One of the most successful rock bands of the last decade is without a doubt Three Doors Down. Right from their smash hit debut single “Kryptonite,” this band has consistently sold a ton of records and concert tickets while producing some pretty solid music along the way. The band just wrapped up a busy holiday season with their annual Christmas charity concert and the release of an acoustic EP called Where My Christmas Lives. Currently, Three Doors Down are at work on their fifth studio record which hopefully should be out by the beginning of the summer. A single from the new record called “Shine” is apparently going to be released to digital outlets on March 1st which will then be followed by the album later in the year. Just before the end of 2009, I had the good fortune of speaking with the group’s lead singer Brad Arnold. Brad was definitely one of the most polite musicians I’ve ever spoken to.

Now this weekend you held the annual Three Doors Down Charity Auction and Concert in Biloxi, Mississippi. How did it go? Are you pleased with how it turned out?
Brad: Man it went great. We were a little bit scared about how the economy was going to affect the event this year but man; it really went well, especially with how things are going. We had a great time down there, Aaron Lewis from Staind came down and played with us as well as Ed Kowalcyk from Live and they did a great job, they played acoustic and it was just awesome. We had some really good auction items; everything from sports memorabilia to Charlie Daniels gave us a golden fiddle. So that was really awesome and that’s just an example of a lot of the stuff we had. We got to fly in Blackhawk helicopters and land in the middle of the highway with the Mississippi National Guard and this year we actually took a thirteen year old fellow with us, he has cystic fibrosis, his dad was in the National Guard so he got to ride in the Blackhawks with us and he had a good time and I had a good time with him.

You’ve been doing benefit concerts such as these since 2003 now. How did this event get started in the first place?
Brad: Well you know man, it just kind of started as an idea and to be quite honest, I’m not completely sure exactly where the spark came from. We started talking about it and Mark Smith who works so hard on the foundation has been my financial advisor for a long time and my dad’s as well, he’s helped run the foundation for us and he works so hard on it man, he does a great job with it. And it’s grown over the last six years so much but at the same time, it’s a dollar in and a dollar out, I mean we don’t have all of these administrative costs that foundations can have and they can start to consume themselves. And you know, with having the National Guard sponsoring it and the Hard Rock Casino down here helps us put the event on and they help us out so much that it doesn’t cost us a lot to put the event on which allows us to raise more money for what we’re trying to do.

You mentioned there a moment ago about Ed Kowalcyk and Aaron Lewis taking part this year. How do you secure the services of the musicians that perform at the concert? Do you personally ask them yourselves?
Brad: You know what, it is, it’s pretty much like that. We know the guys from being out on tour and you know seeing them around and they’re always willing to come down and lend their services and we’re really really thankful for that. They never fail to just come down and make the event something really special.

In the six years that you’ve been doing the benefit shows, do you have a favourite memory of a particular performance or an event?
Brad: Um, you know man, I have a lot of favourite memories that all just kind of come back but one really cool moment was the other night, we were up on stage singing “Loser” and it was towards the end of the set, I think it was the second to the last song or something like that… And I wear earpieces so I only hear what’s coming through there and all of a sudden I hear this voice coming through and I turn around and Aaron was coming out to finish singing the song with me and I thought that was really cool, he has a great voice and he makes my voice sound better. [laughs]. So he came out and finished the song with me, it sounded really good and the crowd liked it. We had done that before on tour but we actually kind of planned it on tour but it turned out great and I was happy to have him out there.

As a band you seem to have a strong interest in charity and helping others. Is this something you grew up with even before being in a successful rock band?
Brad: Um you know, not as much then, I mean we started in the band really young but you know I think it kind of grew into, we realized that we had the means to be a catalyst for good things to happen. It kind of just felt like it was a responsibility somewhat, to give back to the people that have given us so much. All of it really does still come from our fans and we’re really just a means of maybe getting the word out and maybe organizing goodwill I guess I should say. I guess it’s grown more as we’ve grown and just realizing that we could do something and just getting out there and doing it. At the same time, there are people that work a lot harder on the foundation than we actually do. We get up on the stage and play and maybe sometimes it seems like it’s all us, but there’s so many people, from Mark Smith to Peggy O’Brien who’s my tour manager’s wife, to all our crew guys, they all work really hard on it too, really really hard.

