3 Doors Down is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of their debut album by hitting major markets across the US for The Better Life 20th Anniversary Tour. For the first time ever, the band will play The Better Life in its entirety, front to back, along with the rest of their hits on this hot summer trek featuring longtime friends and touring mates Seether.
Rock Confidential caught up with 3 Doors Down guitarist Chris Henderson just hours before the band kicks off The Better Life 20th Anniversary Tour.
You did a few livestreams leading up to this tour. Did that fill any voids created by not being able to play live?
Not really. With the livestream we only played to a camera. You’ve got a camera on a railroad track in front of you, the people there aren’t looking at you. They’re looking at screens. They’re all dressed in black. All you see is a flash of chrome here and there and you don’t really see anyone. The livestreams are just so different. There’s no crowd noise, there’s no crowd to feed off of. They’re not hard to do, they’re just different. You don’t get the same kind of energy. You play a little better because you don’t have to put on such a great show. The camera’s not always on you so you’re not 150,000% all the time trying to jump 15 feet in the air.
You get the instant gratification when you’re playing live. With a livestream you have to wait to get a reaction.
You’ve got to go read comments – and I quit doing that when I realized not everybody was going to be saying good things about you.
The tour kicks off this weekend. We’re just hours away. What are you going through now that it’s so close?
Before I go on tour I pack a bag. I try not to forget anything so I start packing a couple of days ahead of time. I’m only going to be gone two days so I’m literally going to leave with a backpack. I started the packing process like two days ago. It’s just something I like to do. It gets me excited about leaving again. Right now I’m counting down. It’s in that window of excitement. You know when you’re a kid and Christmas is coming? It’s kind of like that. You put off thinking about it for as long as you possibly can and you get in that three or four-day window and you allow yourself to be excited. That’s where I’m at.
Before there were talks of this tour, did you ever allow yourself the opportunity to look back and reflect on the impact of the first record, the popularity the band reached back then and the success that followed? I would imagine this tour gives you that chance.
We didn’t have time. I don’t think a lot of people understand how the music business works. It’s cutthroat. It’s fast-paced. You don’t really get time off to not be at work. You’re always “that guy in the band.” After the first record, that’s what we became. People started recognizing us. We couldn’t go anywhere in our hometown. The people that we were no longer existed. Now we were these new people. Once success hits, it is hard. There’s lots of expectations and you have to be this and that – and you can’t be this and that. That never ends. You don’t really get to sit back and think about it. It’s always about that next song or that next tour. I say all of that to say this: We had this 2020 tour booked and because of the pandemic it kicked the can. We had no control over when we were going to get to go back out. It gave us about a year and a half – for the first time in our career – to not think about something coming up. I was able to, in that window of time, reflect on what the band had accomplished and what we had done together. The tragedies, the good times and the bad times. It’s been really cool and now I’m looking forward to going out again. I broke out some vintage gear, some of the stuff that was used on the first record and the first tours. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Tell me about some of the vintage gear you’re using on this tour.
Being from South Mississippi there was only one music store in town. In their inventory they had Ibanez, Crate, Cort, and maybe some Hondos. We didn’t really have great gear. I didn’t touch a Les Paul until I was 30 years old. They just didn’t exist where I lived. You couldn’t go buy a professional quality instrument. I never knew what good guitars sounded like, other than what I heard on the radio. I could never find the tone that I needed. I could never really explore that. I had an Ibanez EX and a Crate Blue Voodoo amp. That Crate sounded like dog mess, man. We went to Memphis to record our first record. The producer, Paul Ebersold, saw our gear and said “There is no way I’m recording either one of these guitars. You have to go get some gear.” We went to a store in Memphis called Strings & Things. I saw something in there, I didn’t know what they were at the time, a Les Paul DC Pro. I have one that was made in 1999, maybe before that. It’s considered an antique at this point. I could never get that guitar to sound good because I didn’t have good gear. Now I have Kempers. I have all my gear that I’ve collected over the years and all my amps modeled into this Kemper. So I broke that guitar out. That’s the “Kryptonite” guitar and the one we used on The Better Life record along with the one Matt (Roberts, late 3 Doors Down guitarist) had. He had an ESP. We don’t have access to that but it would be nice to bring it out. I got the DC Pro out and gave it to my new tech. It’s been sitting in a vault since the year 2000. It’s still got blood on it from those first few shows.
