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Brent Smith – Shinedown

They’ve reached the highest of musical goals with ten million albums and singles sold worldwide, over four and a half BILLION streams as well holding the most number 1’s on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs Chart which broke the record, yet hard rockers Shinedown still manage to keep their feet firmly on the ground. Lead Vocalist Brent Smith, Guitarist Zach Myers, Bassist Eric Bass and Drummer Barry Kerch have earned many accolades including an appearance on LIVE with Kelly and Ryan, and now have a film named ATTENTION ATTENTION based on their LP with fan favorites like “Monsters”, “Get Up” and Attention Attention”. These extraordinarily talented musicians are starting their Fall headlining tour this month and will be in Tampa, Fl at Amalia Arena on October 2nd, in St. Augustine at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre on October 8th and in Orlando at Tinker Field on October 9th.

Catching up with Shinedown’s amazing front man Brent Smith just prior to the tour, he revealed some details of how they create their hits, their upcoming tour, the production of their cinematic film and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: So, tell me about ATTENTION ATTENTION. There’s a cinematic project that’s coming out? How did that come about?
Brent Smith: Yeah, it’s a three-year journey to get here. It’s the second phase or really the second half if you will, of a concept record that literally took a life of its own, but when we were recording the record, writing the music, putting the songs together. When we figured out that it was going to be a conceptual piece as far as an album’s concerned. The plan was always to show it visually from the beginning to the middle to the finale. So, over the course of the last three years, 2018 when it was released through where we are today, it just took a while to put it together. We were on tour. We were working the record. We were going back and forth with the Director Bill Yukich between the singles and then ultimately a gapping everything to the film and making sure that the project was as you put it, completed in a cinematic form, and we are on the cusp of a putting out the first official trailer and the preorder for the video on demand and the digital services and what have you. I can’t really talk anymore about some of the other things that are gonna be happening. I know that kind of sounds a little bit silly, but there is a tremendous amount of work going into what the next thirty days is gonna look like in regards to this project. For us, it’s a huge undertaking. We’re working with Gravitas Ventures which is a very known production company for film. Its three years of work and its finally going to come to life.

SFL Music: That’s very cool. You also have a tour coming up. That’s exciting.
Smith: Yeah, the tour was built around the fact of we wanted to do it first of all, and second of all, it’s time. Initially in 2020 we only had the Deep Dive tour scheduled because we were going back into studio to begin writing Shinedown number seven and obviously we know what transpired there, and so coming into this. There’s just been a tremendous amount of work that has gone into being able to do this tour and yeah, once again a lot of work, but as far as the other half of our industry outside of the music which is the most important thing. It’s time to return you know, to live music.

SFL Music: What can fans look forward to with the show?
Smith: We’re gonna give em everything we got! So, this is all killer no filler, and what I mean by that is you know, we’re not going in here, presenting anything even though we’re in the throws of Shinedown seven. We’re in the mix phase of the new record right now, but this tour is specifically in our opinion, these are all the songs that people want to hear. We’re gonna bring in a pretty elaborate production for this, but this is more of a celebration of being able to return back to these types of shows. Doing it still in a very, very responsible way, but the fact is the set list is everything that we think that the hard core Shinedown fans and people that are just finding out about Shinedown, that they want to hear because all of the new music and the new detail of everything that is Shinedown, is probably going to surface at the very beginning of next year. Once again, I can’t talk about all that right now, but this is primarily going out and we’re also promoting the film at this time too. So, as we get out on the road it was another way of promoting the film, but yeah, we’re gonna give em everything that we’ve got. Try to give them the biggest rock show of the year. Continue to do those types of things.