Aside from the benefit show, you’re digitally releasing an eight song acoustic EP called Where My Christmas Lives on December 8th. What can you tell us about this release and what it will offer?
Brad: Well we wanted to put out some acoustic versions of some songs off the last record and we were aiming to have it out around Christmas. We wanted to kind of give it a Christmas theme so we wrote the song and I’ve been wanting to write a Christmas song for a few years and just never really had one in my heart to write. My manager asked me if I would try to write one for this year and I said, “yeah man, I’ll give it a try.” And “Where My Christmas Lives” is the first Christmas song I’ve ever wrote which is something really different for me but I enjoyed doing it because it really gave me a chance to think about personally what Christmas is to me. You know it’s about family and being with your brothers and sisters, being with the people who make you who you are and being thankful that you’re there and you have them.

How did the idea to release this special holiday EP come up in the first place?
Brad: You know I always look at it kind of like a rock song in a lot of ways should be able to be conveyed somewhat acoustically and not always, but maybe sometimes. A lot of our songs, they initially start out acoustic you know, just sitting around writing. The record company was interested in putting that out this year and we were all about it and Johnny K went back in and worked with the songs a lot and we got the songs together and put them out there. We put a full on version of “Where My Christmas Lives” on there as well as an acoustic version. It just seemed like a cool thing to put out and I hear a lot of fans or read from a lot of fans on the internet, they really are interested in hearing acoustic songs and how the songs convey acoustically. So we just wanted to put these songs out there for people to hear.

Your last studio album came out now about a year and a half ago. Now that you’ve had some time to reflect, how do you feel about how that album turned out and how it was received by the fans?
Brad: You know I was really happy with that record, I look at records sometimes as different chapters in my life and what I like about this record is that I think I was in a better place when we were writing it. Sometimes you know, like records like Away From The Sun, I love that record but I was in such a dark place when we were writing it. And that can make for some really cool songs but sometimes not for a really cool life and I’m happy to say that I’m in a better place now. I was happy with how the record was received by fans and you know, I think some of the songs we were writing, what we were wanting to play on tour and just different things we were doing at the moment, a lot of us were reforming our lives a little bit. You hear people that say they don’t like the record and then you hear people say it’s the best record we ever made, we always respect what are fans say, the reviews you hear from them, but at the same time you kind of have to put them in the back of your mind because they weigh a lot.

When can we expect a new studio record from the band? Do you have any plans to go back into the studio any time soon?
Brad: We do man, you know what, I’m sitting behind my drums right now. I’m excited about writing this time because we’ve explored a new way of writing, we all in our homes, we have kind of small pro tools rigs and it’s allowing us this time to kind of write in the privacy of our homes and put these ideas together without maybe somebody diddling on the guitar over there or something like that… And not that there’s anything wrong with that because a lot of great songs start like that. But at the same time, it really allows us to concentrate, simultaneously on different ideas you know and then we’ll get several ideas together and we’ll all get together and put those down. And even furthermore, we can email our ideas back and forth to each other and really work that way, then we’ll really have them down when we get together to form these songs. And I think that’s going to allow us to make a record a lot more efficiently this time and a lot less time. I really feel confident that we’ll have one out in the first half of the year. It’ll be a challenge to do it, but I think that we can do it and we hope we get it out by the end of the first half of the year and if not, shortly thereafter.

Do you have any plans to get back out on the road for any touring in early 2010 or beyond?
Brad: You know we have a cruise that’s been planned for a year, it’s VH1 the biggest cruise ever and it’s in April. It’s us, Shinedown, Lifehouse, Finger 11 and uh… I’m sorry the name of the last band skips my mind. But it’s going to be a fun time man, four days and it goes from down in Florida to down around the Caribbean somewhere and then back. It’s going to be a good time, they came to us and they were like “who do you want to take with you?” And first thing I said was “Shinedown!” I really like those guys a lot and they’ve toured with us a lot over the years and I’m really happy for those guys’ success, they were an under-appreciated band for a long time and those guys rock out man.