Brad Arnold doesn’t like to sit still. After ending a marathon tour that kept him on the road for 16 of 19 months, the 3 Doors Down singer rested only a few weeks. Then he became consumed with following up the band’s multiplatinum debut, The Better Life (2000).
Arnold has penned 12 songs since October, when the exhausting trek concluded and he had five tunes in the can. He and his bandmates – Matt Roberts (guitar), Todd Harrell (bass) and Chris Hendersonplan to hit a Seattle studio with producer Rick Parashar (Pearl Jam, Nickelback) and A Perfect Circle drummer Josh Freese to record June 1.
After two months of committing tracks to tape, Arnold hopes to have the still-untitled results in stores by November. If the energized frontman had his way, though, the fruits of his labors would ripen a lot sooner.
“I can’t wait,” he enthused over the phone from Mobile, Alabama. “Man, I wish that bastard was coming out in July!
A band’s second album brings perhaps the most pressure on its creators. While Arnold believes much of the stress is a self-imposed reaction to everyone expecting the follow-up to be just as good, if not better, than its predecessor, he admits he’s not at his best under fire. For proof, look to the conditions that fostered A Better Life’s first single, the ramped-up “Kryptonite,” a tune he penned while daydreaming in algebra class. Only when he allowed himself not to be hampered by the constant nag to be productive did the creative juices begin to flow.
“When I first started writing again, it was like, ‘Gotta write some songs, gotta write some songs.’ And I just couldn’t. And until I relaxed and said, ‘OK, this is fun. This ain’t no job,’ then it started coming out. So the less pressure you put on yourself, the better you’ll do.”
Despite Arnold’s penchant for productivity, working on the new album wasn’t the first thing he did upon his reprieve from the road. First he took a deep breath to stop his head from spinning, he said. Then the country boy from Escatawpa, Mississippi – a small town near Biloxi – ate. And ate.
“[Good food] was one thing I really missed a lot on the road,” he said, admitting to plumping up a bit before working back down to fighting weight. “Applebee’s, Ruby Tuesday’s and all that stuff gets a little old every stinkin’ night on tour.”
Something Arnold didn’t mind repeating night after night was the interaction with his fans. He enjoyed their company and basking in the energy they emitted so much, one if his new songs, “I Feel You,” is dedicated to the band’s legions.
“The road takes a lot of things away from you,” he said. “It [also] gives you a lot, but it takes a lot away. There’s one thing you do [on the road,] and that’s all you do, and pretty much all you’re used to is gone,… but the fans can replace all of that for a little while.”
Arnold’s especially excited about “When I’m Gone,” which he predicts could be the album’s first single. Unlike the other new tunes in Arnold’s arsenal, a demo recording hasn’t been made for the cut, since a version of it was captured on a live recording.
“It’s basically saying, love me when I’m here or love me when I’m gone,” he explained. “Either way, be there.”
Titling their debut The Better Life proved an apt forecast for the bandmembers. Although Arnold maintains he’s still “the same sumbitch I have always been,” selling 5 million albums has allowed him such luxuries as upgrading his beat-up Toyota pickup to a new Sequoia. But more importantly, he said, it has allowed him to be heard and to touch people.
“You can really affect somebody’s life or somebody’s attitude with the things that you say,” he explained, referring to the introspective examinations of songs like “Loser,” “where maybe they wouldn’t so much listen if somebody else was saying it…. The light’s on you, and people tend to listen when you talk, so you can really affect somebody positively.”