3 Doors Down, Todd Harrell, Down Home Flavor

TODD HARRELL HAS DRIVEN THE 3 Doors Down hit machine for the past 15 years, anchoring scores of hits and setting some of rock’s most memorable hooks.

TODD HARRELL HAS DRIVEN THE 3 Doors Down hit machine for the past 15 years, anchoring scores of hits and setting some of rock’s most memorable hooks. Harrell has always prided himself as a meatand- potatoes player, favoring straightforward bass playing to bells and whistles. With his band’s fifth studio release, Time of My Life, he gets to rock melodically while riffing and refining at all the right moments. Harrell became a student of his instrument through the recording process, embracing different feels and utilizing vast tones.

How do you view your role in 3 Doors Down?

Lay down the groove and keep the flow. I love playing and performing, and my groove reflects that. Anybody who plays for a living is bound to get better, and from the first record to this one, I’ve found my playing has become more cohesive.

How did you approach the studio with your playing?

Our producer, Howard Benson, challenged me to add more complexity to my bass parts. The beauty was just trying things; if they worked, they were typically genius on his part.

Plus, there was so much gear that I felt like a kid in a candy store. I was able to try different tones, basses, and effects as well. All of our prior records were completely straightforward; on this recording I felt like I really spread my wings.

“Round & Round” has a great feel.

Brad [Arnold, lead vocalist] and I were in the studio and I started playing that cool bass line and he felt a drum beat immediately so he started riffing with me. [Arnold also plays drums.] Both of those elements helped him come up with the lyrics on the spot. The bass is driving the song and it came really naturally.

“Time of My Life” evokes early 3 Doors Down.

I channeled my inner rock star for that one. It has so many great pulls and pushes that it was exciting to play the bass. I felt like I went back to my roots laying that track down.

Who is one of your personal bass heroes?

Harrell (left) and Matt Roberts.

I’ve always loved Sting; his tone has always inspired me. When we played the American Music Awards, he was sitting right in front of me. In my mind, he was the only person in the arena. It was a little intimidating at the time—I felt like he was staring right at me.

How would you describe your playing style?

People have always told me that I’m a laid-back person. My feel on the bass has always been that way, as well. Playing the bass has always felt right to me; I just seem suited to be the bass player. 3 Doors Down writes songs that everyone can relate to, and I’ve always felt like I’ve played the bass in the same way—not many frills, but playing exactly what the song needs every time.


3 Doors Down, Time of My Life [Republic, 2011]


Bass 1962 Fender Precision with a modified Fender Jazz neck
Rig Ampeg SVT-CL heads with 4x10 cabinets
Strings D’Addario XL160 [.045–.105]


Todd Smallie: Country Ghetto

FROM HIS 15-YEAR TENURE AS A 6-STRING jazz/blues accompanist/soloist with the Derek Trucks Band to his duty as an R&B groove machine with JJ Grey & Mofro, Todd Smallie relies on his Atlanta Institute of Music education to navigate circumstances with subtlety and nuance.

Kasim Sulton: Rocking For Utopia with Todd Rundgren and Meat Loaf

“I WAS SHOCKED WHEN I GOT KICKED out of my first band because I didn’t have a bass amp,” says Kasim Sulton. “I promised myself I would show those guys!” At age 14, Kasim began on bass by shedding on the techniques of ’60s rockers like Paul McCartney. Since 1976, Sulton has been a lynchpin in guitarist Todd Rundgren’s ensembles— including Utopia—and he recently joined “The Runt” as he performed his 1973 progressive opus A Wizard, a True Star live in its epic entirety. (That band’s current lineup includes Tubes drummer Prairie Prince, Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes, and longtime GUITAR PLAYER contributor Jesse Gress.) Sulton’s other long-running gig is with Meat Loaf; he played on the Rundgren-produced 1977 classic Bat Out of Hell, and he is currently Meat’s musical director.