SFL Music: Looking forward to it. When you mentioned responsibly, is there anything in particular you guys are implanting in your shows for safety?
Smith: Yeah, I mean the reality of all of that is that we’re working closely with all of the promoters and the detail of what has to be done. A lot of these shows are multiple acts. Not all of them because we got Zero 9:36. We got Ayron Jones. We got The Struts on some of these shows. We got Pop Evil on some of these shows. We got Theory (of a Deadman) on some of these shows, but then there’s other elements here where they’re radio festivals. So, there’s a lot of different camps there. There’s a protocol to you know, everyone’s safety has always been a major concern. Even before COVID, but ultimately everybody is kind of in their own compound. There’s no Meet N Greets for anything. It’s basically arrive. Get everything up and running. Band is kind of collectively in the location that they need to be in. Walk to the stage, perform the set. Go offstage, you know, back on the bus, back to the next show, for the time being. So yeah, it’s really, everyone’s just being respectful of each other backstage. The back stages are gonna be for all of these shows pretty, pretty locked down. Pretty tight.

SFL Music: Oh, that’s good. You mentioned, talking about COVID and everything. You guys did the “Atlas Falls” song to raise money and I thought this was an awesome thing. How did it come about to create that fundraiser for front line workers and getting medical supplies to people?
Smith: Well, the initiative was the fact that you know, last year when you go as early as February when COVID had essentially arrived, and then you got into March. By April we were in full lock down on the entire planet especially in the United States, and I felt helpless and I didn’t understand exactly what was going on because I didn’t know what a pandemic was. I had never heard of Corona Virus or COVID 19, so I wasn’t familiar with any of that. I had never heard the term social distancing. That did not mean anything to me because I had never heard that phrase before, and like a lot of people, that first initial week of the major lock down you know. I know that everybody was trying to calm the public down and just be like you know, we’re not asking you to go to war. We’re asking you to stay at home with your family. Watch Netflix. And I remember waking up that first day of lockdown and I did exactly that. Like I was on the road. I was in California because I had to quarantine in California for 28 weeks before I left. So, getting up on that first day and literally trying to find some mindless show on Netflix to take my mind off things. That lasted twenty minutes for me, and then I just closed my computer and was like, what is going on? At that point I just went down a very real, not a rabbit hole, but educating myself on what exactly was going on, and so long story short, it led me to Direct Relief which is a company that’s been around since the beginning of the 1940’s. They’re based in Santa Barbara, California. Their sole initiative is to make sure that frontline workers in the medical and scientific community during times of crises, whether that is a natural disaster, whether it’s a pandemic, whether its poverty. Essentially Direct Relief is the Calvary and the Mission Statement to that with them is making sure that the people that are in the scientific community and the medical community during those times of crises, that they have all the resources that they need on the ground, so they can save as many lives as possible. So, we connected with them. We told them what we wanted to do. We created a t-shirt. We created a link for that. We were selling the t-shirt with a hundred percent of the proceeds going directly to Direct Relief. Upon the initial aspect of the fundraiser, if you bought the shirt, you got a free digital download of the song “Atlas Falls”. “Alice” was unheard from the vault of our songs as a show of positivity and endurance, and just a symbol of the human spirit and the fact that as human beings, I’ve always said this and it holds true. I think that we’re the strongest when we need one another and that was the case. Ultimately Direct Relief works with all fifty states in the U.S. and they work with over a hundred countries. And we’ve raised close to half a million dollars with them during this, but the money was so needed up front really in those first two months because the hospital workers and everybody involved in the medical community, they really needed a lot of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that they didn’t have. Because of organizations like Direct Relief, those men and women were able to save a lot more lives.

SFL Music: That was a wonderful thing that you did. You mentioned humanity and being strong. What would you recommend to up and coming musicians?
Smith: In what regards? Just like with the way that the world is now or just music in general?

