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Chris Henderson from 3 Doors Down

Chris Henderson is one of the two guitarists in the band 3 Doors Down, whose first album, The Better Life, has already sold 2.3 million copies. The first radio cut off the album, "Kryptonite," is currently the No. 1 song in the country, and has also made 3 Doors Down the first debut act to ever hit No. 1 on four of Billboard's radio charts -- and all without actually being released as a single. What's more, the next radio cut, "Loser," is on the same path. The song is No. 1 on two of Billboard's charts, and has made 3 Doors Down the first band ever to hit No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart with its first two radio tracks.

3 Doors Down formed as a trio in 1994 in Escatawpa, Mississippi, playing covers and originals around the area's few clubs. Henderson joined in 1997, and the band recorded an independent CD to sell at shows. Their big break came last year, when a DJ who had been playing "Kryptonite" on a local music show broke station rules by moving it to the morning show, igniting a buzz that made the song No. 1 at the station for almost six months. Republic Records, a division of Universal, caught wind of the excitement, and flew the band to New York for a showcase at the legendary CBGB. The label liked what they saw, and 3 Doors Down went from small town local band to major label contract and Top 40 stardom.

Despite the band's quick success, the 29-year-old Henderson is the polar opposite of what you'd expect from one in the throes of newfound rock stardom. He talks to us from the middle of a field in Escatawpa, hauling musical equipment from a trailer while he describes his new life. Henderson seems like a bowling buddy, the one who'll be there to lend you money or put you to bed when you've had one too many.

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GREEN: Was there a lot of dues paying for 3 Doors Down, or do you consider your success fairly quick?

CHRIS HENDERSON: Commercial success came very quick, but we did a six-year tour of Pascagoula and Biloxi, Mississippi. We paid our hometown dues.

You worked construction for years, right up until the band got signed. Did that prepare you for the rigors of life on the road?

If our manager calls and says 'you got a phone interview,' or 'you have to do TV,' I'll always look back and say this sure beats building. It keeps me focused and shows me what I don't want to go back to.

As the labels were courting you, how did you support yourselves? Were you all still working?

I was the last one to quit my day job. Todd and Brad and Matt had already quit their jobs, but I couldn't. I'm a homeowner, and I have two cars, and dogs, and I had to continue to support myself. But I was fortunate that the place I worked was able to see the opportunity I had, and didn't try to take that away from me. They let me take all the time I needed. They could have said 'Hey, you can't go, either stay or lose your job,' but they never did. And I missed a lot of time at the end. They were just like, 'You've been here for four years, you've done a great job, so have fun.'

How old were you when you bought your house?

Twenty-four. It's a three-bedroom. I was engaged at the time. That's over with now, so it's just me by myself.

You seem pretty responsible.

I try to keep my head above water, keep my nose clean. I spent some time in the military. I was in the Navy for four years, and stayed in the reserves for another seven. That can only help you. It taught me to get up in the morning and be responsible for more things than just what I'm supposed to be responsible for according to society. It gave me a whole different outlook on life, and how to deal with everyday problems.

A real character builder, huh.

I think so. I spent all those years with different people from all around the country, I wasn't just meeting people from Escatawpa, I was meeting people from Texas, Mexico, the Philippines, Germany, and learning to deal with different personalities, especially when the pressure is on. I think that helped me, because the tour bus is a melting pot of different personalities.

Do you have any idea how much money you'll make off this album?

No, not really. We haven't got the numbers yet. We like to see paperwork. Republic and Universal only release paperwork twice a year.

Has there been a financial benefit for you yet?

Definitely. I'm doing better than I ever have in my life. Like yesterday, my car broke down, and instead of saying 'Oh god, I have to work two weeks of overtime to pay for this,' I just went down and had it fixed.

When did you start receiving checks?

They're only released twice a year -- we haven't made any money from record sales. Bands live off of touring. When you get your record deal and start selling records, the odds are against you right off the bat. The record company puts $2 or $3 million into your promotion ...

... and you have to pay all that back.

Right, and you don't really get that many points off your record, so it's hard to do that. You have to sell a million, million and a half to recoup. And 90 percent of bands don't ever recoup.

So you make your money on merchandise and ticket sales?

Merchandise and ticket sales, and anything else that comes along, endorsements and things like that.

So how much money do you see yourself making this year?

A couple hundred thousand, maybe. That's just off of touring.

Are you an investor?

Oh yeah. I invest 25 percent of what I make.

How long have you been doing that?

About seven years.

Stock market?

Stock market and land, real estate. Residential. I haven't bought any commercial property, although I have been looking at some.

What stocks have you invested in?

I have to get my portfolio out, there are so damn many. I invest with an investor out of New Orleans, and I haven't been in touch with him for about six months, so I'm not prepared to answer that question right now.

How has it done for you over the years?

I've done pretty good. Probably between 16 and 18 percent return.

Do you steer yourself toward any one category of stock?

No, I just go where my broker tells me. I'm not a financial guru. I put my faith in them. I do keep my eye on it the best I can, but the last six or seven months I've been so busy.

Does the band discuss its financial future in terms of "rock 'n' roll is fickle, let's prepare in case this doesn't last?"

Oh yeah, we set the crew and band and everybody up with 401(k) because we know it's not going to last. The band invests as a group, and everybody invests individually.

Who helps the band with that?

We went to a broker in Mobile that all our families have worked with over the years. He was the natural choice -- no sense in changing when he's worked with everybody's mommy and daddy and uncle and cousin, so we looked to him to set the 401(k) up, and our business manager in New York set up the band's investments, and individually we set up our own.

What is your most important consideration where money is concerned?

Being able to have something to fall back on. I'm not really worried about being terribly, terribly rich, as long as I'm comfortable.

-- Posted: Oct. 5, 2000

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