3 Doors Down's Chris Henderson on why playing Trump’s inauguration may be the band's own kryptonite

Feb 7, 2018 at 1:00 am
3 Doors Down's Chris Henderson on why playing Trump’s inauguration may be the band's own kryptonite
Courtesy photo

What do Elton John, Celine Dion, Garth Brooks, and Kiss all have in common? It was reported that these diverse artists were all offered the opportunity to perform at President Donald Trump's inauguration in 2017. All allegedly declined. But have no fear — Superman, er, 3 Doors Down is still here.

The Mississippi-based rockers' longtime guitarist Chris Henderson, a Navy veteran and CrossFit enthusiast, is fired up when we chat on his day off in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Before our interview, I've been prepped by a stringent line of defense (phone calls and countless emails from managers and agents) to not pry about the whole Trump thing too much. I am, however, provided a list of pre-approved topics.

Henderson is amped to talk about the Better Life Foundation — a successful nonprofit organization the band formed 15 years ago to support women's and children's charities along the Gulf Coast. Henderson is also eager to celebrate a recent milestone, as the band's hit "Kryptonite" reached 200 million Spotify streams as of January, and explained why a rock band decided to embark on an acoustic tour.

Metro Times: You've been with 3 Doors Down for more than 20 years now. What's been the hardest part of remaining relevant in an always-changing rock scene?

Chris Henderson: The hardest part? I think just trying to stay in the spotlight. The scene is always evolving, the music is always evolving, and the way that people get music [has] evolved. Radio evolved, television evolved and now there's YouTube, and there are all these different ways (of getting heard). Some bands made it, and some bands didn't. It's knowing when to accept, when to move on, and quit trying to kill yourself in the grind because at some point you've earned your spot, and you take it and that's it.

MT: Speaking of your spot — "Kryptonite" just reached 200 million streams on Spotify. Did you have any idea that a song released in 1999 would have such a long life?

CH: I know now that it will be around until well after I'm gone. That's really all you can hope for in this business, to have an impact and to impact a generation and then a generation after that generation.

I had no idea it was going to do that, but I had a pretty good idea we would be hearing that song for a really long time because when that song came out in Mississippi in 1997 it was a monster there, it was really something. You had to get on board and hold on to that thing, it wanted to go.

MT: I read that you've been sober for eight years. How do you manage recovery as a touring musician? I feel like that's probably the most triggering profession you can possibly have.

CH: I've been clean for six years and in recovery for eight. It took me a couple years to figure it out. It's a life-or-death situation. It's not fun and games. People think that being addicted in a rock band is like party, party, party, party, girls, girls, girls, music, music, music. You know, it's not. It's miserable and it's just like addiction under a bridge. It's the same thing. It's not cool. It's give it up or die, man.

MT: President Trump's first State of the Union took place last week, which means it's been a year since 3 Doors Down performed at his inauguration. What went into your decision to do something that could potentially alienate some of your fan base?

CH: Let's see, the people that were mad about us for playing the inauguration didn't like us anyway. And it didn't do anything to our fanbase but strengthen it. We had a No. 1 record the day after we played the inauguration. It hasn't slowed us down or affected us one bit. Honestly, we don't care.

We stand up for what we believe in, and the people that said we were done and ruined ... look, I'm talking to you a whole year later about doing a tour, and we're still doing it and it's still the same as it was and it's still great. People get all upset about stuff; if you don't believe what they believe, they want to get all mad and put you down. That's unfortunate that it's like that, but that's what we live in. Oh, well.

MT: Yeah, but that's kind of a risk, right? As a band, were you all on the same page about headlining a controversial event? Was there some pushback? Or because of your shared political beliefs, was it all systems go?

CH: You know, it wasn't a Trump thing. That's what people don't understand. It was the inauguration of a president of the United States of America. Get a grip.

Like, this is history-making stuff. It's a one-in-a-lifetime chance to do something for your country. So that's why we did it. There was no pushback. The only pushback came from people on the internet that didn't like us to begin with, and didn't like Trump, and are never going to like Trump.

MT: So if Hillary Clinton would've been elected and you were invited to play her inauguration, you would have said yes?

CH: Absolutely. It wasn't about that for us, it was about that for everybody else. We weren't out there bashing Hillary Clinton, we weren't out there bashing Barack Obama, we weren't out there doing any of that stuff. We were just supporting our country.

MT: It's been a very polarizing topic as far as what people on the internet seem to think.

CH: Yeah, so the internet says what exactly?

MT: There seem to be a lot of people who think that by playing the inauguration means you support a sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, out-of-touch president.

CH: Yeah, I mean, well you know all that stuff you just mentioned is just agenda, talking-point bullcrap made up. No one really knows the truth about anything. People can say what they want to say and blah, blah, blah. But you know what? It is what it is.  

MT: So is that your final word to anyone who's up in arms about your politics?

CH: Yeah, no one really cares. No one really cares what anyone really thinks at the end of the day, anyway. No one's ever [gone] on the internet and changed anyone's mind really about politics, about anything.

You stand up for what you believe in. If they want to make it about all those things that you just said — all the negative things — then that's their deal. They can do that. I told you about what it was for us; it was about an opportunity to support our country, number one. And that's what it was.

3 Doors Down will play an acoustic set on Sunday, Feb. 11 at Sound Board at 7:30 p.m.; 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-309-4614; soundboarddetroit.com; Tickets are $42-$55.

To learn more and to donate to the Better Life Foundation visit their website at thebetterlifefoundation.org.