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‘The Long Road’: The Story Behind Nickelback’s Full-Throttle Fourth Album
Warner Music
In Depth

‘The Long Road’: The Story Behind Nickelback’s Full-Throttle Fourth Album

Turbo-charged and unstoppably catchy, Nickelback’s fourth album, ‘The Long Road’, found the group speeding towards greatness.


Few bands have managed to traverse the often treacherous terrain of critical scrutiny and commercial success more successfully than Nickelback. Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, the band careened confidently through the rock scene of the early 2000s, following their breakthrough record, 2001’s Silver Side Up, with another post-grunge masterclass in the shape of their fourth album, 2003’s The Long Road. From the anthemic Someday to the controversial Figured You Out, the record raced its way into fans’ affections, defying both the industry’s prevailing trends while also challenging sceptics and critics alike.

A testament to frontman Chad Kroeger and co’s unyielding spirit, The Long Road saw Nickelback assert themselves as a freewheeling force of nature that defied the odds. This is the story of how they did so.

Listen to ‘The Long Road’ here.

The backstory: “We’ve all seen one-hit wonders and we desperately didn’t want to be that”

With the weight of fan expectation looming heavily over them, Nickelback knew that recording their fourth album was a make-or-break moment. Following the massive success of their single How You Remind Me, which topped the US Hot 100 and has now sold over four million copies in North America alone, the band realised that the pressure was on to keep the momentum going. “We were touring the world on the success of that song, we kind of looked at each other and went, ‘Holy shit, we made it,’” Chad Kroeger reflected in an interview with the Toronto Sun.

The group’s previous album, Silver Side Up, was already on course to sell over five million copies worldwide, catapulting Nickelback to fame and fortune, and guaranteeing the band top festival slots around the globe. However, Kroeger was determined to maintain the band’s commercial standing, and began crafting songs that would appeal to the demographic that had made How You Remind Me a hit. “It was more like, ‘How do we keep this going?’” the singer confessed. “Because we’ve all seen one-hit wonders and we desperately didn’t want to be that.”

The recording: “I allowed contributions from other people, which I don’t really like doing”

Recorded at Greenhouse Studios, in Vancouver, British Columbia, The Long Road began shaping up as a considerably weightier affair than its predecessor, reflecting Kroeger’s heavy-metal influences while retaining anthemic choruses made for drivetime radio. The band’s line-up remained consistent, however, with Kroeger on songwriting duty and his brother, Mike, holding the fort on bass, while guitarist Ryan Peake and drummer Ryan Vikedal locked into gear like a well-oiled machine.

However, what set The Long Road apart from Nickelback’s previous outings was Kroeger’s newfound openness to creative collaboration, particularly from a lyrical standpoint. This shift allowed his bandmates to bring their own ideas to the album, instantly giving its songs a fresh and previously unheard perspective. “I allowed contributions from other people, which I don’t really like doing,” Kroeger later said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. “I’m the one who sings [the songs] and I’m the one that has to believe in the words. But they came up with some really tasty stuff.”

The album’s lead single, Someday, released in July 2003, perfectly captured the essence of what Nickelback fans had been hankering for. Described by Kroeger as “a very How You Remind Me-esque song”, Someday instantly catapulted the group back into the spotlight with a chorus ready-made for any stadium singalong (“Someday, somehow/I’m gonna make it all right, but not right now”). Peaking at No.6 in the UK and No.7 on the US Hot 100, the song would go on to sell over 500,000 copies stateside and spend more than 50 weeks in the charts.

Recorded over a period of three weeks in Kroeger’s home studio, with producer Joey Moi, Someday reportedly contained more than a hundred tracks painstakingly added to the mix in round-the-clock fits of multi-layered inspiration. “We wanted to lay down as much stuff as we possibly could,” Kroeger told MTV. “There’s a ton of stuff there that the human ear can’t even detect. There’s mandolin in there, and you can feel it, but you can’t hear it.”

With Someday proving that Nickelback could indeed build on the chart-conquering success of How You Remind Me, fans were fully expecting The Long Road to find the band’s creative pistons pumping even harder than before. With the much-anticipated follow-up to Silver Side Up finally finished and ready to hit the shelves, Nickelback were ready to rack up more chart-conquering mileage.

