Three Days Grace: the meaning of its music and new album, ‘Outsider’

Canadian rock icons, Three Days Grace (commonly stylized as 3DG), are known for the power of their music. The music is used as a tool that ultimately speaks for now multiple generations of adolescents. Anthems such as I Hate Everything About You and Animal I Have Become launched their career into a worldwide phenomenon during the mid-2000s.

With 13 No. 1 singles, 3DG challenges the likes of hard rock legends, Van Halen. The four-time Juno Award-winners currently stand with over 1.35 billion streams on Spotify and their first three albums have each been certified platinum.

Two decades in the making and Three Days Grace show no signs of slowing down. In fact, they’ve been rejuvenated into something even more monstrous.

Brad Walst of Three Days Grace performs at the RBC Bluesfest at LeBreton Flats on July 15, 2018 in Ottawa.

3DG’s latest release, Outsider (2018), serves as their sixth studio album. After just flying back from a huge European run, they’re currently promoting the critically acclaimed release and are underway on a 16-date coast to coast Canadian tour.

Bassist and co-founder Brad Walst kindly took the time to sit down with Global News on his day off to detail the album, share the band’s philanthropic efforts and ultimately provide an in-depth update on what’s to come from the 3DG camp.

Global News: Can you tell us a little bit about the Outsider tour, Brad?
Brad Walst: Things have been great so far. We’ve been really busy recently, we just finished our European tour with Bad Wolves and immediately launched into this one. We were with Fozzy for five shows on the East Coast and Quebec and now we’ve just met up with the guys from Bad Wolves again.

Is it nice to return home to Canada for some hometown shows?
Oh yeah, absolutely. We haven’t done a Canadian tour in three years now. We’re proud Canadians so it’s always nice to come home. To do a cross-country tour is just amazing. We’re home in Ontario again now.

Do you guys ever stop?
[Laughs] We’ve got a couple of days off before Hamilton and we’ll wrap this one up in December. Then we’ll be out on the road again with Disturbed early next year. We’re meeting in California for a full North American tour. That’s going to be really great because it’s only the two of us. It’ll be a really special tour.

Can you tell us the meaning behind your latest single, Right Left Wrong?
It’s relative to the feeling of wanting to get away from something that’s controlling your life. It’s a powerful message that shines through the heaviness of the music, especially at the end, where Matt gets really ramped up. We found that the song really resonated with our fans.

Would you say that it speaks to the themes of the album as a whole?
Definitely! Outsider, Mountain was the first song we wrote, and we knew we had something special. We tried to keep that vibe and allow ourselves to retain that emotion. The process involved a lot of just talking and hanging out together. For us, music is therapy. We had a lot of laughs and we did a lot of crying. That’s where it all came from. We did our own thing, and we’re comfortable doing that. We have always looked forward, never backwards.

After having so much success is it daunting to try to impress your fans with new music?
[Laughs] It’s never easy. It’s funny because we’ve done this for so long, but it’s still the same. Some songs take forever and then some you can write in just 10 minutes. It’s just the nature of the beast. We’ve always really enjoyed the process of creating music, but just recently we made a big change to that process. We moved out of Toronto. We’ve always done the writing there, in the same rehearsal space for the last 15 years.

Getting ready to Rock Wiesbaden Germany tonight! Photo by @harryreesephoto

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For this one, we decided to get out of the city. We actually went to my house up in Norwood, Ontario. We were surrounded by wildlife and there were no neighbours or anything. We were secluded. So we built up a studio and had a load of fun. Spending time with nature was nice. We hung out over bonfires, rode snowmobiles and it was all just really enjoyable.

Luxurious! Do you think this will be the new tradition for recording?
[Laughs] Oh yeah, I think so. We’ve all moved out of the city that way anyway. Matt [Walst] just recently moved towards me, so we’re really close now. Neil [Sanderson] even has a cabin up there. It speaks to us because we’re small-town country boys at heart. It’s definitely in our comfort zone. I’d be happy to keep doing it.

Speaking of Matt, it’s only his second album with the band and the feedback has been insane. Did you ever expect that?
Absolutely! You can really hear how he came to, especially with this record. He brought a lot of great ideas to the table. For Human (2015) we were all trying to figure things out, it was new territory. Definitely a bit of a whirlwind. I think we made a great record too, but with Outsider, it was just natural, all of us, including Matt, felt so comfortable. He’s a great writer and an amazing singer. It’s really cool and I think the fans have obviously heard that too.

Three Days Grace ‘Outsider’ publicity shoot on March 7, 2018.

Your music speaks out for youth in their own times of turmoil. Was that always the idea or just a form of your own emotional release?
That’s exactly what it was. We love to perform and create music for that reason. It’s important just to get it all out. It makes it feels better and it’s an even better feeling when a fan comes up to you and feels or has felt the exact same way. It’s happening more and more I find as our career progresses. A lot of the times it’s the younger kids who come up to us and say things like, “it’s never too late.”

Sometimes it’s the small gestures from fans that make the biggest difference. We love getting letters from the people we make music for. #3dg4life

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Never too Late seems to be a song that has saved some of these kids’ lives. It gets them through some real trouble and some hard times, which ultimately as an artist is the best payoff. It gives me goosebumps even talking about it. It’s pretty damn cool. The fact that music can change someone’s perspective like that is powerful.

