In 2009, Adam Gontier’s voice and presence as the frontman of alternative rock band Three Days Grace was everywhere. Hits such as ‘Animal I Have Become’, ‘Just Like You’, and ‘I Hate Everything About You’ reverberated through the airwaves of every radio station.
After being platinum-certified in both the US and Canada off their 2003 self-titled debut album, the band’s 2006 follow-up One-X catapulted them to rock stardom. Gontier’s passionate vocal style, naturally husky sound, and lyricism chock full of the angst and torment that spoke to universal suffering made him a unique singer and someone that many teenagers and others living through hardships found relatable. Subsequent albums, 2009’s Life Starts Now and 2013’s Transit of Venus, continued with Gontier’s themes fighting through personal demons with a hint of positivity, a departure from the angry sound the band had become known for.
After a decade of generating hits with the band, Gontier departed in early 2013, an announcement that came with surprise and a bit of drama. A new singer, Matt Walst (formerly of My Darkest Days), took his place and the band moved on. (Saint Asonia’s 2015 single ‘A Better Place’, off their debut album, gives insight into feelings behind the split.) However, Gontier managed to remain a mainstay in the alternative subculture through the aftermath by collaborating with numerous bands. He worked alongside Apocalyptica on their 2007 album for the hit single ‘I Don’t Care’, and featured on Art Of Dying’s ‘Raining’, and Daughtry’s Leave This Town B-side track ‘Back Again’, plus others through providing musical arrangement, songwriting, and vocals.
As the frontman of rock supergroup Saint Asonia (with Staind guitarist Mike Mushok, bass player and backing vocalist Cale Gontier, and Art of Dying drummer Cody Watkins), Gontier has managed to bring his raw vocals and mastery of penning powerful to the band’s 2015 self-titled debut album and 2019 follow-up Flawed Design. With a new album, a new music video for the hit single ‘Ghost’ in which he collaborated with fans to bring a message of hope, and new material in the works, there’s a lot on the plate for the rock star.
We had the chance to catch up with the chill, blue-eyed rock frontman on Zoom, where we discussed making music after departing Three Days Grace, creative freedom, and Saint Asonia’s new music.
Your music has always addressed the hardships and difficulties of life in such a relatable way. Do you feel personal pressure to make songs that save people?
To be honest, yeah, I do feel a bit of that pressure, but not so much that it affects my songwriting process or lyrical content. I do think about that, for sure. Whether anyone in this business wants to admit it, it’s a huge industry, and a lot of people write songs that they think others want to hear. It’s always something you think about when a song is released on the radio, wondering what the reaction will be. It’s still great when writing helps me get through things, but it’s another world when it helps someone else.
Your departure from Three Days Grace was such big news when it occurred. Do you have any regrets from that period?
I don’t have any regrets about my decision to leave the group. There were a lot of valid reasons why I left. The way it went down could’ve been handled a bit differently, I think. That being said, in hindsight, it’s 2020. After years of reflection, I think that there are things that both the band and myself could’ve done differently. At this point, there are no hard feelings. I talk to a couple of guys fairly often. All is good on that front, for sure.
Do you feel like your lyrical content has changed since leaving TDG?
I’ve always written the same way, taking negative situations that I or people I know have been through and turning them into song ideas and lyrics. A bit of the content has changed because we’ve gotten older and have families and kids now. No matter where I am or a fan is in life, there are always challenges and tough times. I’m always going to write about the battles you face in life.
You’ve been with rock supergroup Saint Asonia since 2015. Do you feel a sense of creative freedom with this band as opposed to TDG?
There’s a lot more creative freedom with Saint Asonia, for sure. We’re not pigeonholed to a certain genre or having to write about things that I don’t necessarily feel. That’s why I started playing music and wanted to be in a band and perform. I wanted to do what I loved, say what I want to say, and have fun while doing it. I can definitely do that with this new band.
Let’s talk about your band’s most recent album, Flawed Design. Why did you choose this title, and what’s its meaning?
It’s sort of a commentary on humanity being flawed. We’re in a weird time where everyone is trying to be perfect, whether it’s on social media or somewhere else online. People tend to portray themselves as something they’re not for the most part. Maybe that’s not always the case. Flawed Design is about the fact that we’re all human, and we all make mistakes and have flaws. It’s about realizing, seeing, and embracing that.
The music video for Saint Asonia’s new single ‘Ghost’ marks the first time you’ve collaborated with fans to make a video. How meaningful and fun was that for you?
That was awesome! I’ve never done something like that before, collaborating with fans to do an official video. It was cool to get footage from fans worldwide, and it was a great way to connect with fans we’ve never met. Overall, it was a cool process.
The song ‘Ghost’ is about loss. Is it speaking to a personal loss or a collective sense of loss?
For me, it’s both. The song has been around for a long time, and it started with one particular feeling in mind, which was around the loss of a person in my life. The last couple of years have taken on a different meaning, and I wanted to write something that people can relate to. I imagine that the song will take on a new meaning once we hit the road and talk to fans about what it means to them.
You have another single, ‘The Hunted’, featuring Sully Erna of Godsmack. What’s the meaning behind the song?
It’s basically about feeling trapped in a situation you can’t get out of. That’s what it was about for me. Sully wrote some of the lyrics a few years back. It would be great for you to ask him and get his take on it too. When I recorded the vocals and rewrote the lyrics, I wrote about feeling trapped. It’s a situation I’ve been in plenty of times before, so I have a lot of experience there. (laughs)
Given the circumstances of the pandemic, how do you plan on promoting and supporting the album?
We don’t have any official plans right now. (The band did a virtual tour this spring and have posted concerts and covers on their YouTube channel.) Just like everyone else, we’re trying to figure out the next steps. We’re planning on doing a few online events, like live streams. It’s all up in the air until we can actually play shows again. We’ve come up with a lot of new material during quarantine, so when we can get into the studio and make a new record, we’ll be in good shape to do that. Whether we support this current record or a new one that we’re making when it’s safe to play again, we’re unsure about it.
With new music on the horizon and a planned tour for whenever it’s permissible to have concerts again, Adam Gontier is far from done making an impact on the rock music scene. His emotive singing style, relatable lyrical content, and palatable angst continue to give him a longstanding career in an entertainment industry where relevance can be fleeting. However, Gontier has managed to grow up with his TDG fans, gain fans through Saint Asonia, and continue to speak to universal hardships on stage and in song. All of us Saint Asonia — and Adam Gontier — fans look forward to hearing what he’s been working on.