March 29, 2018 Interview – Brent Smith of Shinedown Raising Attention
Putting it lightly, we are living in very interesting times. With the sonic boom of technological advances, one would think we are making giant leaps forward, but like anything, we take one step forward, and two steps back. Putting their ear to the ground, hearing the stampede coming, Hard Rock band Shinedown are looking to rattle the cage a bit with their forthcoming sixth studio album, ATTENTION ATTENTION. Set for release on May 4, 2018, it is heavy, honest, and carefully designed to awaken the spirit of the human soul. Bold, right? Well, a lot has happened over the past 20 years for Shinedown, and after all, they write from the heart.
Attaining repeated platinum selling success, along with a list of hit singles, and extensive international touring, they take nothing for granted as they look to shatter any preconceived notions some may have of them. Recently, we caught up with Lead Vocalist and Lyric Writer Brent Smith to talk the concept behind ATTENTION ATTENTION, life lessons, their 2018 tour plans, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – Last we spoke, back in 2013, Shinedown was set to embark on the Carnival of Madness tour. Since then, the band has toured consistently, put out Threat to Survival in 2015, and continued to build an even stronger following. What has the last 5 years been like for the band?
Brent Smith – I think the past 5 years have definitely been extremely intense from a personal side – we all have families and children now. That is a big dynamic of what we do going out on the road, just making sure we keep our mental health. The 4 of us are around each other so much, it’s like being married. I think the big thing we do is we just don’t go to bed angry, we are still a band that actually sits down with each other, we talk to one another. We care about what the other person thinks. Everybody has a moment to say how they feel, I think that is what keeps us on the same page with each other. Also, dynamically, we are able to push one another from an artistic standpoint.
From 2013, until where we are now, after Amaryllis (2012), in 2015 we released Threat to Survival. We went on the road, did probably the most international touring the band has ever done on that album cycle. We finished up on that album cycle, now going in to record, ATTENTION ATTENTION, for us personally, where we are right now and how we’ve arrived at this record, one of the things that is different is we self-produced it. Eric Bass, who is our bass player, who is way more than just a bass player, really took the captain’s chair in regards to the production on the album. He also mixed the record as well. The record is also not a traditional album of you will write 100 songs, you pick the 10 best, you wrap it up, and present it to the world. This is a concept record in a lot of different details and points of view in this album are very, very unique.
I wouldn’t necessarily call it a traditional concept record in regards to when I think of The Wall (1979) by Pink Floyd, or Operation: Mindcrime (1988) by Queensrÿche or Tommy (1969) by The Who. This is an album that is definitely a psychological, emotional, and physical journey. You kind of have an understanding of what you are getting ready to experience with the first single being “DEVIL,” because it is the beginning of the story. Also, with the video out now as well, it really does allow the listener, from a sonic and visual side, to see what is getting ready to happen. It is taking the listener on a journey, everything happens in this room. It is really a record about not being afraid to fail.
I think sometimes people will paralyze themselves into a corner when they want more for their life, but they are afraid to go after things they don’t necessarily think that they can accomplish. I think that is not the way to look at yourself. I don’t think people will be defined by their failures, I think you will be defined by the fact that you didn’t give up. For us, that is a lot of the way we are. Especially the last 5 years, there has been some serious ups and downs from an emotional and personal standpoint with the 4 of us. The fact that we are still genuinely with each other, because we genuinely love each other, is a testament to the fact that I don’t believe in any way, shape, or form that we have lost a step. Anyone who doesn’t think that we are Rock-n-Roll, I am here to tell them that we are Rock-n-Roll to the bone.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, and Shinedown has always been a dynamic Hard Rock band. That in mind, 2015’s Threat to Survival continued that growth. Now you are set to return in May with ATTENTION ATTENTION. This is a heavy record, and as you said, a concept album. Is it safe to say a lot of it has to do with the social distress we are going through in our society right now, or is that a misreading?
Brent Smith – I don’t think that is misreading it whatsoever. Of course there is a bit of, we wanted to express an opinion, but only an opinion that we have been able to come to because of what we have seen in the world as we’ve toured. As we’ve met different people from all over the world, we’ve been in different places, different situations. We can really only write about what we know. As the main lyricist in the band, I can’t just pull stuff out of thin air, I have to go through something to be able to express my point of view.
There is definitely an expression on ATTENTION ATTENTION about humanity. About understanding, I don’t want people to forget how to be human beings. What I mean by that is I think sometimes, because of technology, and because there is such a wealth of information, that is a really great thing at times. We are living in a world where everyone has a smartphone, and if you have a question about something, you can just look it up and find the information that you need. I think that is invaluable in a lot of different scenarios. When it comes to the human spirit, I don’t want people to forget how to talk to each other, face to face, and not through a text. Also, because of where we are in society, and not only in America, but all around the world, everybody has an opinion now. Everybody does see things in their own way and they want their opinion voiced. You can do that now with certain social media and what have you. At the end of the day, we are all human beings. We all have feelings, emotions, and drive. We have fears. We have things that concern us.
