3 Doors Down Delivers Album on Tight Deadline
LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Call it a sign of the times: The release date for the new album by 3 Doors Down was set before the band had written the first note.
That's because 3DD's managers struck a deal with Wal-Mart nearly a year ago that guaranteed a large purchase of the album and ensured tremendous exposure for the band. But it also created a nearly immovable deadline.
"Seventeen Days," so named for the amount of time the band had to write the songs, bows Feb. 8 on Republic/Universal.
"We worked backward from the Feb. 8 date," says Universal Motown Records Group VP Tom Mackay, the band's A&R rep. "It was by far the most difficult record I've had to make. It was brutal."
First, there were the recording complexities, which included relocating from the band's home state of Mississippi to Nashville because of a hurricane and taking time off after the death of guitarist Chris Henderson's father.
"At the same time," Mackay says, "you're launching a record within your own company without the record being finished." Mackay notes that the group had an out clause if the material was not ready.
WAG THE DOG
While allowing Wal-Mart to dictate the release schedule may seem like the tail wagging the dog, 3DD co-manager Bill McGathy says a confluence of events influenced the decision.
"We didn't want to lose the momentum from the second album," he says. "The opportunity came up with Wal-Mart and the label was really into us and set aside a whole block of time to throw the whole building at (3DD)."
Co-manager Phin Daly says the preset release date was not a problem. "For this band, having a deadline is a driving force. (Lead singer/lyricist) Brad Arnold is the kid who never studies for an exam until he gets to the door of the exam room, and then he aces it."
Arnold agrees that writing under such pressure did him good. "Otherwise, you end up lollygagging around," he says. "I like having the pressure." He says the band finished with more songs than it could fit on the album.
Arnold found one drawback in the process: "The only thing I would not do again is pick a single before the whole record is done," he says.
In fact, Mackay says, "the single was done first, mixed, mastered and in the can before they finished recording the other songs."
That first single, "Let Me Go," may not be Arnold's favorite song on the album (he reserves that honor for "Landing in London," which features Bob Seger), but it is resonating with fans. The tune was originally written for "Spider-Man 2," but the band decided to hold onto it. This week, it climbs to No. 10 on the Billboard Active Rock chart, No. 14 at Modern Rock and No. 19 at Adult Top 40.
While there are midtempo ballads like "Let Me Go" on "Seventeen Days," the project largely showcases the band's harder edge.
"A lot of times, you write what you long to play live," Arnold says. "With the last record softer, we wanted something more gritty this time."
To that end, the band enlisted producer Johnny K (Disturbed), who Mackay says ran a very tight ship. "He's from the south side of Chicago; he's very blue-collar. There's no way we could have gotten it done with someone else."
Mackay feels that with the third album, the band has truly found its voice. "They have made a Southern rock record," he says, noting album opener "Right Where I Belong," which recalls Lynyrd Skynyrd.
"When 3DD broke, they were right on the heels of Creed and Papa Roach; then came Hoobastank. (Now) they have separated themselves from every single rock band out there because there isn't another young contemporary band adding those Southern styles to things," Mackay says.
With its first two studio albums, the group -- which also includes Matt Roberts (guitar) and Todd Harrell (bass) -- has established itself as a strong rock band that enjoys success on radio and in retail.
3DD has logged six No. 1s on various Billboard charts, including "When I'm Gone," which was the most-played song on radio in 2003, according to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems.
That song and another monster hit, "Here Without You," were featured on the band's 2002 album, "Away From the Sun," which has sold 3.3 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Its predecessor, 2000's "The Better Life," which included 3DD's breakthrough hit, "Kryptonite," has sold 5.2 million.
The success of the band's albums has helped Arnold meet his goals early. "I wanted to have a gold record, I wanted to play music for a living and I wanted to be married, and I've done all that," he says.
So he set new goals: Meet Willie Nelson, and play for and meet President Bush. First, he met Nelson. Then he checked off the second goal Jan. 18 when 3DD played America's Future Rocks Today, the inaugural-week concert staged by Bush's daughters. The group also played the Recording Industry Assn. of America's Inaugural Ball Jan. 20.
"What am I supposed to do now?" Arnold jokes.
For starters, he'll hit the road with 3DD for a two-week tour starting Feb. 12 at the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, in conjunction with the Budweiser Shootout NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.
After the East Coast kickoff, the tour of 1,800- to 3,000-seat venues will concentrate mainly on dates west of the Mississippi. After the U.S. dates, the band heads to Europe for a promo tour, followed by Australia, where it hasn't played since 2001.
The second leg of the U.S. tour starts mid-April and will consist predominantly of 8,000- to 10,000-seat Southeastern venues. After a run through the European festival circuit in June, 3DD will return stateside for a July-October stint of arenas, sheds, fairs and racetracks.