SFL Music: Just music in general I would say because you guys are extraordinarily successful. You’ve got it down. You’ve got five platinum and gold albums, 2.7 billion streams. I feel like your real role models, plus taking on this type of humanitarian kind of leadership, This fundraiser. I just feel like a lot of up-and-coming musicians would be looking up to you guys. So, what would you recommend to them for having the success?
Smith: I think that you have to constantly remember that you need to continue to learn each and every day. Like we’re not really big fans of quote, unquote know it alls because we learn something not only about each other, myself and Zack and Eric and Barry. I mean, we’re constantly talking to one another. We’re constantly around one another. We still love and like one another and have a very real respect for each other. We are at a certain level, through a lot of hard work and continuing to do the hard work where you know, look. If we wanted to ride in separate buses, we could. If we wanted take separate planes we could and have separate dressing rooms and all that kind of stuff, and we’ve seen a lot of bands that do that, but in our opinion that sucks (he laughed)! You know what I mean? We like being around one another. We like hanging out with each other. We communicate. So, I think that’s the first and foremost element to musicians especially people that in are in a band of any genre or format of music. You need to be respectful to each other and you need to always keep that respect and love for each other at the forefront. You know obviously, you’re gonna have ups and downs through your trajectory of your career and what have you, but as long as you communicate with one another. We treat it like a marriage. No one goes to bed angry. No one goes onstage angry. Communication is the key and ultimately with the music, you can’t really focus on what people are gonna say about your music primarily. And what I mean by that is, do it because you have something to say. I’ve often said that for me personally. I’m in a band and I write songs because it’s cheaper than therapy (he chuckled). It’s kind of, that’s what it is for me. It’s my therapy and I just for whatever reason as a lyricist, I’ve just been able to tap into how I feel in every situation and just be honest about it, and I think that side of Shinedown, why the fan base is drawn to us is that they know that the songs are coming from a very real and honest place, and they also understand that we have a platform, but the audience, the fan base gave us that platform. I’ve often said this multiple times because it’s true, which is we only have one boss in Shinedown. It just happens to be everybody in the audience. You have to remember that the audience is, they’re the reason you’re there also. So, you always want to make sure that you’re maintaining that communication with them and that respect with them as well. As long as you do that and you’re true to yourself and you never stop learning. You’ll be successful.

SFL Music: That’s very good advice. What inspires your music when you write?
Smith: Literally what is going on around us at the time. I mean, we don’t necessarily pull things out of thin air unless we’re being commissioned to do something like I think about “Her Name Is Alice”, you know, way back in the day when Tim Burton did the reimagining of Alice in Wonderland (in 2010). So, we did that for that soundtrack. That was something that was we were commissioned to do a song about an existing story and same thing with Sly (Sylvester) Stallone with (The) Expendables. He came to us and said, “I want you to do a song.” He gave us examples of it too of you know, four-on-the-floor. Do it like this and what have you. It was really, really cool because he kind of told us what he wanted and the only other thing he said was, you just have to use the words boom lay boom lay boom. Where I was kind of like, ok. How am I gonna make that cool (he laughed)? You know what I mean? So, that was a challenge, but that was an amazing experience and he’s awesome! We were able to be able to hang out and talk to him and get face to face with him on it. That was a great experience, but when it comes to the original music, not that “Diamond Eyes” wasn’t original. “Her Name Is Alice” wasn’t original. They were, but when we’re writing for an album and its ours and we’re kind of fundamentally going through the subject matter, we really focus on what’s going on around us, but we also pull through personal experience. Once again, that has to do with the honesty of the band. So, we’re talking about what we’ve been through, throughout our lives. Where we are at the moment in time. Reflecting on where we’ve been. Also, the people that we surround ourselves with and the places that we go to and the scenarios that have been presented to us over the years. So, it’s all coming from being very in tuned to everything around us.

