Lead singer Brent Smith opens up about the tour, the band and what’s most important.
How did the band come about?
Basically I was signed to another band on Atlantic Records that was dropped. I was resigned with a development deal that lead me, pretty much, all over the U.S. writing with different people. It got me down to Jacksonville. I met the first, original, guitar player and bass player in Jacksonville. Barry (Kerch), who is the drummer in the band, was actually the seventh drummer I auditioned for the project before it was even named. That is how Shinedown started. From there it just became about touring and making records. From there, the band lineup change took place after the second album where the two original members had to be let go because of personal and logistical reasons that I don’t need to get into right now. I don’t want to throw someone under the bus. It was time for them to move on and then we brought in Zach Myers and Eric Bass. At the beginning of “The Sound of Madness,” Nick Perri was with us for a year and then he left and now the band is a four-piece. I am actually very, very happy that it has gone back to a four-piece. The band didn’t really need to be a five-piece, it never really worked that well. Now it’s the Shinedown that Barry and I always wanted. This band is the strongest it has ever been. I can say that honestly at this point in time because it is really the band it always needed to be.
How do you think your band separates itself from the other bands already out there?
What might separate us most from other bands is the vocals. I am not, by no shape or form, trying to sound conceited or think that I am full of myself because that is furthest from the truth. I am actually an extremely humble human being and I eat, breathe, and live in music and everything Shinedown. When I was a kid I would listen to singers that were power singers. Guys and girls that really liked to shred a speaker. When you turn the music on you couldn’t believe they were singing those notes and singing at the top of their lungs like it was their last day on Earth. When we were making “The Sound of Madness” I was listening to the radio at a certain point in time and I just thought that everything was starting to sound lackadaisical and not really thought out. There just didn’t appear to be a lot of care put into it. So with this record I tried to sing at the top of my lungs more so than I have sang on all the other records. I had something to say on this record and I wanted people to know what it was. I have always told people that writing songs is way cheaper than therapy. So I think that is what separates us, the power aspect of what I try to do as a vocalist. I would like to think that when people hear Shinedown that they believe 100 percent exactly what we are talking about. We don’t write songs because we want to give rich or because we want to be famous. I don’t think anyone should do that especially if they are a real songwriter. You write the songs for yourself before you ever show anybody else. People aren’t stupid, they will see write through you if you are faking it.
Who are some of the influences on the band?
We all like a lot of different music. We’re like the roller coaster effect. My biggest influence is a lot of soul music. People like Otis Redding, Al Green, Sam Cook and Ella Fitzgerald. On the rock side there is people like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Sound Garden. Actually the artist I am listening to the most right now is Lady Gaga.
Who thought of the name “Shinedown” and why?
Shinedown came about from a painting on the wall. A mutual friend of mine, and the people in the band at the time, got married. A young lady that I was seeing at the time, she was an artist, and we didn’t have any money at all. So she painted him and his wife a picture of a silhouette of a couple being intimate with one another. They put it up in their foyer, right before you go into their bedroom in their house. One day I was in his house and I was looking at the painting and was like “It would be pretty cool if you took a light and you mounted it above the painting so the light would shine down on the painting. The following day he called me and said we should name the band Shining Down. So I took the -ing off and made it one word because it is not separate. They spell it Shine then leave a space and put Down. It just needs to be all capital letters and just needs to be all one word. It just incorporates every thing that the band is. I have always said that everything that is a little good has a little bad in it and that everything bad has a little good in it. It’s the ying and the yang of just being alive. So it is the antithesis of who we are, sometimes you shine and sometimes you are down but there is a balance involved.
How were you guys, Nickelback, Breaking Benjamin and Sick Puppies, all put together on the same tour?
I think Chad (Kroeger) had a lot to with it. These were the bands that he wanted to tour with. Him and I always wanted to get together with one another, but we could never do it because of scheduling last year. We tried a couple of times to get on the tour with each other but just with the amount of headlining we were doing at the time and what they were doing, we just couldn’t get it to work just routing wise as far as tour by tour. When it came up, this slot of time that we had, he approached us and the timing was right. This is just for me personally for our band, we were just like these are the dates and said sure, totally. As far as Breaking Benjamin, I don’t know how they got on it and Sick Puppies, I think, were already doing shows with them to begin with. They basically added us and Breaking Benjamin was already in play before they came and asked us to do it. Originally I didn’t think we were going to be able to do it because I thought we were still going to be headlining but we came down off of that because it was really important for us to take a support slot. It’s kind of cool for us right now because we have been out for a long time on this album. We are going to continue touring the record until the end of this year. We are actually headlining a huge tour in July with four other bands. Then we are going to Europe in October and then are doing an acoustic tour at the end of the year. As far as the four acts together, I think it is a kick-butt bill and I think these are the bands that Chad wanted and we were able to do it. We are just honored to be on the tour. It is a massive, massive tour.
