Getting Neighborly 

The Better Life moves 3 Doors Down

The 1999 CD The Better Life enabled 3 Doors Down to make one of the most emphatic arrivals of any rock band in recent years.

Powered by the omnipresent hit single "Kryptonite," which won a Grammy nomination for best rock song, the CD sold an incredible 6 million copies and thrust the band from the small town of Escatawpa, Miss. right into the vortex of the national rock scene. Before it had ended its run, the CD had earned the group multiple best-new-band honors.

But while singer Brad Arnold can't predict that kind of blockbuster success for the newly released follow-up CD, Away from the Sun, he actually thinks it arrives at a time when music trends are more favorable than when The Better Life burned up the charts.

"I'm glad to see music getting back to some melody," Arnold said. "Four years ago, it was like every rock song had to be angry and kind of mad-at-your-daddy. ... I think people are realizing that the rap rock thing was just kind of a fad and they just want something they can identify with, with some guitars and, God forbid, a melody in there."

3 Doors Down debuted when radio was not playing many hard rock songs built around melody. Today, the modern rock charts are littered with new bands (Nickelback, Saliva, Lifehouse and Creed ) that, like 3 Doors Down, focus on incorporating hooks and vocal melodies with heavy guitars and beats.

Beyond the trends, Arnold hopes the band's "common man" appeal will work in the CD's favor. Arnold said he thinks the ability of fans to relate to the four members of 3 Doors Down -- Arnold, guitarists Matt Roberts and Chris Henderson and bassist Todd Harrell -- played a big role in the success of their first CD.

The idea of keeping in touch with everyday experiences flavored the lyrics Arnold wrote for Away from the Sun, though they were drawn largely from the emotions and experiences of being on the road. But because the average person can't relate to being a rock star on tour, Arnold said he tried to center more on universal feelings and emotions.

As a result, even though songs like "I Feel You" and "Here Without You" reference being on the road, Arnold expresses his loneliness in terms to which anyone can relate. By the same token, "Ticket to Heaven" could be about trying to deal with sudden wealth and fame, but it's also a message about the emptiness of materialism in general.

Arnold also found himself paying extra attention to his lyrics simply because of the impact The Better Life made.

"I realized just how wide-reaching those songs will definitely be this time," he said. "On the first record, a lot of the songs I kind of wrote for me. And on this one, I realized, even if [Away from the Sun] is not as big a hit as the last one, that millions of people will still hear those songs. I knew that they would be out there, and so I definitely concentrated more on being careful [with] what I said, because I don't want to influence anybody in the wrong way."

-- Alan Sculley


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