SFL Music: You did touch on therapy and everything and a lot of people use music. It is like a therapy. I remember when I first heard “Monsters” and singing to it driving down I-4. I just loved it. What made you want to become a musician?
Smith: My mother says that the moment I entered the world, I was, well maybe at the time it wasn’t necessarily a note I was hitting as I came out, but it was definitely a very, very loud voice that came out. It’s funny. I’m like, mom. You’re making this up and she’s like, no, no, no. It’s absolutely true. She said when I came out, the very first thing the doctor said as you know, he’s pulling me out. He’s like, “well, he’s got a good set of lungs,” and I find that kind of endearing. I don’t remember, not wanting to be a musician. More so than that, I don’t remember not wanting to be a singer and like write. Like as soon as I could figure out language and understand tone and pitch and things like that, it was immediate and it’s been with me every single day since then. I feel very, very lucky that I always had a companion growing up. See, I’m an only child and a lot of times people are like, oh that must have been lonely. I was like, no. Not at all. Music was always there for me. Like, that’s the beauty of it. I always had a companion, and music is still my companion to this day.

SFL Music: You mentioned tone and pitch. Did you have formal lessons?
Smith: Never been taught anything. Over the years, I had the pleasure of being able to work with some very interesting vocal teachers. Very, very known vocal teachers, but only two. Jan Smith who is based out of Atlanta. Who’s pretty well known for being kind of the guru for Usher and also for Justin Bieber and a bunch of other people. A lot of R&B. A lot of other people. Then Ron Anderson who, I had a bit of an issue. It was right around 2013. The back half of that year. My voice was just kind of beat up and we had just been going and going and going and going and just like you know, to an almost robot level. Meaning like, it was too much and I kind of, I wasn’t able to get certain notes. I wasn’t able to do certain things. I was extremely concerned that I had formulated nodules on my cords, so I went to my doctor In Beverly Hills. Joseph Sugerman who’s a very famous ear, nose and throat doctor there. The awesome thing about him was he reviewed me, scoped me, looked at everything and he was like, “ok. Check it out. So, you do have some nodes” which are nodules, but he was like, “I don’t think you need surgery. There’s a way to heal this naturally.” And then he put me in touch with Ron Anderson, and then I spent about a month with Ron kind of just learning the anatomy. A lot of stuff that I had never been taught about the human voice and the vocal cords and more on a scientific level of understanding how the mechanism actually works and that just once again, filled me with knowledge and I’ve kept all those things that I learned from Ron to this day and knock-on wood, I’ve been able to keep my voice strong, but I’ve never had any formal training.

SFL Music: You guys are originally from Jacksonville, right?
Smith: I very proudly, the estate as we call it of the band. Where the band was formed and was created is one thousand percent Jacksonville, Florida. The estate is actually 2001 to now.

SFL Music: Would you say being from Jacksonville played into the band at all and how?
Smith: Well, the interesting thing is this. Like I’m from Knoxville, Tennessee. I was born and raised in Knoxville. I left when I was eighteen and then came back to Knoxville, and there’s such a long story that goes to how I arrived in Florida, but absolutely because when I got to Jacksonville in like Circa 1999 and started to kind of breathe in and really see the culture that was in Jacksonville, Florida, and the music scene in the early 2000’s was incredible in Jacksonville, Florida. It wasn’t just one style of music and it’s still pretty strong in Jacksonville. I mean, a lot of times it gets known for obviously the Limp Bizkit connection and obviously the Lynyrd Skynyrd connection and what have you, but there were so many bands and there’s still so many bands coming out of there that are really, really, they’re great at what they do. So, ultimately yeah, my appreciation for Jacksonville, Florida is never gonna waiver.

SFL Music: People will like to read that.
Smith: I’m very proud that the estate of the band, that it was created and formed in Jacksonville, Florida. I take a lot of pride in that.

SFL Music: That’s very, very cool. Are they any more video’s coming out or anything else for fans to look forward to?
Smith: For this year?

