Family: Matt Roberts of 3 Doors Down was home-grown musician

Matt Roberts, guitarist and co-founding member of 3 Doors Down, was found dead on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in a Wisconsin hotel.
Matt Roberts, guitarist and co-founding member of 3 Doors Down, was found dead on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in a Wisconsin hotel. SUN HERALD

Matt Roberts, a Moss Point native and founding member of the rock band 3 Doors Down, died Saturday in Wisconsin after practicing for a charity event to fund Honor Flights for veterans.

Roberts was 38.

His father, Darrell Roberts of Escatawpa, was in West Bend, Wisconsin, with him. Darrell Roberts told CNN that police investigators woke him in his hotel room at 8:50 a.m. Saturday to tell him Matt was dead. Police received a report and found Matt Roberts dead in the hallway of the hotel, CNN said. His father said Matt had struggled with drugs and anxiety his whole life. He left the band in 2012.

The cause of death was still unknown Sunday.

Matt Roberts grew up in Escatawpa with Brad Arnold and Todd Harrell, who formed the band in 1996, and was later joined by Chris Henderson, also from that area. The band became hugely successful after their single “Kryptonite” became a popular single on radio stations across the country.

3 Doors Down signed with Republic Records and enjoyed international fame with albums The Better Life and Away from the Sun as well as hits like “When I’m Gone” and “Here Without You.”

After leaving the band, “Matt was still passionate about music but was more behind the scenes,” said Liz Jenne, his first cousin in Escatawpa. She said he helped new musicians because he knew the business, and he toured some.

He was in Wisconsin this weekend for the event partly because 3 Doors Down has a huge fan base there. He was playing as guest guitar with the rock band NIX and practiced the night before he died. His father has the video, she said.

On the NIX Facebook page, the band showed a picture of Matt Roberts’ guitar and talked about how difficult it was and “how the band did our best to honor both Matt and the troops.”

3 Doors Down was truly a home-grown band, with members growing up in families that lived just streets apart. They were playing music together since the time they were in the Moss Point School District. Jenne said the band took off as Matt Roberts was graduating high school.

Years later, Matt’s father toured with him because “He liked having his father with him,” she said. They own a company together in Mobile that deals with industrial valves, based on Darrell Roberts’ experience with local industry. Matt was living in Mobile.

He leaves his father, mother Ramona Roberts and one brother, also named Darrell.

Jenne said that when they first formed the band, they would play for anyone and everyone.

“They just wanted to play in front of people, even if it was family,” she said. The tale is they wrote “Kryptonite” in algebra class in 10th or 11th grade in Moss Point, she said.

She remembers one family get-together at Roberts Fish Camp when they were young. They were playing “Blueberry Hill” and other old favorites for the grandmothers.

“The older ladies were dancing,” Jenne remembers. “Then the band asked if they could play one of their songs.”

She said when they started playing “Kryptonite,” the older people just walked off.

“I’ll never forget that,” she said. “They didn’t say anything; they just walked away.”

“None of us dreamed what they’d become,” she said.

Later, after the band skyrocketed to fame, she and her sister-in-law and friends would take a limo to see them play in New Orleans. She said they were real groupies for years, going back stage and hanging with the band when they could.

“It was really cool,” she said

She described Matt Roberts as “real quiet and private.” He played lead guitar.

“He has always been quiet, not super social,” she said. “He liked just hanging out. He didn't want to be the center of attention.”

When Matt left the band in 2012, she said they were on a European tour again.

“He had definitely seen the world for sure.”

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