Obviously, Outsider just came out, but do you think 3DG will stick to releasing an album every three years?
[Laughs] Honestly, we haven’t even started talking about it yet. It seems like that’s the pattern though. We take a year to write and then we spend the next two on the road. We have a little compact studio we can bring with us on the bus, so I think as we get into the new year, we’ll probably record some stuff and start getting some ideas for what’s to come. It’s hard to sit together as a group and be inspired while on tour though. Individually, we do our own thing. Once we’re actually home it’ll all come together.

How has the rise of streaming and the digital age affected 3DG?
It’s definitely hard to sell physical records now. It’s a dying platform, but luckily, we’re really well listened to on streaming platforms, like Spotify. Somebody asked me the other day, “how many streams do you have on Spotify?” I was like, “Jesus, I don’t know. Is that a thing?” So I actually asked our manager and they said, “1.35 billion streams worldwide.” I was blown away because I actually had no idea.

#TheOutsiderTour kicks off tomorrow in Canada! Who’s ready?! #3dg4life

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We’re not really knowledgeable on our own statistics, but streaming is such an awesome tool to be able to use. It helps bring in new fans too. I’m absolutely not against it, but I think for us, our bread and butter has always been the touring cycle. Nothing has changed there. The shows are still great and the fans are still coming. It’s really been an awesome ride so far.

Three Days Grace performs in Oshawa.

Have there been any talks of a live album in the future?
We’ve actually been talking about doing a potential acoustic tour. It’s something we tried recently on a radio promo tour. We broke down most of the songs and did full sets for some of the stations. We really enjoyed it too! So we actually discussed how cool it would be to strip it down and take that acoustic set on tour and potentially record it.

Do you ever reflect on the past when you play the old material?
Oh yeah! [Laughs] We still play a few of those old hits, and every single time I play through them I get a little nostalgic. It’s never a bad thing, but it’s funny to think that the new fans somehow know everything about the old stuff too.

Brad, could you tell us a little more about the Mountain of Hope project?
Yeah! Neil and Matt actually went out to Africa last summer after our tour with Avenged Sevenfold was cancelled. They had some time, so they went to visit this small village that we’ve been supporting in Kenya to help build a well. They said it was an amazing experience and once I have the chance, I’ll be out there in a heartbeat. Barry has a charity. I even have a charity — the James Fund — that I’ve been involved with for years and years too.

What an amazingly inspiring week in Kenya. Matt and I had the honour of meeting so many beautiful and resilient ppl. We experienced some heavy challenges that people are currently facing, but are clearly determined to overcome. Hope and bravery was around every corner we looked. One thing for sure is that music is a universal language. 3DG has always been about connecting people to overcome their struggles. We brought a team and captured the whole thing! We’ll be dropping lots more content soon so you can hopefully feel what we felt. Stay tuned… NS #3dg4life

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We’re all pretty involved with different charities and foundations and Mountain of Hope is basically an umbrella to support all of those charities that we support. So for the Canadian tour, we’re donating $1 from each ticket to the Mountain of Hope. That will go towards building the well in Kenya. It’s pretty cool actually.

So what should new Canadian fans expect on the Outsider tour?
Well, we’re gonna be bringing some of the new songs to the table, which is always exciting. We have such an extensive back-catalogue now, so it really works out, we even play stuff off of the debut album. We added a mid-section breakdown for the acoustic stuff too. It’s a wide variety of songs, including a cover. We always bring the energy and we love what we do. Playing live is our passion and we like to just see it as a party.

Three Days Grace ‘Outsider’ publicity shoot on March 7, 2018.

Where are you at with your career in 3DG after more than 20 years and what would you like to see happen next?
The future is strong for Three Days Grace. After playing for 20 years it obviously doesn’t get any easier, but we still love it and I don’t know what we’d be doing if we couldn’t play live anymore. I want to continue touring the world and we still have a lot of countries to go to that we haven’t seen yet, like China, Indonesia and other Asian countries. I think touring the world is our No. 1 priority and we look forward to every stop along the way. You’re first, Canada!

Three Days Grace are currently in the middle of the Canadian Outsider tour. After a couple of shows in Ontario, they will continue in the West before embarking on a full North American tour with Disturbed early next year.

Tickets are available through the official 3DG wesbite.

Remaining shows on the Outsider tour

** All shows with support acts: Bad Wolves and Nothing More **

Nov. 29 – Windsor, Ont. – The Colosseum @ Caesar’s Windsor
Nov. 30 – Oshawa, Ont. – Tribute Communities Centre
Dec. 4 – Winnipeg, Man. – MTS Place
Dec. 5 – Regina, Sask. – Conexus Arts Centre
Dec. 6 – Saskatoon, Sask. – SaskTel Centre
Dec. 8 – Calgary, Alta. – Grey Eagle Event Centre
Dec. 9 – Grand Prairie, Alta. – Bowes Event Centre
Dec. 11 – Lethbridge, Alta. – ENMAX Centre
Dec. 12 – Edmonton, Alta. – Shaw Conference Centre
Dec. 14 – Abbotsford, B.C. – Abbotsford Centre
Dec. 15 – Penticton, B.C. – South Okanagan Events Centre

[This interview has been edited and condensed.]

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