Before the Nottingham date of their UK and European Tour, SlantedPress caught up with Matt Walst, the lead singer of Three Days Grace, to discuss Outsider, life on tour and dogs.
The band released their sixth album, Outsider, in March this year and have since been riding on the waves of its success. As this is the second studio album the band has released, I ask Matt how it feels to have the new album out. “It feels good. I felt a lot more involved in this album than the previous one Human, I just felt like I brought more to the table in terms of melodic ideas and lyric ideas.”
With the band members clearly settled into their new dynamic, I ask Matt if there was any specific moment or experience that inspired the concept of this album. “Well, we called it Outsider because we actually wrote it out in the middle of nowhere. I think the theme of the record is like, you’re exposed to so much with social media (I’m not hating on social media), but it’s constantly in your face every time you pick up your phone. It’s sometimes good to get outside of that and take a look at the world, and then write about the world from an outside view.” The approach to this theme of being an outsider seems more positive than quite a lot of Three Days Grace’s previous albums. Their second most recent album Human felt dark, so I ask if the light-heartedness of Outsider reflects how Matt feels at this stage of his life and career. “I think there’s a good balance of positive and negative. […] You know, you can’t be happy all of the time and you can’t be depressed all of the time, so I think this album is a good representation of a happy medium for sure.”
One of the best examples of this positive tone within Outsider is the single, ‘The Mountain’. Since reaching number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart in March, ‘The Mountain’ is still being praised amongst Three Days Grace fans as an uplifting anthem. With some fans going so far as to get tattoos inspired by the song, I ask Matt if the impact the band’s music will have on their listeners is central to his thoughts during the creative process. “Yes, for sure. When we were writing mountain, it was right around the time that Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell passed away… I understand how that feels, I’ve dealt with depression my whole life. It just comes on and it’s hard to get through it sometimes. It’s like a giant wall, you don’t even know why it’s happening and it’s hard to get past it. I feel like for me, that song is the Mountain and you’ve just got to get through it, keep climbing and not give into the temptations of just ending because it does get better. Just keep climbing.” It’s inspiring how Matt has been able to turn negative aspects of his life into a positive message for the masses, and I feel that Matt’s sentiments really sum up the message of the band.
A lot of Three Days Grace’s music concentrates on supporting people who feel like outsiders, so I ask Matt if the band has ever considered working with a charity or starting their own charity to support people in a new way. “Actually, I just got back from Kenya just over two weeks ago. Myself and Neil (drums, keyboard and backing vocals) went over there and I think we’re going to be working with a charity at some point to get some clean water, help out some schools, some disabled kids. Yeah, we wanted to see what we could possibly do, and I feel like it’s going to be good to get involved with some organisation - it’d probably be World Vision - and just try to do better in a place that we haven’t really been in before. These people need help and yeah, it’ll be good for us to help them.” His enthusiasm for his latest trip was evident, so I ask Matt what the experience of going to Kenya was like for him. “It was amazing! It was eye opening and sad, happy, many different emotions in one, but it’s a beautiful country […] At the end we stayed at a reserve and they have a man-made watering hole, so at seven o’clock, thirty-five elephants would come in. They’d be fifteen feet away from you and you could watch them drink water. It was amazing - it was an experience that I’ll never forget for sure.”
With the band already part-way through their UK and European tour, I ask Matt how he feels about touring. “There are moments when it’s fun, like onstage it’s so worth it. It’s like a drug though because you get hyped up, get up on stage, it’s all this energy, energy, energy and fun, and then after, sometimes you go to your hotel room and you’re just by yourself. You go from being in front of thousands of people that are having so much fun, and then you’re alone and its just like, well what now?” He pauses to try and explain the change in energy through hand gestures. “You get that high and then you’ve got to crash. I chug a bunch of red bull before I go on stage, which probably isn’t good, so I’m wide awake after like ugh, why can’t I sleep?”
He laughs and shrugs it off, so I ask if there are any things from home that he misses most when he’s on the road. “My girlfriend and my dog. I have a black lab; his name is Buddy. He’s a big sock too, he’s the cuddliest dog, he’ll just cuddle with you. I’ve had two black labs and the first black lab was nice, but he wasn’t like this guy. You can just flop this guy over and he’s like a big teddy bear. It’s so funny. I wish I could bring him with me, that would be amazing.”
Matt’s eyes light up as he’s talking about his family, so I ask if he’s ever considered bringing them with him on tour. “We have a few times, yeah. I think on the big tours we’ll definitely bring our families out. One of the guys in Starset has a dog named Ernie. It’s like a little pug kind of thing and he brings it everywhere. I’m jealous because could you imagine a black lab being on here [the tour bus]? He’s so excited when he sees new people too, so it’d be a nightmare for him out here, he’d be wagging his tail all over the place.”
With Matt having found his feet and fully settled into his role in Three Days Grace, fans have a lot to look forward to for their current European tour. The band has already rocked stages across the UK and will be bringing their tour to a close in Canada this December.