Excerpted from the magazine for Billbaord.com.

Call it a sign of the times: The release date for the new album by 3 Doors Down was set before the band had written the first note.

That's because 3DD's managers struck a deal with Wal-Mart nearly a year ago that guaranteed a large buy-in for the album and ensured tremendous exposure for the band, but it also created a nearly immovable deadline.

"Seventeen Days," so named for the amount of time the band had to write the songs, bows Feb. 8 on Republic/Universal.

"We worked backward from the Feb. 8 date," says Universal Motown Records Group VP Tom Mackay, the band's A&R rep. "It was by far the most difficult record I've had to make. It was brutal."

First, there were the recording complexities, which included relocating from the band's home state of Mississippi to Nashville because of a hurricane and taking time off following the death of guitarist Chris Henderson's father.

"At the same time," Mackay says, "you're launching a record within your own company without the record being finished." Mackay notes that the group had an out clause if the material was not ready.

Co-manager Phin Daly says the preset release date was not a problem. "For this band, having a deadline is a driving force. [Lead singer/lyricist] Brad Arnold is the kid who never studies for an exam until he gets to the door of the exam room and then he aces it."

Arnold agrees that writing under such pressure did him good. "Otherwise, you end up lollygagging around," he says. "I like having the pressure." He says the band finished with more songs than it could fit on the album.

Arnold found one drawback in the process: "The only thing I would not do again is pick a single before the whole record is done," he says.

In fact, Mackay says, "the single was done first, mixed, mastered and in the can before they finished recording the other songs."

That first single, "Let Me Go," may not be Arnold's favorite song on the album (he reserves that honor for "Landing in London," which features Bob Seger), but it is resonating with fans. The tune was originally written for "Spider-Man 2," but the band decided to hold onto it, and it's already a top 10 track on Billboard's Active Rock chart and top 20 on the Modern Rock and Adult Top 40 tallies.

While there are midtempo ballads like "Let Me Go" on "Seventeen Days," the project largely showcases the band's harder edge.

"A lot of times, you write what you long to play live," Arnold says. "With the last record softer, we wanted something more gritty this time."

To that end, the band enlisted producer Johnny K (Disturbed), who Mackay says ran a very tight ship. "He's from the south side of Chicago; he's very blue collar. There's no way we could have gotten it done with someone else."

Mackay feels that with the third album, the band has truly found its voice. "They have made a Southern rock record," he says, noting album opener "Right Where I Belong," which recalls Lynyrd Skynyrd.

With its first two studio albums, the group -— which also includes Matt Roberts (guitar) and Todd Harrell (bass) —- has established itself as a strong rock band that enjoys success at radio and retail.

3DD has logged six No. 1s on various Billboard charts, including "When I'm Gone," which was the most-played song at radio in 2003, according to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems.

That song and another monster hit, "Here Without You," were featured on the band's 2002 album, "Away From the Sun," which has sold 3.3 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Its predecessor, 2000's "The Better Life," which included 3DD's breakthrough hit, "Kryptonite," has sold 5.2 million.

The success of the band's albums has helped Arnold meet his goals early. "I wanted to have a gold record, I wanted to play music for a living and I wanted to be married, and I've done all that," he says.

So he set new goals: Meet Willie Nelson, and play for and meet President Bush. First, he met Nelson. Then he checked off the second goal Jan. 18 when 3DD played America's Future Rocks Today, the inaugural-week concert staged by Bush's daughters. The group also played the Recording Industry Association of America's Inaugural Ball Jan. 20.

"What am I supposed to do now?" Arnold jokes.

3DD hits the road for a two-week tour starting Feb. 12 at the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, in conjunction with the Budweiser Shootout NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.

After the East Coast kickoff, the tour of 1,800- to 3,000-seat venues will concentrate mainly on dates west of the Mississippi. After the U.S. dates, the band heads to Europe for a promo tour, followed by Australia, where it hasn't played since 2001.

The second leg of the U.S. tour starts mid-April and will consist predominantly of 8,000- to 10,000-seat Southeastern venues. Following a run through the European festival circuit in June, 3DD will return stateside for a July-October stint of arenas, sheds, fairs and racetracks.





Excerpted from the Feb. 5, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.

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