By Nick KrewenSpecial to the Star
Wed., May 4, 2022timer6 min. read
When the town of Mayfield, Kentucky, was levelled by an EF4 tornado in the middle of the night on Dec. 10, Three Days Grace decided to offer a helping hand.
The hard rock band from Norwood, Ont. — less than a two-hour drive from Toronto — decided to travel to Mayfield, population 10,000, and witness the destruction for themselves.
Then they opted to film the video for their latest song “Lifetime” on location, dedicating the song to the people of the town, which lost more than 20 people and 15,000 homes and buildings to the disaster, and pledging $1 (U.S.) for every ticket sold on their current U.S. tour to help with the rebuild.
Three Days Grace drummer and keyboardist Neil Sanderson is still haunted by what he witnessed.
“It was crazy, just to see it with our own eyes,” said Sanderson, speaking on behalf of singer and guitarist Matt Walst, bass player Brad Walst and lead guitarist Barry Stock.
Sanderson, whose band launched its new album “Explosions” on May 3, said the tragedy struck close to home for guitarist Stock, who lives in Southern Indiana.
“Barry had debris in his backyard from the next state over — that’s how big the tornado was — and he also knew some people personally who were affected by it,” Sanderson explained.
“There was this kind of element of nobody was talking about it because there was a lot of other stuff going on in the world that we all know about. And it was kind of like this forgotten disaster and we thought, ‘Why don’t we go down there and check it out?’
“But before we went down, we reached out to the mayor. We reached out to the head of education. We weren’t going to just go and film it for a video and then say, ‘See ya later.’ So, we basically said, ‘If we come down there to raise awareness, get people talking about it and listen to some stories, then we’re going to do some stuff to help you guys out’ and they welcomed us with open arms.”
The video features singer Matt Walst walking through town, lip-synching some of the song’s lyrics — and some Mayfield citizens sorting through the debris of what’s left of their homes.
“We shot it down there sort of documentary-style,” said Sanderson. “This song is kind of about loss, but sort of redemption through loss.”
As for his own firsthand observation of the wake of the tornado — which travelled 266 km and stayed on the ground for three hours — Sanderson said the scene was surreal.
“The craziest thing is that you see a pile of rubble that was somebody’s house, or somebody’s store or restaurant, and in and among that you’ll see a menu and realize that must have been a restaurant. Or you’ll see toys or shoes … and then it kind of starts to hit you differently: These are people’s lives. These are people’s homes.
“What I didn’t find down there was a lot of hopelessness, which is kind of redeeming in a time like this.”
Since the 2003 debut of their hit “I Hate Everything About You” (featuring original singer Adam Gontier, who departed the band in 2012), the quartet have owned the Billboard U.S. mainstream rock charts, scoring a record 16 No. 1 hits, including their recent “So-Called Life,” released late last year and the first audio glimpse of their newest and seventh album, “Explosions.”
As with such previous hits as “Animal I Have Become,” “Painkiller” and “Right Left Wrong” — songs that have mined the introspective depths of internal reflection, romance and society in general with therapeutic resonance — Three Days Grace continue to observe and interpret life around them with “Explosions.”
The band plays Burlington’s Live on the Lake on June 11 and will appear in Toronto as part of a cross-Canada tour in November.
Sanderson said the title of the album and the song refer to the crackling tension simmering in our souls.
“This whole record, there was definitely a common thread going through it of everybody having that boiling point inside of them,” he explained. “It’s not necessarily a boiling point out of anger and frustration, but it’s … the need to express yourself and be yourself, and to say what you want and do what you want.
“‘Explosions’ represents that boiling point of something ticking inside of you that’s going to come out and explode. I don’t know if that’s always the best option, if it turns into something that’s destructive — and then a song like ‘So-Called Life’ contemplates the fact that you’re at that point and either you are going to explode or you’re going to find something to take the edge off, fill that void, distract you or kind of calm you down, whatever that is.”
Sanderson, who writes many of the group’s lyrics, said he keeps the connection with people through eavesdropping whenever he’s out and about.
“I carry around a little pad of paper and I listen to people’s conversations,” he said. “That’s where I get a lot of lyrics from: just listening to other people talking and getting little nuggets, like titles.
“I start with titles and expand from there. But the one thing that’s never changed about Three Days Grace is that we write about everyday experiences that we go through as normal people and the lives of people around us.”
It has obviously been effective: Three Days Grace have sold over 10 million albums and singles combined around the world, have 8.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify and their top 10 songs are approaching two billion cumulative streams, also on Spotify.
“I think one of the most powerful things is when a fan listens to a song we wrote just sitting around as dudes and says, ‘That song changed my life,’ or ‘I thought I was the only person that felt like that and I heard your song and I realized I wasn’t really alone,’” said Sanderson.
Like everyone else, Three Days Grace was impacted by the pandemic but, for them, it fell on a year that they had decided to take off following two intense years of touring.
“In some ways, we got fairly lucky,” said Sanderson. “We toured so much in 2018-2019, just constantly — we did a lot of stuff in Europe and Russia — and we decided that we were going to take 2020 off of touring. Obviously, it ran into 2021 and, by that time, we had figured out some different techniques to collaborate remotely. So we were able to do a pretty good job of efficiently co-writing over the internet.”
Sanderson said the hiatus added a year to the production of “Explosions,” but they knew they had something when the seeds of “So-Called Life” began to germinate.
“For us, it comes down to having that first song where we’re like, ‘Wow, we can’t wait to drop that one!’
“We believed in that song from the get-go and we used a new mixer, Dan Lancaster, who’s been mixing (the band) Bring Me the Horizon for a couple years and just mixed the new Muse album.”
There are some strong rockers on the set, co-produced by Howard Benson (Seether, Billy Talent). Among such heavy hitters as “A Scar Is Born,” “Chain of Abuse” and “I Am the Weapon” is a seemingly random and obscure collaboration.
Toronto’s Lukas Rossi, if you recall, was the winner of the 2006 CBS rock music reality show competition “Rock Star: Supernova,” where he became lead singer of the band that also featured Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee, Metallica’s Jason Newsted and Guns N’ Roses’ Gilby Clarke.
Unfortunately, the band Rock Star: Supernova flamed out before it could enjoy any success, leaving Rossi in the lurch, but on “Explosions,” Rossi duets with Three Days Grace on the song “Neurotic.”
“Lukas and I are bros,” said Sanderson. “He and I actually released a version of the song ‘Neurotic’ on this side project we had for two seconds called King City. He splits his time between Nashville and L.A. and I always loved his voice. Three Days Grace fans were saying the band should do it because it’s such a killer song. So we thought, ‘Let’s do a heavier version and feature Lukas on it’ so that’s what we did.”
Nick Krewen is a Toronto-based freelance contributor for the Star. Reach him via email: email@example.com
Report an error
- Journalistic Standards
- About The Star
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Anyone can read Conversations, but to contribute, you should be a registered Torstar account holder. If you do not yet have a Torstar account, you can create one now (it is free)
Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the
Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.