Matt Roberts struggled his whole life with facing crowds and the addiction that came with the anxiety, his father said.
Darrell Roberts talked with the Sun Herald about his son on Sunday when he returned home from Wisconsin, where Matt — former lead guitarist and a founding member of the rock band 3 Doors Down — died early Saturday.
Police found Matt Roberts in the hallway of a hotel where he and his father were staying. They had flown up so Matt could play a benefit in West Bend, Wisconsin, to help fund Honor Flights for veterans, an event that Matt had helped orchestrate, his father said. The military was close to his heart, and 3 Doors Down has a strong fan base there.
Darrell Roberts’ being at Matt’s side on the road was not unusual. Matt struggled with anxiety and addiction and Darrell Roberts said he “sort of ran interference” for his son, even before he left 3 Doors Down in 2012.
“He didn’t do public very well,” Darrell Roberts said. “It was to the point where it was crippling. He didn’t like people staring at him. It’s hard for the average person to understand that. I’m his father, and I went with him often.
“When a show was over, he didn’t hang around. It’s not fan friendly, I know, but he couldn’t stand people taking pictures and wanting to be around him. He’s been that way, to some degree, all his life.”
Roberts said his son had a prescription problem because of his anxiety and that was part of why he parted ways with the popular band.
“He had a pretty serious problem, trying to get off,” he said. “Addiction is a terrible thing.”
His last video
Darrell Roberts videotaped Matt rehearsing Friday night in Wisconsin playing, “It’s Not My Time.”
It was the last song Matt would play. His father said, now the lyrics seem ironic.
“Living life like an ocean, now the current’s slowly pulling me down,” the 2009, 3 Doors Down song says.
It goes on to say, “It’s getting harder to breathe. It won’t be too long and I’ll be going under. Can you save me from this? Cause it’s not my time.”
Roberts said he shared the short video with Brad Arnold, the lead singer for 3DD, on Saturday, “and he appreciated it.”
“They had their differences,” Darrell Roberts said. The band breaking up “was like a divorce that drove them apart, but they loved each other dearly.”
It was Matt Roberts and Brad Arnold who were the original core of the band Darrell Roberts said, growing up in Escatawpa and in class together in Moss Point schools. He remembers the day they declared they would start a band. They were in the 10th or 11th grade.
“I’d never seen a sign of musical talent,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘Don’t you need to learn how to play something?’ but instead, I said, ‘Oh good.’ ”
He said, Matt sensed he wasn’t sincere, so Matt added, “We’re going to get Todd Harrell, he was in a country band that broke up.”
And they recruited Harrell, who was six years older. By the time they graduated from high school, the band had taken off. The first hit was “Kryptonite,” they signed with a record label and had back-to-back hit albums in the early 2000s.
On the 3 Doors Down Facebook page Sunday, Arnold signed a post that said: “Words cannot express our sadness as we hear of the loss of our brother, Matt. He was a truly talented artist and great friend. His memory will live on through the songs we all created. He will be greatly missed.”
First time he saw him play
Matt Roberts got his first guitar for Christmas at the age of 12.
“Matt rarely ever showed emotions, but it was Christmas Eve and he was all over the place, excited,” Darrell Roberts said. “But I never saw him play it. He never let anyone know he was practicing. First time I ever saw him with a guitar in his hands was in Gulfport at Hammerheads bar.
“By that time, they’d been playing around, but I had never seen them,” Darrell Roberts said. “We were getting phone calls at the house from girls all over the Coast.
“He’d say don’t tell ‘em I’m here,” Roberts said. “We’d been hearing about 3 Doors Down.”
But Roberts said “that sort of thing,” a musician in a rock band, didn’t run in their family.
“One night I got a cousin and said lets go over to Hammerheads and see these boys play,” Roberts recalls.
“When they start playing, Matt is turned to the wall. He doesn’t turn around,” Roberts remembers. “Three songs and he never turned around. He was the lead guitarist. He just couldn’t handle people looking at him.
“But I turned around and this place was packed like sardines. Everybody was side-by-side all the way out the door.
“I said, ‘This is the beatinest thing I’ve ever seen,’ The more they played, the more people piled in,” he said.
“I asked him why do you face the wall?” Roberts said. And his son told him it wasn’t as important to see him, “They can hear my guitar.”
He eventually got to where he could turn around and face people, Roberts said, “but it was always a struggle. It wasn’t easy.”
Matt managed his life
He said Matt has managed his life, his investments and his finances very well. He owned property overlooking Key Biscayne Bay, Florida, and a home in Spanish Fort, Alabama, on Mobile Bay.
He and his father owned an industrial valve company that was in the process of branching into Texas. Matt’s older brother, Darrell Roberts, works for the company and was working on the new location when Matt died.
Matt stayed in touch with his family. His mother Ramona Roberts and his father have been married 45 years, and Matt talked with his father almost every day.
Matt’s father returned home to Escatawpa about 2 p.m. Sunday, and he and his wife hugged for 30 minutes, crying, he said. She had been surrounded by family, since the news came in, and he stayed in Wisconsin another night and attended the concert Matt helped organize.
He said he spoke for his son, one last time. He told them to have a good time and that he appreciated the support the people of Wisconsin had given them.