You’re out with Seether. You guys go back a while, right?
Yeah, we’ve toured extensively with them over the years. Every time we tour with them they have a different guitar player. (laughs) This time it’s no different. The first time they had a guy from Philadelphia playing with them. The second time it was just a three-piece. Then they hired the guitar tech. Then they hired Clint Lowery from Sevendust. Now they’ve got Corey, Clint’s brother. I’m looking forward to that. I really like Corey. He’s into CrossFit and so am I. I hope we’re going to hit it off like bandits. I’ve met him in passing a couple of times and never got to hang out with him. I’m really looking for to seeing the new Seether. They’re a great band. Shaun (Morgan, Seether vocalist) can sing his ass off. He sings live like he does on the record. So does Brad (Arnold, 3 Doors Down vocalist), which is cool. It’s going to be a good tour. You usually get a tour where the singer in one of the bands is not really that good. This isn’t going to be that tour.
You get two different atmospheres – Seether is more angsty but you guys tackle some heavy subject matter, too. It’s all a positive experience.
You know what’s positive about it? It’s just a good time and it’s good rock n’ roll. It’s fun to see people perform that actually plays their instruments.
The Deluxe Edition of The Better Life is a killer package. I’m constantly surprised by the comeback vinyl has made.
Me too. I own a good bit of vinyl but I don’t even own a record player. When you were a kid, how many hours did you spend in your room with an album, reading the credits and lyrics and liner notes? I remember looking at Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil when it came out and reading in the liner notes that Nikki Sixx played bass pedals. I remember thinking “What are bass pedals?” I still don’t really know what those are.
Who were some of you favorite guitarists growing up?
In the beginning, when it all started for me, it would have been Ace Frehley. That kind of loose slop that he did with some really cool riffs. I’m a product of the eighties so I moved into Scorpions, Def Leppard and those guys. When you’re born in Mississippi they give you three things: a birth certificate, the first (Lynyrd) Skynyrd record, and a Dale Jr. diecast. That’s what you leave the hospital with. Lynyrd Skynyrd became the thing for me. That was the band that I tried to emulate the most. With songwriting there’s some Skynyrd-ish solo riffs in “When I’m Gone” and “The Road I’m On” that I did on purpose just to pay homage. Gary Rossington, Allen Collins and Steve Gaines are my biggest influences.
2020 was a challenging year for everyone. What is something positive you were able to experience through the craziness of the pandemic?
I was able to reconnect with family more than anything else just because of the amount of time we were able to spend together. 2020 took me out of the rock n’ roll routine and put me in a family routine. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it before – it was that I wasn’t able to because of the amount of time we spent on the road and working. It was hard to be what my kids needed me to be. I was able to be what I was and that became what they needed, but they didn’t realize they needed more and I didn’t realize I needed more. The positive thing for me during 2020 was the amount of time I was able to spend with my children and the amount of time I got to spend at home doing things that before weren’t important to me but now are. I had time to do things I just didn’t have time to before. And my kids. Just spending time with my kids.
Catch 3 Doors Down on tour all summer – click HERE for the latest dates and VIP information.
Earlier this year, 3 Doors Down released a re-mastered, 20th Anniversary Edition of The Better Life album along with the nine-song Escatawpa Sessions as a box set on high-quality 3LP vinyl. The Escatawpa Sessions, recorded in the band’s Mississippi hometown in 1996, features seven demo versions from The Better Life, as well as three previously unreleased tracks. The 3LP box set features a custom lithograph, a six-page booklet with never-before-seen photos and extensive liner notes, and interviews with the band and executives from their label and talent agency. A 2CD and an expanded digital album of The Better Life are also available now, and each feature four new bonus tracks including, “The Better Life (XX Mix),” a new mix by Grammy Award-winning Chris Lord-Alge, “Kryptonite (2000 Acoustic),” “Be Like That (2000 Acoustic),” and “Wasted Me (With Harp Version).”
This post first appeared on Rock Confidential.
3 Doors Down Guitarist Chris Henderson Talks ‘The Better Life’ Anniversary Tour