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Brent Smith: Upcoming Album Is the ‘Strongest Shinedown Record We’ve Ever Made’

Brent Smith (Shinedown)
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Brent Smith was recently a guest on Loudwire Nights. Host Full Metal Jackie caught up with the Shinedown frontman, who talked about survival, their fans, the band’s “strongest record ever” and more. Check it out below: 

What’s the best and worst thing about having two years to make an album?

I think the best thing is that you have time for reflection and the worst thing is you have time for reflection [laughs]. So, what I mean is, we’re known as a band that when we release a record we usually will tour the record anywhere between two years to an upwards of two and a half to three years like we’ve done multiple times on the four previous albums. So our range is usually around two years for an album cycle, and that’s all over the world.

This specific record, when we finished the album cycle for Amaryllis we had been on the road for 21 months, so a little shy of two years. We took a while mainly because my voice really needed to rest. We finished up the Carnival of Madness Tour, and then we went right into the U.K. and finished six shows there. When we got off that tour I had three nodules on my left vocal chord. I had to heal them. I was lucky enough to do so naturally, I didn’t have to have surgery. But it took two and a half months to get them to where they needed to be. Then the funny thing, I have to laugh about it now because you can’t cry over spilled milk, but I got this thing called thrush, which is normally what babies will get. We have fungus in our bodies that is dormant, and sometime it will unleash and it unleashed on me. It went all the way down my esophagus so that was another two months to heal from that. Four months all in all after we got off the road, then we started writing the record.

When I was talking about reflection, when you come off the road you have time to relax for a moment and reflect but the worst thing about it is you have time to reflect and you have to at least for us, we go inside of our psyche and that sometimes can be a very frightening place, especially for myself because I’m the main lyricist in the band and I can only write about what I’m going through and what I know. We held absolutely nothing back on this record, it’s a beautiful record but it’s also very brutal. I kind of answered a bunch of questions in that one question that you asked me, but overall I would say that reflection is the good and the bad.

The last two Shinedown albums were very well received. Does the pressure to equal that success drive you creatively?

Yes, 100 percent because the audience just doesn’t deserve anything less than our absolute 100 percent best. We’re not going to be able to make the same record each time. We just don’t have it in us. I feel like every record we’ve grown as a band. Every record has no only matured sonically but structurally and the songs have gotten better each record. I think we’ve gotten better as songwriters and as players and performers. That’s really the point. You have to constantly honing in on your craft, because it is a craft and you do have to practice and make sure that you’re locked into what it is you want to say and how you want to express yourself. We’ve never sat down and written a record, or a song for that matter and looked at each other, even from the beginning, and said “Hey I’m going to write a song about this because I think it will make me famous or become a celebrity.” That’s not the way of going about it at all. We’ve always written from the core of who we were.

Going back to what I was saying before, I’m that main lyricist in the band. I can lyrically only write about I know, what I’ve been through, the people I’ve met, places I’ve been to and situations I’ve occurred and where I’m at in my life. I think the band, ultimately the sound changes and they look to me to direct how each record is going to sound. I think any artist, whether there a solo artist or any genre of music be it hip hop, rap, pop, soul, funk, metal, the list goes on and on. I think that there’s always going to be pressure when you have success with records you’ve released when you’re in a category that is a very blessed category to be in when you’re into multiple records. And the fact that we’re getting ready to embark on a fifth album, and still to this day hold our fist very, very high in the air for our label, Atlantic Records, which we’re only two years shy of being on for 20 years. To be on a label for 18 years and it be Atlantic Records and for them to believe in us the way they do and allow us to be artists, it just doesn’t occur very much anymore. We’re very lucky and fortunate that we’re on a label that has allowed us to be an artist on every single record. But, of course, there’s pressure and any artist that tells you different is lying to you. 

The early years of the band seem to be a bit tumultuous. Looking back, why was it necessary to go through that, to be where you are today?

