Shinedown have a knack for crafting rock anthems that make their way to the top of the charts. That said, it’s not surprising the hard-rock band recently broke a Billboard record for the most Top 10s on the mainstream rock chart, thanks to their latest single, “Get Up”.
“I think the public understands that our music is coming from a very real place, and they respond,” Shinedown frontman Brent Smith tells Heavy Consequence.
Shinedown have been touring the world in support of 2018’s ATTENTION ATTENTION, and the guys will be on the road again next year as they continue to promote the album. In addition to headlining a 2019 arena trek featuring support from Papa Roach and Asking Alexandria, the band will also play intimate theater shows dubbed “An Evening With Shinedown”.
Brent Smith recently checked in with Heavy Consequence to speak about the deeply personal meaning behind “Get Up”, discuss the band’s 2019 touring, look back on Shinedown’s career, and more.
On looking back at 2018
It’s really weird to look back on this past year. As I’m sitting here in New York City, looking out my window, I’m thinking about how many miles we’ve traveled this year. I never really stop. For me, it never really ends. I’m always picking up somewhere we left off. I always want to make sure the idea and what we set out to do with this band and where we’re going next. I’m always making sure the architecture of the band is in good form.
On Shinedown’s tour with Papa Roach and Asking Alexandria scheduled for early 2019
The interesting thing is that the second leg of the Godsmack run this [past fall], Asking Alexandria [joined the bill]. Also, when we were in Europe in June and July, we were doing all the European festivals, and Asking Alexandria was on those festivals. We became really good friends, and it was interesting, because we had never really toured together before, and we found a kinship with them. When we got back to U.S., we were looking at some bands we hadn’t worked with before, and we contacted their management and were able to get them on this tour.
We knew Papa Roach would have new record in 2019, and Asking Alexandria were ridiculous live, and we knew their new record was more melodic than any other record they’d done, and it seemed like a good fit. I think the whole tour will be sold out by mid-January, so it’s a good way to start out the year.
On Shinedown’s debut album, Leave A Whisper, turning 15 years old earlier this year and what it was like to record that album
I remember that it took a lifetime to get there. I was in my early 20s, and the band had been finally formed, which took three years with all the writing and putting the band together. So, when we were finally making the album…a lot of people don’t know this, but there are three different producers on that album, and that album was recorded in five different locations across the U.S. It was a lot of work. It wasn’t a normal debut album where it’s like, these guys have known each other since they were kids and have been making music together.
On the genesis of Shinedown and how that has brought the band to where it is today
There was so much work involved in creating Shinedown and finding those individuals and harvesting a real relationship with a band. The industry looked at it like we were going to put a band together, but in reality, what happened was that I was signed to Atlantic Records with another band, and after a year, that band was dropped, and I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to have a development deal. Steve Robertson, who was the A&R at Atlantic Records, he signed me, and from there, it was a journey of four years to create what became Shinedown. I was able to really hone my craft, because Steve thought I was a great singer but also a songwriter. I’ve been given a gift to work with some of the most extraordinary people in the world over the past 20 years, and they’ve allowed me to be myself the whole time.
On the camaraderie between the current members of Shinedown
Now, more than ever, this band could not be more of a family. It’s interesting, because I don’t think of the band anymore from those first two albums. For me, the band started at The Sound of Madness. Once that record was written, that’s kind of where I think Shinedown began. But, I give much respect to Leave a Whisper and Us and Them and the people who were here in the beginning. I don’t take it for granted. We’re a group of guys who are never going to be satisfied with the idea of a feeling. We look for the biggest mountain, and once we get to the top of that mountain, we take a moment to high-five and hug each other, and then we say, “Let’s find a bigger mountain.”
On the approach to Shinedown’s latest album, ATTENTION ATTENTION
This album, in particular, had a lot to do with Eric Bass. The reason I say that is because Eric is the bass player, but he is way more than that. Eric is also the producer, main engineer and mixer on this album. I spent 179 days with him and the band last year in Charleston, South Carolina, at his studio, and we began to construct this piece of work called ATTENTION ATTENTION. It was interesting, because we had a lot of great teachers over the years in regards to production and engineering, but it was time for him to sit in the captain’s chair and really take this record on as a whole.