How has the tour been?
It has been fricking awesome. It really, really has. I would guarantee that 85 if not 90 percent of the audience has never seen us before because they are not necessarily unfamiliar with us. They know the songs. It is pretty unique to watch the audience because they know the songs we are playing. We are like that band that people know us but don’t really know us. Oh, they are THAT band. Oh they do that song, or they do that song. We just released our 12th single to radio and the sixth single of the “The Sound of Madness,” so they know the material. For a lot of the audience, this is the very first time seeing us. We are playing in front of 8,000 and 12,000 people a night on this tour. Then when Nickelback goes on, I think the smallest location on this tour seats 16,000. We just got done playing in Canada in a 22,000 seater. None of the places we are playing are small and when you go on stage, there is not an empty seat in the house. It’s quite an experience to see every single night. These are like big, big rooms and they sell them all to the hilt. It is really cool to watch.
How is the back stage dynamic between the bands?
Everybody is around one another like all the time. Our schedule is pretty hectic backstage because we have a lot of interviews throughout the day and then runners will take us to radio stations. Now, because we crossed over with the last two songs, instead of just the rock format, we are on like five different radio formats right now. If you do one thing for one format, you have to do something for the other four. So we are constantly moving back and forth. Going back to the venue, leaving the venue. Everybody is really, really cordial with each other, all the crews get along with each other. It is just a very positive tour. Like it has a really good vibe.
Is there any practical jokes between bands?
They haven’t started yet, but they are slowly starting to creep up though. I can actually kind of feel it coming. When people start getting comfortable with one another, that is when the mischief starts.
How long are you guys on stage?
It is actually pretty short. It is 40 minutes long so gives us about eight songs. That is still a lot of crowd interaction. We are known for being very crowd oriented. To be able to talk to audience and make sure I get everything out that I need to get out and still be able to the songs within 40 minutes, it’s typically eight songs. It’s kind of hit it and quit it.
Do you find it easier touring with one big super tour like this one, or would you prefer a more intimate headline tour where the fans are there to see just you?
It just depends, man. If the tour is really, really good and everyone gets along then it’s alright with me. I always say, I only have one boss, it just happens to be everybody in the audience. So I like to play where they show up. I love the words SOLD OUT. That is always wonderful to see. For me personally, is it easier touring on a tour like this? Well there is a little more down time on a tour like this being the second of four bands. We probably have four more hours more to just do whatever we want. Whereas if we were headliners, we wouldn’t have those four hours. It would be work, work, work, work until the time we play. Then you get off stage at eleven-something, get on the bus, and you’re gone until 1 o’clock in the morning for the next place. On this tour, as a supporting act, there is just a little more down time which allows us to chill out because we have been headlining for the last two years so this was a good way for us to relax. Not to say that we are slacking off, I am not saying that at all. The 40 minutes of stage time is where we like to give it everything that we got. We are able to work out a lot more now. We are able to catch up on a lot more press and things of that nature and just hang out with one another. Touring, though, is really all this band knows.
How do you and the guys in the band maintain your sanity on the tour bus?
We laugh a lot. We genuinely like being around one another. There is a lot of movie watching. Barry just got us all a Wii which is like fun as heck. Everyone has family back home so everyone is on their phone multiple times during the day talking to their people in their hometown. Plus we are really honest with one another. Believe me, we have arguments just like everybody else would have and certain things that some of us agree with and some of us don’t. In the end, we can always talk it through every time. It is a lot easier for us to just be straight forward with one another because we don’t hide anything from each other and we just let it fly all the time. And we just have a good time with each other. We never keep anything bottled up, if there is a issue or if there is something on your mind, just say it, don’t hold it in. Nobody does that out here.
Maryville (Mo.) Daily Forum