The release: “It sounds like Pantera meets Metallica. That comes out of my roots”

Released on 23 September 2003, Nickelback’s fourth studio album, The Long Road sold 200,000 copies in its first week and peaked at No.6 on the Billboard 200 and No.5 in the UK. Exploring dark lyrical topics such as self-destructive behaviour, romantic estrangement and lashings of perverse crudity, the album was a no-holds-barred sucker punch that was as bruising and provocative as it was commercially dynamic, with the band dropping guitar tunings for a tougher, heavier sound. “It sounds like Pantera meets Metallica. That comes out of my roots,” Kroeger told Rolling Stone. “I’m a metal guitar player at heart.”

The second single from the album was the Figured You Out, a lyrically contentious rocker which featured a troubling portrayal of a female junkie and her low-life partner’s savage put-downs. “It’s about not knowing who you’re with,” Kroeger explained to Men’s Health, “entering a relationship with somebody and then realising they’re addicted to substances and they’re into things that you’re not into.” Though Kroeger himself has acknowledged the troubling nature of the song’s lyrics, he has stressed that the more vicious turns of phrase were actually intended ironically. “I think the fans get it,” Kroeger said. “They understand when we’re joking. For the average listener, who just has music on in the background, they’re probably not going to pay too much attention. Any irony falls on deaf ears.”

Elsewhere, Throw Yourself Away was plucked straight out of the news headlines, lyrically referencing the story of Melissa Drexler, who was nicknamed “The Prom Mom” after she gave birth at a high-school dance and dumped the baby in a trash bin. A gritty depiction of infanticide, the song shares with much of the album’s lyrics a tendency toward vexatious and agitative social observations, painting a grim picture of an unjust world full of troubled souls in the lower social strata nursing various degrees of trauma.

This is also apparent in Should’ve Listened, in which Kroeger mines the woebegone tropes of country-rock to depict a lover returning home to find all his belongings have been thrown out of the window (“Where the hell’s my credit cards?/Why’s my wallet in the yard?”). “It’s about coming home and everything’s gone,” the singer said. “It’s pretty much empty. All of your stuff’s waiting for you on the front lawn.” From broken homes to abusive partners, The Long Road was built on a wall of noise behind which toxic relationships and disturbed malcontents reside.

In March 2004, Nickelback released the album’s third single, Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good, which peaked at No.48 in the US, its on-the-nose lyrics seemingly portraying a dysfunctional relationship teetering on the brink of confrontation (“The two of us should probably start to fight/’Cause something’s gotta go wrong/’Cause I’m feelin’ way too damn good”). Going Top 40 in the UK, Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good gave Nickelback yet another hit, the group fully succeeding in their mission to prove that How You Remind Me was no mere fluke.

Given its controversial subject matter, The Long Road challenged some music critics upon its release, but as far as Nickelback fans were concerned, the album fit in comfortably with the gloomy, angst-ridden mood of an early-2000s alt-rock scene dominated by nu-metal firebrands and hip-hop provocateurs. After all, this was an era when P!nk gave voice to the children of divorce (Family Portrait) and Eminem spoke out about drug addiction in trailer parks (Cleanin’ Out My Closet). With this in mind, Nickelback’s raw expression of redneck miscreancy on The Long Road can’t have felt too far from home for the millions of people who bought the album.

The legacy: “We had to figure out a way to win or die trying”

Going on to sell over eight million copies, The Long Road became one of Nickelback’s best-selling albums, thanks to its gut-punching mix of grunge and metal-influenced guitars and fist-pumping choruses. As a songwriter, Chad Kroeger had upped his game with a laser-like focus. “If you study songwriting, you can learn so much. That’s why there are so many one-hit wonders – they don’t know how to write,” he told Rolling Stone. “They stumble onto it by accident once. I study everything – everything sonically, everything lyrically, everything musically, chord structure.”

Without a doubt, the album’s success owed much to Kroeger’s commitment to ensuring How You Remind Me would be just one example among many of the impact the best Nickelback songs could have. By going harder with the music and embracing more inflammatory lyrics, The Long Road took the group past Silver Side Up as they continued on their journey with their foot to the floor. “We couldn’t turn around,” Kroeger told the Toronto Sun. “We had to figure out a way to win or die trying.”

Showcasing their signature post-grunge sound while exploring deeper and more thought-provoking themes, the album secured Nickelback’s place among the best 2000s bands, proving beyond doubt they were here to stay. Fondly regarded by Nickelback fans as a significant milestone in the group’s discography, The Long Road is ultimately the sound of a band going full-throttle towards their goal, leaving in their wake gutsy rock anthems with a commercial appeal that would shape the post-grunge landscape.

Looking for more? Check out the best Nickelback songs.

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