SFL Music: Yeah, I know you said you guys are working on the album and you can’t say a whole lot about that yet, right?
Smith: Well, the thing about it also is we’re timing everything in a very, very specific way. You got to remember also the fact of the matter is this film has been, like I said earlier in when we started to talk. It’s been a three-year journey to get it here and there is such a debt to this experience of this record. Now seeing it visually, it really is kind of the second half that we’re finally going to be able to present to the world. It’s a big undertaking and it’s a very large campaign. And it is world-wide. So, there’s a lot to be done there, but I promise people it’ll be worth the wait for Shinedown seven. We’re tapping into something different with this album. Not going away from our roots by any means, but we’re just tapping into something that I don’t think that the public has heard us do before. It’s much more aggressive and its exciting, so I promise it will be worth the wait. We have our hands full with this tour and this film and everything we got coming for everyone.

SFL Music: I read that there are a couple of well-known actresses that are in the film. How did that come about?
Smith: A lot of that had to do with the director Bill Yukich. I mean, I cannot put enough emphasis on what an incredible visionary this guy is. This is something that it’s kind of hard for me to describe him in five minutes or in the short time that we have here, and it’s interesting too because we’re getting ready to start a lot of press with me and him doing a lot of the interviews together and what have you about this film, and it really stemmed from him. Like we were always connected with each other and we were working tirelessly on the script and the layout and everything like that, but that’s all the director man. Like Bill Yukich, that guy’s on a different level.

SFL Music: Do you feel like you learned some things from him or
Smith: Oh my God, every single day and he would say the same thing about us. It was a pleasure to work with him. I’m not gonna lie and say that it was always fun because I mean, he put us through the ringer in a lot of this stuff, but it was one of those elements of like you know, you can go half-way or you can go all the way and we’ve never gone half-way. It’s all or nothing and that’s exactly what we did.

SFL Music: So, fans can look forward to that, then look forward to the new album with some new videos?
Smith: Oh, a hundred percent, yeah. You’re gonna see like one thousand percent. That’s another thing too just where we are and the way people consume music in this day and age you know, being in 2021 and moving into 2022. The aspects of the music is one element, but now it’s just very, very important to have the visual along with it. That doesn’t primarily mean that you have to do a concept record every single time you do a record, but having the visuals with the entire record. Even if it’s you know, you got an album. There’s ten songs on the album. It’s not a concept record, but as you put the record out you also do a video for every single song. Even if it’s not a single. That’s kind of the new way that people are really gravitating towards music too. You’re gonna need that visual element now because that’s the momentum that we’re moving in in this new age.

SFL Music: That’s true. That’s probably why you have so many streams as well. You also did a 92Y talk show in New York City?
Smith: Yeah. That was crazy because I mean, that’s a very prestigious, like that’s like a really prestigious event, so we were kind of blown away that they asked us to do it and it was so much fun. We had a great time doing it.

SFL Music: Do you think anything like that may be coming up in the future?
Smith: You know what? We’re open to everything. Right now, the schedule once again, we have to be really respectful of the fact that you can’t so too much because you know once again, we’re not robots, but it’s also our job to be strong. Mentally and physically. So, the health is a priority. Especially in this day and age. You know, I can’t stress that enough to people with everything that’s going on right now, be healthy. Like you know, find info. Make sure you’re out there. You shouldn’t always rely on a pill. You know what I mean? You got to put the work in there. So, for us it’s you know, we need to be focused on what we’re doing. One thing at a time. We can compartmentalize and we can put schedules together and plan for the future, but at the end of the day too, you have to take care of yourself. Yeah, we’re gonna throw curve balls at everybody just like we always do.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you want to add for fans to look forward to?
Smith: I just want everybody to know that we just have missed all you guys and girls so, so much and once again we’re trying to do this very professionally. Not that we weren’t doing it before COVID because the audience’s safety is always in a live setting, our number one concern. Listen, we got you, but then again you know, look. To each his own and everybody has a right to come to the shows or not, but I just want people to know how important they are to us. How much we missed ‘em and how much we can’t wait to see them again and we’re just going to continue to make music and push the envelope and whoever wants to go on the ride with us, there’s always gonna be an open seat.

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