Interview: Chris Henderson on the ‘3 Doors Down – Acoustic Songs From the Basement’ Tour
What’s next on the bucket list when you’ve sold 16 million albums and garnered three Grammy nominations, two American Music Awards, and five BMI Pop Awards for songwriting, including BMI’s coveted "Songwriter of the Year" award? How about going back to the basement…?!
That’s right. Celebrated Mississippi-based rock quintet 3 Doors Down are stripping it down (so to speak) and hitting the road with an all-acoustic show for their “Songs From the Basement” Tour. With the stage set like the basement from whence they came, this intimate setting seems like the ideal way to create a new connection with fans.
The band’s debut album, 2000’s The Better Life, which is now certified six times platinum, featured the smash hit “Kryptonite.” That was followed by 2002’s Away from the Sun, which included radio mainstays “When I’m Gone” and “Here Without You.” Their subsequent efforts 2005’s platinum certified Seventeen Days and 2008’s 3 Doors Down debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 Chart.
In 2012, 3 Doors Down released The Greatest Hits, a collection of nine #1 hits and three new songs, returning to the Top 5 at radio with "One Light." Now fans can hear these songs and more in their raw acoustic form, plus some cuts that have never been played live before!
We caught up with guitarist Chris Henderson to chat about the tour and more. Check it out.
Can you give me some insight about the tour and why you guys decided to do this acoustic this year?
Well, It’s something we’ve been talking about for 10 to 15 years and just had never done it. We’ve done charity events, and stuff for friends and radio stations and a couple songs acoustic onstage, but never a full-on acoustic show. And so we decided to do it one night in Nashville and we were all scared and really apprehensive, like, “Is it gonna come off?” and didn’t know how it was going to work out. Everyone in the crowd had a great time. And we had such a great time that night we decided, right then, we were going to do an acoustic tour. And we started putting the feelers out.
Did you feel like you connected to the audience in a different way than you usually do?
Yeah, in an amazing way. If you play electric, you’ve got lights flashing and videos and shooting pyro and all that crap. Then you break it down and go acoustic in the middle of the show, people tend to get ice cream, like, “Nah, we’re cool. We’ll come back when this crap’s over.” If you go in and sit down on a stool and start playing acoustic songs and people are expecting that, they become more of a part of the show than they ever would before. Because now there’s a little bit of a communication thing going on between us and the crowd, and it’s an embrace almost between the band and the crowd.
You guys are going to have some audience members on your stage. Are you sure that’s safe?
Yeah, I don’t know, man, hopefully!
Are you going to serenade these people on the stage then?
They’re going to get to sit onstage on a couch. Because the tour is called “Songs from the Basement,” so we’re going to set the stage like a basement with couches. Like we’re going to be hanging out like we’re teenagers.
That’s cool. So, is the couch going to smell like old beer, too, then?
Did you have any challenges taking some of your songs and stripping them down to acoustic versions?
Not really. It’s a beautiful thing when a song translates to acoustic guitar. You know what I mean? Like, if you play electric songs and it’s all fast and cool and you can break it down to acoustic guitar and still have some vibes, that’s an amazing thing. And I think that a lot of our songs do translate well, because we wrote something like 90% of our songs, even the rock songs – even “Believer” and all that stuff – they were written on acoustic first.
So perhaps you are going back to the original thought that you had. You’re also playing some stuff that you never played live before, right? That should keep things pretty fresh for you.
Yes. We’re going to dig in to the repertoire. And it also is a challenge because we’ll be playing songs that we haven’t played in decades. So they were written 10, 15, 20 years ago. And we really haven’t played them since the day we recorded them. There are songs that we’re gonna play that we haven’t played live ever, which means we haven’t played them since the day we recorded them.
Wow! You’re going to have to do some practicing then, I think.
Yeah. We are!
So, tell me a little bit about what your gear setup is for this tour. What guitars are you using?
It’ll be really simple. I’m going to play probably, just because it’s so comfortable, and I love the guitar so much, the Paul Reed Smith Hollowbody II with the Piezo pickup. I use the Piezo direct, and then let my sound guy take it. And he’s like a science project, this guy. He’ll take that tone and do all kinds of crazy things with it.
I don’t know what’s with PRS and the Piezos, but whatever they’re doing over there, they’re doing it right. I’ll also be playing a Taylor GS8 as well. I’m going with that and I think Chet is going to be using some Gibsons and some Guilds.
Do you guys use alternate tunings in your songs? .
Yeah, we do. “Here Without You” is in D#, so we turn that half a step down. And “Citizen/Soldier” is in open C. And then “Train,” I mean, the song’s in C but the guitar is half in C and half in standard.
Oh, that’s funny.
Yeah, it’s really weird. The first three strings are in C and the next three strings are not. It’s kind of a weird way that we did it. The reason I tune my guitar like that is for the guitar solo, because I did the guitar solo with a standard guitar and then, playing it live, I was like, “Oh no! What am I going to do now? Change guitars in the middle of the song?” So I just tuned three strings one way and three the other, and it worked out.
That’s very inventive of you.
Yeah, it would’ve taken a whole ‘nother guitar.
I guess for those songs you haven’t played for a decade or so, are any of them ones you have to remember what technique you used on the guitar when you were writing it?
It comes back to me quickly. A lot of our songs are written, especially with the acoustics, with finger-picking. You know, we’re from the South, that’s kind of what we do down here. So we wrote them without picks and so now I’m starting to revisit that kind of thing. But for me, as a guitar player, I don’t have any sort of schooled techniques on that. I use a pick, and my three fingers beneath the pick to do the picking, so I kind of have to go back and find this sloppy kind of hand technique that I used to use and kind of knock the dust off of it. I’m looking forward to it, ‘cause I wrote a lot of songs like that.
Tell me about the Better Life Foundation and its mission and what you guys are doing with that.
Yes, we’re trying to help children and women’s charities that people typically will neglect and that was kind of our thought process: that people won’t help a children’s foundation, unless they have a child that is helped by the foundation, typically. People just seem to ignore those charities. We got the chance to go to the USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital and see how they take care of babies that are premature. Premature babies are really, really expensive and a lot of people in the South don’t have insurance. We were like, “This is a good chance to help some people that really need it,” so we started giving to the USA Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House.
Next thing you know, it evolved into the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and then we started building these Dream Racer cars, which are for children who are getting chemo. They can sit in this racecar and have their chemotherapy and play videogames. It’s like a little NASCAR. It’s really cool.
That’s great. Is there anything you’re doing on this tour with the Foundation or is that just a separate thing?
Well, actually, what we do on tour with the Foundation is we just kind of spread the word as much as we can. We do a charity event every year and we just spread the word as much as possible.
That’s great. Good luck with the tour! It sounds really like a great experience for your fans to be with you in another light, so to speak.
Find tour dates and more at http://www.3doorsdown.com
Laura B. Whitmore is the editor of Guitar World's Acoustic Nation. A singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area, she's also a veteran music industry marketer, and has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents Dean Markley, Peavey Electronics, SIR Entertainment Services, Music First, Guitar World and many more. Laura is the founder of the Women's International Music Network at thewimn.com, producer of the She Rocks Awards and the Women's Music Summit and co-hosts regular songwriter nights for the West Coast Songwriters Association. More at mad-sun.com.