3 Doors Down guitarist Chris Henderson talks perfect pitch, their Phoenix concert | Phoenix New Times

3 Doors Down guitarist Chris Henderson talks perfect pitch, their Phoenix concert

3 Doors Down guitarist Chris Henderson shares what keeps him grounded before the band's Phoenix concert tonight.
3 Doors Down
3 Doors Down 3 Doors Down

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With their penchant for cathartic lyrics and intense alt-rock instrumentals, 3 Doors Down has given their fans an open-door therapy session for nearly 30 years. Now, to celebrate their sophomore album “Away from the Sun,” the group is on the road performing songs from that album as well as some of their other hits, their biggest being “Kryptonite,” a single from their debut LP "The Better Life" released in February 2000.

Guitarist Chris Henderson has been with them throughout their multi-platinum lifespan. He says his experience in the U.S. Navy helps keep the band unified. 

“Every band’s different, every family’s different, and it’s just a family is all it is,” he tells Phoenix New Times in a phone interview. “You gotta figure the inner workings of the family, out then figure out how to keep your job, you know. The Navy definitely taught me a lot about that. It’s not the easiest job in the world to get, number one. And not the easiest job in the world to job keep. And then, uh, definitely not the easiest job to repeat. So, you know, all those things going against it already. But you gotta have thick skin.”

Coming in toward the tail end of the grunge era, 3 Doors Down was labeled as such. They were called post-grunge, alt-rock and even Southern rock. But Henderson doesn't like any of those titles.

“It was all rock 'n' roll at the end of the day, and stations were playing all of it anyways. And then by the time the stations started going belly up — a lot of them did — they're playing all the same music, you know, the same 20 bands and, uh, I don't know, all those labels worked out great but um, they called us post-grunge; I don't really know what that even means.”

Henderson was born in Mississippi. As a kid, he knew there was something about the way he listened to music that made him different from everyone else. He questions calling it a sixth sense, but that’s probably the best definition. He recalls knowing immediately if something was out of tune.

“They call it perfect pitch,” he says, “but I don't think it's really perfect pitch. I can understand, like, the wavelengths between notes because, out of tune, they vibrate and you can hear the vibrations. So if you know that, you can tell the stuff out of tune. I could hear when people were singing out of tune and I was about the only one who could. So I knew back then there was something going on, you know, that I had some sort of musical thing.”

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3 Doors Down; Chris Henderson pictured far left.
Courtesy 3 Doors Down

Henderson says his first guitar was a Harmony Acoustic from Sears. It stayed in his living room closet for years before he started taking lessons at about age 6. His instructor showed him how to tune the fourth and fifth frets and listen to the beats between notes, “so, whenever the guitar was in tune with itself, I could hear it.”

Once he understood that, he went on to learn how to read the first three notes on the E string, “and I was like 'I don’t need [the teacher] anymore. I just never went back and I started self-reading music and that’s how it happened.”

Throughout the success and the touring and all the hustle and bustle of being a rock star, it might surprise some people to know part of what keeps Henderson stable are his little dogs. One in particular: a miniature grey dachshund named Little Babes who is back home awaiting his return from the road.

“I love her,” he says. “Oh, my God she's something else man. And, and I got her for $300. I say I rescued her because the guy was trying to give her away. But he told me you can have it for $300 because ‘she looks funny.’ That's what he told me. She grew into this perfect little miniature with so much personality and she's very protective. And so, for me, like, she’s my baby. She sleeps up next to my neck, and the other ones do their own thing.”

Phoenix is the 16th stop on the band's “Away from the Sun" anniversary tour. Henderson says that he loves the city’s music scene and in fact live in Tempe in the early '90s. One of his fondest memories was watching the Gin Blossoms perform in local bars.

From a department store guitar in his living room closet to playing in an arena full of thousands of screaming fans, Henderson continues traversing his rock and roll story arc and making it through to the other side. He has two families; one at home and one on the road. Perhaps the tattoo around his right wrist is a reminder of what it takes to have both: They are the lyrics to “Here Without You.”

3 Doors Down "Away From the Sun" Anniversary Tour: With Candlebox. Tuesday, July 18, 7:30 p.m.
Arizona Financial Theatre, 400 W. Washington St. Tickets available through Ticketmaster.
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