like, ‘Well, you know I just need a drink to like loosen up, relax.’ But it was a killer vicious cycle, because it’s like my mind is lying to me. I thought I needed that to relax and be creative. But I can have one or two drinks, and the creativity was gone. It was like, ‘Well, I ain’t doing it today.” That’s how it went so many times, and that same mindset translated to everything else in my life. It developed to the point that I thought I had this hole in my life that alcohol was covering up or filling in, when in reality, alcohol was digging that hole.

Is there alcoholism in your family?

At that time I was 36 or 37, and my daddy was 74 — and my daddy has two brothers that both died from alcohol. My dad didn’t drink, and my daddy has long outlived his brothers. And so I just thought to myself, ‘My daddy is twice my age, and I won’t live to be my dad’s age. If I continue to drink like this, then my life is more than halfway over.” And I don’t want my life to be halfway over right now.

What did you say to the other band members?

I was like, “When we get home, I’m going to rehab.” (Other band members who were) in recovery themselves, they held me to it. And I told my wife, I was like, “I’m goin’ to rehab when I get home.” I needed them to hold me to it, because you make these decisions after so many times that your brain is sitting there going, “No, man, you’re fine. You hadn’t had nothing to drink in a week. It’s fine.” And that’s just plain lyin’ to ya. I went to treatment for a month, and it’s the best thing that I ever done.

It’s interesting how it can be one moment that snaps you out of it.

So many of those guys that I went to treatment with out there. They had lost everything — I mean, their families, their jobs, everything that they had. And by the grace of God I never had to do that. You don’t have to lose everything that you have to have that moment.

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