I told this to a friend of mine, because they were trying to understand a little more of the record. They said, “Can you give me an example?” I said, “Tomorrow morning, when you get up and go about your day, if you see somebody, and for whatever reason, maybe they don’t look completely there, and I am not saying you have to see it tomorrow, just in your mind, be conscious of this – have you ever gone up to someone just because you noticed maybe they weren’t having a good day? As a total stranger walking up to them and asking, ‘Hey, are you alright? Can I help you? Do you need anything?’ I think you would be blown away at the people that would probably look at you and said, ‘You know what, I’m not ok.” Just to have someone to talk to, even if it’s a stranger. That is what I am trying to say. That humanity. I don’t want to lose that. In a lot of ways, ATTENTION ATTENTION is a warning to people and society. Don’t lose your human side. Technology is great, but don’t lose the fact that you are a human being.
CrypticRock.com – That is a fantastic message, one that needs to be heard. It is certainly felt throughout the album. In honor of the album release you are setting out on headlining shows as well as shows with Godsmack later in the summer. One of Shinedown’s strongest attributes is your live performance. You put on not only an intense set of music, but you really connect with the audience on a personal level; talking about the humanity you mentioned. How important is it for you to feel like everyone in the room is connected?
Brent Smith – When you are discussing the live performance, which is a big part of what we do, it is really important to break the ice. I’ve been on a lot of tours where frontmen, and even frontwomen, don’t know how to address the audience, so they call them muthafuckers. (Laughs) Or they just start cussing, because they are kind of nervous, I think.
For me, for whatever reason, I remember the day I stopped that, I used to throw the F-bomb out in the very beginning of our career. I just stopped one day, using that language. I thought I could figure out a better way to relate to these individuals. The thing is, we only have one boss, they just happen to be everybody in the audience. The audience gave you that platform, so it is extremely crucial that you give them the respect they deserve back.
For me, one of the things I started to do, after the second song; which I still do until today, it is a tradition, I will ask, “If this is the first time seeing Shinedown, raise your hand.” Still to this day, every show, 80% of the room raise their hand, which is amazing, because that tells me it’s growing. It tells me we are able to play bigger rooms, headline bigger festivals, etc. After I ask them that, I tell them, “Look to the left, look to the right, the person standing next to you right now, you may have never met them before tonight’s show. We are going to change that. Everybody turn to your neighbor, I want to see you shaking hands and giving high fives. Welcome everybody to the show.” That kind of breaks the ice and allows people to look around and say, ok, we are all in this together. You can have fun, you can lose yourself, this is your night. With the audience, they are everything to us. We want to make sure they get the night of their life.
CrypticRock.com – You certainly do that every time out. As stated, you are hitting the road with Godsmack in the coming months. You were out with them over 10 years ago along with Rob Zombie, right?
Brent Smith – We were actually with Godsmack in 2006, and it was a co-headlining tour with Godsmack and Rob Zombie. Fast forward to 2012, when we were the headliner on the Uproar Festival, Godsmack was right before us. Sully called me in December of last year, he is such a gentleman and such a professional. Him and I were able to connect from the point of interest at looking at 2018 and looking at the summertime. We are both on a cycle, they just released their new song, their new album is coming out in April, where our record is coming out May 4th. It is kind of a perfect cycle that we are on together. We just wanted to go out with a band we respect, we know they don’t phone anything in and neither do we. They wanted to do a big, big show, we wanted to do a big, big show. It worked out. We are looking forward to bringing it to the people. It’s going to be fun.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it should be a great tour. You also have a bunch of other headlining shows before then, so plenty of excitement is ahead. You have always been extremely candid about personal struggles and overcoming, fighting back, and finding hope. What would you say are some of the most important things you have learned through the years?
Brent Smith – Wow, that’s a pretty bold question. I think over the years, I will tell you this, our manager is a gentleman by the name of Bill McGathy – we are part of In De Goot and McGathy promotion. We also hold the flag very high for Atlantic records, we are going on Atlantic Records for 20 years, we actually recently resigned last year, even before the sixth album was presented, an extension for two more albums with the label. Bill, when I first met him almost 20 years ago, gave me some advice that I still keep with me today. He said, “Make sure you keep your eyes and ears open at all times and keep your mouth shut until you know exactly what you are talking about and exactly how you want to deliver it.”
I have to tell you, to this day, I am constantly learning every single second of the day, I am only as good as the company I keep. I learn something literally minute by minute. I never go into any kind of situation thinking I have an upperhand on anyone because you never know what is going to happen if you are not respectful and if you think you can figure it out as you go. I think that advice I got from him, and the fact that not only that I still learn from him, but he would say he learns from me as well, I am very thankful for that. I am thankful I have a mentor in him, and the band does too. That is probably some of the best advice I have ever been given, know what you are going to say before you say anything.
CrypticRock.com – That is some fantastic advice. It is wise and something we can all take to heart. Many people speak before they think, it is something that especially happens in the social media world.
Brent Smith – It does. I think a lot of times it is just one of those things everyone feels they have to keep up. You don’t, you really don’t. I think time management, being in the world we are in now, there is so much going on. Instant gratification is a thread that runs through everybody, but at the end of the day, look, you will be the first person you see in your morning for the rest of your life. You will wake up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror. I think you have to make that person happy, before you will ever be able to make anyone else happy.