When Three Days Grace singer Adam Gontier was a little boy, he used to watch his mother play piano and sing at cafes and clubs. Not only was she his role model, she was also his prime motivator.
"She used to get me up in front of a lot of people to perform," he said. "She'd take me to jam nights where there was a house band. The first time I did that I was 10 years old. I got up in front of a room full of strangers and sang an Eagles song. From then on, I wanted to be a musician."
Fast-forward 15 years. Gontier is the one onstage with a guitar and a mic while his mom cheers from the audience. Three Days Grace's self-titled debut has sold more than 280,000 copies since its release six months ago, and the group has landed a radio hit with "I Hate Everything About You."
"It's cool when you see everything surface after you've spent so much time recording and writing the record," Gontier said. "You get out there, start playing and people sing the lyrics back at you. It's wild."
Once Three Days Grace were on the radio, it didn't take long for mainstream hard rock fans to embrace their churning riffs, hook-filled melodies and testosterone-fueled vocals. But success didn't happen overnight. In 1992 Gontier formed the band Groundswell in Norwood, Ontario, with bassist Brad Walst, drummer Neil Sanderson and two others. Five years later they shrunk to a trio and moved to Toronto. There they met producer Gavin Brown, who recorded their first demo for "I Hate Everything About You." It got them a deal, and Three Days Grace re-entered the studio with Brown to record their debut album.
The group hit the road a month before Three Days Grace was released and have remained there, with little time off, ever since. They're on tour with Nickelback, and when that stint wraps up at the end of February, they'll go out with someone else. It will be a year before the band's members can relax at home, but they're hardly counting the days.
"Becoming a successful band has been our goal for 10 years," Sanderson said, "so it makes you work that much harder when you realize your goals are becoming a reality. Once you get your foot in the door, you have to boot it open — you have to tour, tour, tour."
"I Hate Everything About You" still receives strong airplay, but when that begins to wane, Three Days Grace will leap back out with their next single, "Home," another song about belligerence and manipulation. "It's about taking a stand against someone who's pushing you down into a hole," Gontier said. "It's about losing hope and becoming frustrated about an oppressed situation."
Sanderson looks forward to releasing the song to radio so more fans will be familiar with it when the group plays it in concert. "You can really feel the energy when we do that song live," he said. "When you release a song on the radio, kids become extremely aware of it. With that song in particular, I think the room is gonna be intense."