Hometown crowd never gave up on 3 Doors Down _lowres

Photo provided by Steve Karas -- Brad Arnold is a singer with 3 Doors Down

When 3 Doors Down performs Sunday in Champions Square in New Orleans, the nationally known rock band will be close to where it all began.

Now based in Nashville, Tennessee, 3 Doors Down is originally from the small town of Escatawpa, Mississippi. In 2000, the band soared out of Mississippi on the melancholy wings of its first hit, “Kryptonite.”

Arriving in the post-grunge rock era, 3 Door Down’s debut album, “The Better Life,” eventually sold more than 6 million copies. More hit songs followed “Kryptonite,” including “When I’m Gone” and “Here Without You.” More million-plus-selling albums, too.

In the late 1990s, when 3 Doors Down was still little known, the group played along Interstate 10, including a few stops in New Orleans. In a recent interview, singer Brad Arnold remembered playing for just three or four people at Jimmy’s.

The band’s popularity back home in Mississippi, however, was always a given.

“We were never that band that used to play for three or four people in a bar,” Arnold said from Nashville. “Our friends helped us out so much.”

Because there wasn’t much to do in the small Mississippi community where the members of 3 Doors Down lived, the young band’s weekend shows at the only bar around were packed.

“It seemed like almost every weekend we’d have 300 people there,” Arnold said. “And all of our friends supported us from the very start. I couldn’t be more thankful to them for that.”

In 1999, those friends were there when 3 Doors Down lobbied Biloxi radio station WCPR-FM to play the band’s original song “Kryptonite.”

“We begged WCPR for a year or so to play that song,” Arnold recalled.

After the station’s program director finally listened to “Kryptonite,” he told the band it was great. But the song still didn’t reach the air for months. After the program director listened to “Kryptonite” a second time, he finally broadcast it, on a Sunday night.

Luckily, a Universal Records rep, who’d also had a copy of “Kryptonite” but had never listened to it, caught WCPR’s broadcast of the song while he was driving on I-10. And then the radio station added “Kryptonite” to its playlist.

“It didn’t take too long before it became the most requested song they ever had,” Arnold said. “But I have to say, probably for those first three or four weeks that they were playing that song, the majority of the people requesting it knew us on a personal level.”

“Kryptonite’s” regional popularity attracted the interest of record companies. Universal, the company whose rep caught the song’s radio debut, ultimately signed 3 Doors Down to a recording contract.

“By the grace of God, we got signed,” Arnold said. “But we never really tried to get signed. We were just wanting to hear our song on the radio. And we wanted to go out and play shows, be bigger than we were at the time; but we were never really looking for a record deal. It just kind of found us.”

Before music stardom, the members of 3 Doors Down were just working-class guys. One of them worked at a ceramic coating plant in Pascagoula; another repaired boat motors; another was an electrician. Arnold rebuilt motors.

The band’s grass-roots rise happened like some fantasy they’d seen in movies.

“That’s not really how it usually happens,” Arnold said. “But it’s how it happened to us. I just couldn’t be more thankful and more grateful.”

Arnold is especially looking forward to the band’s upcoming show in New Orleans. Friends from Mississippi told him they’ll be there.

“As soon as that show announcement came online, people said, ‘Hey, man! Coming to the New Orleans show!’ So I’ll have plenty of friends there. I love it when they all come.”