On why Shinedown wanted to go outside the box on ATTENTION ATTENTION
I didn’t want the album to sound stock under any circumstances, and a lot of times, what happens in any kind of genre is that certain producers and mixers and engineers will do all of those records in that genre, and what happens is that everybody starts to sound the same. Eric and I call it “band in a can,” and that was the complete opposite of what we were going to do with this album. That’s another reason we wanted Eric to produce the album.
On Shinedown’s current single, “Get Up”, being about bassist Eric Bass’ struggle with depression
The song that became the sounding board for album was “Get Up,” because the song was written about Eric. I wrote it about it him. We were in the middle of just getting some of the initial ideas out for some of the musical beds of the record, and we were listening to different riffs and drum patterns, and everything sounded the same. It had a “we’ve done this before” kind of feeling. I remember asking Eric, “Do you think we need to start out with something more dramatic?” And he played me the piano part for what became “Get Up”. I remember we spent a couple hours going through the piano part and melodies and fleshing it out, and I said, “Make me a demo, and I’ll take it to the hotel and come back tomorrow with a lyrical idea.” Well, I didn’t come back to the studio for 11 days.
I’m normally pretty quick with lyrics, maybe a day or two, but the reality was that I knew what I was going to write the song about, and I wrote the song about Eric. He deals with what is considered clinical depression. It’s not something that’s like, “He has a case of the Mondays.” This is something we as a band have watched him go through, and the reason I wanted to bring it to light is that I don’t think anybody should write a song to try to be famous, I think they should write a song because they have something to say. There was a fear that I had crossed a line with our friendship by writing a song that was so personal. That stopped me from getting back to the studio.
Finally, Eric was like, “Let’s move on.” So I said, “Nope. I’ve got it.” I cut a vocal for the song and asked when he could have a mix done. The next day, I remember he had me come over to hear the mix, and he played it twice, and the second time, I asked, “You know what this is about, right?” And he said, “Yeah. It’s about me.” That line I was so afraid of crossing, he removed it. He told me that he loved the song and the way I presented it couldn’t be more heartfelt. But he did, as great producers do, say, “If we’re going to go this far and go this deep, we’re going to have to not sugarcoat it and be very bold and honest.” So, “Get Up” was the sounding board for ATTENTION ATTENTION, because all the songs came after that.
On the overall message behind ATTENTION ATTENTION
The album is a story. It’s not a concept record, but the reason the album is so bold is because it’s an album that lets the public understand that you don’t need to be afraid to fail, because it’s what teaches you what to do next time. You’re not going to be defined by your failures. You’re going to be defined by the fact that you refuse to give up.
On Shinedown extending beyond the hard-rock universe
We don’t like to pigeonhole ourselves. We’re crossing the format right now with “Get Up” into the alternative format and Hot AC and Top 40. We’re Shinedown, and it’s a case where it’s about the music, not the category. I don’t even look at rock ‘n’ roll as a genre. Rock ‘n’ roll is a spirit and a way of life. The rock ’n’ roll community that sees no color. It doesn’t care about your religion or gender or age. Everyone is welcome. That’s the beautiful thing about rock ‘n’ roll.
On Shinedown setting the Billboard record for the most Top 10s on the mainstream rock chart
We were overseas and saw the initial press that came out, and it’s really humbling. In those kinds of situations, I don’t know what to say. I give all of that to the fan base. Whether they’ve been there from the beginning or are new fans, at the end of the day, we have one boss, and it’s the fans. I give all that to the audience. We were humbled and taken back. We don’t take it lightly. It’s extraordinary. It’s something that for us as a band, our biggest thing is trying to hold onto it! (Laughs) It’s healthy competition. That’s the best way to look at it.
On what it is about Shinedown’s music that really strikes a chord with listeners
I wish I could say it in a simple way. The best way I can describe it is what I said a moment ago about being a songwriter. For me, I never sat down and wrote a song because I wanted to be famous. I wrote songs because I have something to say. I remember my mom told me a while back, “You started singing at 10 years old, but you never really learned other people’s songs. Even at 10, you were writing your own stuff.” I’ve always been able to put what I’m going through into words and into a song, and I think that’s one of the reasons that it’s authentic and genuine.