By Dan Weiss
Single Again is a column on Radio.com where Dan Weiss investigates chart hits of the past and present, their stories, what they meant and how good they really are.
For this edition of Single Again, Radio.com spoke to Brad Arnold of 3 Doors Down about the band’s debut single “Kryptonite,” which helped their debut album The Better Life sell over six million copies. The band’s sold over 20 million records worldwide to date, and next month they embark on an all-acoustic American tour through the summer. They have a new album due next year.
Do you consider “Kryptonite” a blessing or a curse?
Definitely a blessing, man. It got our foot in the door and got us going, and we’re still in today, and without that song I don’t know if we would even be here, so I’m definitely counting that as a blessing.
Was the song inspired by a real person or real events?
Not really a specific person, it was just really about my friends. I wrote that song in high school and it just kind of asks the question, “will you be there for me, when I’m down or when I’m up?” I used to be a drummer and the drum lick to that song came first. I was just kind of beating on my desk in class and came up with that drum lick and the words just kind of came. And it’s funny how some songs come like that. Some songs you have to sit down and think about them and try to write them, and some songs just fall out of the sky. That was one of the ones that fell out of the sky.
Not a lot of songs on rock radio, past or present, have a galloping beat like that. Was that some country influences poking through?
[laughs] You know what, I don’t know. Like I said, I was just beating on my desk and just playing that little skippy beat and…I was like that when I was a kid, I was that kid who was always beating on something. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to stop. And you know I think that really had a lot to do with why that song was catchy. There weren’t a lot of songs at the time that had that little fill to them and it was just kind of fun and different.
How long did you sing and play drums simultaneously before saying “screw this?”
[laughs] Pretty much the whole time we were a local band, which was about five years. I started out as the drummer when it was just three of us, and I only started singing because nobody else would sing. I grew up with the church in south Mississippi, so I always grew up around singing but I’d never really sang in public. But I was kind of scared when I first started singing! I played the drums for about five years and I always enjoyed it.
Would you ever want to go back to writing the drum parts on a 3 Doors Down album?
Sometimes when we’re writing, I actually do sit behind the drums, but very little of it ends up in the final…Greg [Upchurch] is such a great drummer. But it does kind of help establish the feel of it, you know? Playing drums and writing lyrics…I think in a way they strangely go hand-in-hand, because tie those two together, you really have a song. And it makes you write more rhythmically. I don’t know, something about it.
What did you originally think about the concept of the video?
That’s a crazy video, man…it makes people kind of wonder. [laughs] Dean Karr directed that video and I’d seen some of the stuff he does in old Marilyn Manson videos, and just really artistic things even though some of them are kind of dark. I didn’t know what to expect, man, I’d never been in a video. One thing about it, it was kind of comforting to have all those people there dressed up crazy like that. If you’re a little shy and you’d never done that before…it really made me more comfortable because well, if they really look that crazy then I can’t possibly look that crazy. [laughs]
Were you a big comic book guy as a kid or now?
You know what, not a huge comic book guy, though I’ve always liked to go to movies, superhero movies. It’s kind of strange how I’d never realized how some of the lines in the song translated to the movie…like obviously the song’s talking about Superman but there are certain parallels I never even realized were in the movie until I watched the original Superman again.
Like which lines?
“But I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon.” I was little when Superman came out, and going back, I think it was Superman II, and they’re on the dark side of the moon and I was thinking about that line like, “Well, that kind of fit.” [laughs]
Has anyone showed you any amazing covers of the song?
I go through YouTube and Instagram and I always enjoy watching people cover the songs. It’s really cool to me to see somebody covering “Kryptonite” or “Here Without You”—there’s a lot of covers of that one—to someone covering your song in a country that you’ve never even thought about or never even heard of. And it really shows you how far music reaches, man, it’s really cool to see that.
What was your own favorite song to hear on the radio next to “Kryptonite” during that era?
That was a weird time in music. I remember how closely “Kryptonite”—I hate to call it—kind of competed…I just heard the song “Last Resort” by Papa Roach yesterday, and those songs came out at almost the exact same time and they were almost neck and neck. “Last Resort” would be a hit this week and then “Kryptonite” would be No. 1 and then “Last Resort” would get back up next week…those are great guys, we’ve played a bunch of shows with them. I was never a huge fan of this song but I always thought, around the time we were writing “Kryptonite,” that “Sex and Candy” came out. And I was like man, if we could write a song that would be as big as “Sex and Candy,” that would be awesome.
You’re about to embark on an all-acoustic summer tour. What was your favorite episode of MTV Unplugged?
I love Alice in Chains’ Unplugged. And my favorite Nirvana record ever made was their Unplugged. But if I had to pick a favorite, It would be Alice in Chains.
That’s my favorite Alice in Chains record too.
Yeah, man. My wife and I were riding down the road the other day and she had downloaded “Nutshell,” and it was the album version. The album version’s great but…that unplugged version is just so real.
Yeah, it sounds like it was made for a campfire.