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Three Days Grace: Life Lessons of Pain and Perseverance

If there’s one thing Three Days Grace frontman Adam Gontier is acquainted with, it’s Pain. The lead singer and guitarist of the immensely popular punk rock band from Norwood, Ontario Canada recently launched his “Three Days to Change Tour,” a solo acoustic set performed in rehabilitation centers and drug clinics across the county to show support for all who suffer from addiction and mental afflictions everyday and as a way of sharing his own story of addiction and depression. Adam Gontier checked himself into The Center for Addiction and Mental Health in 2006 in an effort to deal with the personal demons of isolation and addiction he had developed while touring.
Thanks to the help and support of his wife and band mates, Adam is now sober and in a much better place emotionally, touring to let people know that no matter how dark the horizon may seem for them, there is always hope. “I am forever indebted to the system that brought me back around and showed me how to live. I was shown that there was another way to live, and that if I tried hard enough, I could succeed at anything I put my mind to.” Adam stated on Three Days Grace’s website, where the tours dates, along with phone numbers to the Youth Crisis Hotline, the Center for Substance Abuse Hotline, and the National Mental Health Association can be found.
The website also features a posting board where individuals can share their own stories; an on-line community that hopes to cut through the loneliness felt by the depressed and despondent and reassures those who are in need of a real connection. It is through this need to connect to those in pain, coupled with their angst-ridden lyrics, pounding drums and ripping guitar chords, that Three Days Grace has made a powerful impact on their legions of fans, both in Canada, the United States, and abroad. Formed in 1997 with Adam Gontier on Lead Vocals and Guitar, Brad Walst on bass and back-up vocals, and Neil Sanderson on Drums, Three Days Grace became known as much for their tireless work ethic as for their heavy sound and their topical and compelling song writing style, playing for any venue that would have them while they were still finishing high school. After being introduced to producer Gavin Brown during the band’s relocation to Toronto, Three Days Grace eventually landed a recording contract with EMI records, laying down their debut album in the quiet, agrarian setting of Woodstock, New York to escape the distractions and pressures of being a young band working in a big city. EMI was not disappointed with their investment, as three days grace blasted their way onto the punk rock/emo scene with their self-titled 2003 debut and the hit single “(I Hate) Everything About You,” a raw, noise driven single powered by the sheer roaring force of Gontier’s vocals and the power behind their brand of energetic, explosively bass driven punk.
The single “Just Like You” dug into the dissatisfaction with the status quo and disenfranchisement with figures of authority with lyrics such as “You thought you were there to guide me/You were only in my way/You’re wrong if you think I’ll be just like you.” Dark and brooding by nature, their music connected well with youth and with those ostracized from the mainstream. They were soon one of the biggest punk acts in Canada, touring both as the headliner and as the opening act for some of North America’s biggest bands. But it was the riot and rampage of being a popular band after two years of touring that began to wear down the up-and-coming group, putting doubts on the future of the band. Completely separated from home and feeling lost and adrift among the sea of fans and other musical acts, Three Days Grace began to disintegrate from the inside, particularly their lead singer and vocalist, Adam Gontier. "At one point when we were on the road, I felt like I had a target on my back. I felt like there were a lot of things getting thrown at me that I had to deal with and I felt alone. I was the only one who could really understand myself," Gontier stated in a press release on their website. His band mates felt much the same way, but instead of allowing this loneliness and pressure to disintegrate the band and derail their career, they used it as the creative fuel for the next project. Retiring to Cottage Country in Northern Ontario, the band put together a collection of songs that honestly explored feelings of anxiety, desperation, and pain, as well as coming to grips with the complexity and empty gratification of a lifestyle that easily made available on the road.
The result was the bands sophomore album One-X, released in June of 2006 and reaching a staggering Number 5 on Billboard Top 200 upon its release. Introducing the band’s newest member, guitarist Barry Stock and backed by the powerful punk anthem “The Animal I have Become,” Adam’s confessional “Pain,” and the driving rock monster “Riot,” One-X cemented Three Days Grace as one of the premier punk acts in the world today, and that title is nowhere more evident then in the devotion of their ever expanding fan base. Three Days Grace lyrics have long explored the darker side of life, touring, and growing up, but in One-X the their writing sounds like the graffiti you could find scribbled in high school lockers, rehabilitation centers, or bathroom stalls. Raw and gritty, Gontier is not afraid to be up front about his own personal demons. In Pain, Gontier confronts his own self-destructive urges and lays them bear across the track: “Pain, without love/Pain, I can’t get enough/Pain, I like it Rough/Cause I’d rather feel pain then nothing at all.” Likewise “Anger and Agony/Are better then misery/Trust me I’ve got a plan/When the lights go up you’ll understand.” “Animal I have Become” explores the corrosive effect fame and performance can have on the individual, releasing within them a dark force that they previously kept under control. An exploration of the fascistic elements of being a rock and roll front man, Gontier uses the song to explain his own discomfort in living out the role of brooding punk star. “I can’t escape myself/So many times I’ve lied/But there’s still a rage inside/Somebody get me through this nightmare/I can’t control myself.” The song’s immense popularity helped drive the album and the band from their position as up-and-coming punk group to that of a mainstream rock band well beyond their home turf. But Three Days Grace’s lyrics have always struck a balance between a pessimistic outlook on world and an upbeat optimism by encouraging their fans to keep struggling against their problems, reminding them that they are not alone.
Rather then constantly dwelling on the negative, as their debut album tended to do, One-X reveals the change within the groups lead singer and their fresh outlook on the issues that were affecting them as a band. The track “Riot” challenges the listener to fight back against the feelings of desperation that plague them. “If you feel so empty only one/So used so let down/If you feel so angry/So ripped off so stepped on/You’re not the Refusing to back down/Your not the only one/ so get up.” Similarly the song “Never too Late,” which has become very popular due to Adam’s solo acoustic tour, encourages those who need professional help to go out and get it. “I will not leave alone/Everything that I own/To make you feel it’s not too late/It’s never too late.” Three Days Grace’s formula of heavy, guitar driven punk coupled with even heavier lyrics have left a lasting impression on a music industry which sees similar bands rise and fall in a matter of months. But Three Days Grace mp3’s and cd’s are strong sellers, indicating that the Canadian punk quarter has pulled away from the pack in the emo/punk/goth rock scene with other now accomplished acts such as Fall Out Boy, AFI, and Linkin Park. For the source of this popularity look no further then Adam Gontier’s “Three Days to Change Tour.” Three Days Grace have lived through very trying personal and professional times, and they are all the more relevant for it. Their experiences both on the road and off have given them an emotional base through which they can connect and reconnect with a fan base who are smart enough to tell when someone is speaking from the heart and when someone is just being patronizing. As Gontier himself puts it “"Having gone through these struggles, we are able to re-introduce ourselves and our music to our fans. It's time to let everyone else in on our lives over the last two years." In letting everyone else in, Three Days Grace has shown that they know Pain, and are now offering their music and their life stories as a comfort to those who know it as well.