I can be very longwinded about this, but I don’t really have to be. Without Zach and Eric, I truly don’t think Shinedown would exist. What I mean by that is, I know through the years there were the first two records, Leave a Whisper and Us and Them, then there was a change. Mr. Todd and Mr. Stewart, it was just not working out and those two gentlemen have gone on to do very well and are continuing to do very well in their own careers. It was just at a place in our lives where we just couldn’t move forward together. I wish them as much success as possible. I wish for them to be healthy and happy and I believe that they are. Ultimately, that had to happen in order to be able to go forward with what we call this machine and this life force we call Shinedown. When Eric and Zach came into the band, they literally saved myself and they saved us from what could have been potentially the ruin of the band. They actually brought life into the band.

Your music really seems to give hope to people going through difficult times in their life. How conscious are you of the effect your music has on people?

When I was younger I used to kind of not brush it off, by any means, but I didn’t understand it because I was young and I didn’t really understand exactly what it was that the band was actually doing and how we were relating to certain people and to the public. Now, I’m 37 years old, by no means do I feel old, but going into the 5th album, we would be absolutely nowhere without the audience. I’ve always said this. We only have one boss, it just happens to be everybody in the audience. We hold that very true to who we are as individuals. The amount of stories and people we’ve met over the years and what they’ve told us and the music that we’ve written and songs have pushed them to quite frankly fight for their lives, because when we were writing a lot of the material they connect with we were fighting for our lives.

I think that’s the honesty between us and the fans, that the fans — as we call them our family — they know we’re not going to put up a facade in front of them. From the people that I’ve met through the years, I’ll never be able to not be brought to my knees and be unbelievably humbled when someone comes up to me personally and says that your music saved my life. Even on the phone with you now it’s emotional. I’ll never be able to get over that.

So we take it so seriously. What we try and do is stay focused with each other, the four of us. And know that this thing we call Shinedown, it’s bigger than just us because the world has wrapped itself around us and invited us into each individual’s, each city and country. When they invite us into their house we’re there to perform for them when the clock strikes 8:30, whenever it’s time for us to go on, it’s our time to go to work for them.

Survival is a theme throughout the new album. How has music been instrumental to your survival?

I think that it is just ultimately necessary for me with my survival. The biggest part of my life and what I look to for not only inspiration, because he is ultimately my hero, is my son. But music is something that’s just been a part of my life from the time I was born. I feel very lucky that I always knew what I wanted to do with my life and for a living. Pretty much from the time I entered this world.

Survival is a major theme in this record and I’ve just seen music through so many different things from before I was in a band that was out in the world and people knew who I was and [who] the band was. Even at the young age of 6 years old, 10 years old, I watched how music could take a bad situation and make it great. Or it can take a moment when you’re unbelievably just engulfed by sadness and there’s a song that comes out of nowhere or you can put a song on and it just changes your mood instantaneously. I’ve also seen music heal people. I really have. I’ve seen it bring people back from just ultimate despair. Not unlike myself, where there was a time in my life where a lot of people around me were scared for my own existence. They were like, ‘I don’t know how much time this guy has left, because he’s trying to kill himself.’ If anyone knows my history knows I’ve dealt with a lot of different demons as a lot of people have dealt with. But had it not been for music and the artistry of song, it’s something that like my son and my band and my family, music has saved my life on a lot of different levels as I know it’s saved a lot of peoples lives.

What can you tells us about a timeline, have you come up with a name, anything else you can tell us?

I can tell you that you should look for it in September. I can’t tell you the name of it yet, but it’s coming very, very soon. I should tell everyone that in my opinion, it is the strongest Shinedown record that we’ve ever made. It is the biggest sounding record we’ve ever made. I can’t tell you the name just yet, but I can tell you to look for it in September.

Many thanks to Brent Smith for the interview. Shinedown are out on the road all summer, for their tour dates click here. Tune in to Loudwire Nights With Full Metal Jackie and Tony LaBrie Monday through Friday at 7PM through midnight online or on the radio. To see which stations and websites air ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.

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