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SHINEDOWN's Brent Smith Talks About The Influence Bands Like DEATH, PANTERA, TOOL Had On Them

Shinedown have a huge 2020 planned ahead of them, with a world tour based on their smash new album Attention/Attention.

Sanjay Parikh Photo
Sanjay Parikh Photo

There's no getting around it, Shinedown are one of the biggest rock bands of the decade. They have a huge 2020 planned ahead of them, with a world tour based on their smash new album Attention/Attention (dates below)

While their style heading into 2020 may be tough to classify as heavy metal, it's hard to deny the energy and passion the Jacksonville natives bring to each and every performance.

The band is coming off their massive crossover album Attention Attention, a near-concept record that emotionally touches on mental health, among other weighty themes.

Frontman Brent Smith caught up with Metal Injection during a European tour with Alter Bridge to talk crafting music with message and meaning, dives deep into the bands' past tour with the iconic Iron Maiden, and throws down some surprising metal influences.

On Differences Between North American and European Audiences

I'll be honest with you man. It's the one thing that is very real and apparent in regards to live music. If you're looking at all the countries around the globe and the cities, if the music is really, really great and the songs are really, really great, the audience is going to give it back to you. But the thing about it is, and I've always said this because it holds true; we only have one boss. It just happens to be everybody in the audience. So it doesn't matter where you're playing. And a lot of times as an artist onstage, you can't phone it in because people are not stupid and they will see it if you are trying to pull one over on them or if you're faking it, they will see right through it. But in regards to the difference between European and UK and like America, I don't know if there's like a huge difference.

I will tell you this, in Europe, they are really paying attention and especially in the UK. You do not see a lot of cell phones in the UK audience unless you ask them to take them out and turn them on. We've been touring this part of the country and these cities for the better part of a decade now. The band has been around since 2003. Still to this day in America it's like a red carpet every night. There's a lot of cell phones out. Everyone is filming and taking pictures and what have you. I got no problem with that. I really, really don't. You know, to each his own, because I'm not the one in the audience, I'm there to entertain you. So how would you want to be entertained? It's totally up to you. But the fact of the matter is, over here (Europe) they are in the moment, they don't pull the cell phones out over here. They're in it with you. So I would say that that's kind of a big difference between American audiences versus European and UK. But at the end of the day, at the core, it's just music man. People are there to see you. There's something about what you present that they identify with. That's why live music is so strong.

On Dedicating the Song 'Get Up' to Bassist Eric Bass

I wrote that song about Eric, who is our bass player. The album came out last year, May 4th. This is our first record we did in-house. Our bass player, who is way more than a bass player, Eric Bass, he is the sole producer of the record. He's also the main engineer on the album and he also mixed the album. I spent 179 days with him in 2017 in Charleston, South Carolina. And the reality was once we wrote 'Get Up' I think that we understood where we were going at that point, because it was a little bit up in the air as to what kind of a record we were going to make.

I remember the day that I heard 'Get Up' back after we'd recorded it and gone through everything with each other, I remember the first time I heard the mix I looked at Eric and going you know what this is about, right? And he said, yeah, it's about me. Eric has something called clinical depression. And this isn't something where it's like a case of the Mondays. This is something that he deals with on a daily basis. But the reality of that is that at that time I thought I might have crossed a line, if you will, with our friendship. And it couldn't have been further from the truth, because Eric was like, hey, man, this is exactly what it needs to be. If this is what we're gonna do and we're gonna go this deep and we're gonna be this honest then we have to go all the way.

On Emotionally Meaningful Album Attention Attention

We made, in our opinion, an album about everybody. But it is a story and it's a journey. It's not a quintessential concept record, but all the songs fit with each other and it does tell the story. Attention Attention isn't about one specific individual. So it doesn't matter whether you're young, whether you're older, whether you're a man or a woman. The color of your skin, that's irrelevant. Your religion? That's totally up to you. It's about everyone. Because it's also a record about not feeling or being afraid to fail in life, because that's what's going to teach you. Your failures are going to teach you. They're not going to destroy you. Why I say that it's because you're not going to be defined by your failure. You're going to be defined by the fact that you refuse to give up. The audience and the world in general heard the authenticity of the album. They heard that it came from a very honest and real place.

Hopefully this record is something that people will take with them throughout time to really show the existence of the human spirit, 'cause that's the other side of it too man. We don't want people to lose their empathy for each other. We're all here together, but at certain times in life, especially with the Internet, everybody has a platform and everybody has an opinion. We feel like Attention Attention was necessary. It just so happens that it was what we were ready to write and what we were ready to give to the world. And to be honest with you I feel like for the record, Attention Attention, this is just the beginning.

I hope that it helps people. I hope it gives people hope. I hope that it kicks people in the ass and it makes them get off their ass. If they've not been going after what they really wanted in their own life, I hope it helps them go after it. It's not meant to be perfect and things are gonna get tough. But that doesn't mean they're gonna be tough always. You're going to want to see the cuts and the bruises and scrapes and the scars in life. If it was perfect and pristine and all polished it wouldn't be worth it. We want to see the attitude man and we want to give people enough gusto to go after what they really want in their own life.

On Band Evolution and Unity

I don't really subscribe to the idea of 'we've made it' or anything like that. If you really dig into the history of this band and it's kind of something we're a bit proud of, we still kept a mystique about us on purpose because we don't want to give everything away. I think about the first two albums, it was a journey. And I think about the fact that once Zach and Eric had come into the band with myself and Barry, which would have been the beginning stages of The Sound of Madness record and that whole cycle, if it hadn't been for Eric and Zach the band wouldn't exist. It just wouldn't. Going back from the beginning era of Leave a Whisper and Us and Them, certain people had their opinions about this band.

We had to let go of two original members because it wasn't good for them and it wasn't good for us. And that needed to be done. I remember all the negativity. I mean, it was so much. The day the record The Sound of Madness was released every kind of journalistic approach to this was 'it's over for them' and that couldn't have been further from the truth. The reality is that once that kind of happened myself, Barry, Eric and Zach really held each other's hands and locked our foreheads together in a group huddle. Like it's all or nothing, man. If you go, I go. And we've kept that. We've kept that to this day. We don't believe in the top. We don't believe in any idea that we've arrived … That's what kept us honest, not only with our fanbase, but with each other. And I think that's been one of the biggest things about what we've been able to do is we've remained honest and we never try to write the same record twice. And we really do our best to never write the same song over and over again.

On Touring with Iron Maiden

It was just us and Maiden on that tour (in 2017). There wasn't another band, it was just the two of us. So you got these ideas and back in the day there are all these horror stories about opening up for Maiden and I just didn't really listen to them. My whole thing was we'll be lucky if we have half the building by like the last three songs on our set. Couldn't have been further from the truth. I walked out on stage with my guys at the first show in Antwerp and there was 28,000 people in front of us … They asked us to come and do the tour because they knew who we were. And I got to give a lot of credit to Steve Harris because he's the one that asked us if we would do it. And we said, yes, absolutely.

You got a fanbase where some of these people have seen this band 300 time over the course of like four decades. And my God is that not inspiring? Holy crap. They gave us such a huge opportunity man. And a lot of people know who we are now because of Iron Maiden. We owe a tremendous amount of love and gratitude and respect to that band. Four decades man. Even down to their crew, those men and women are salt of the earth. Those people are incredible. And a lot of their crew people have been with them for 30 years. Could not have treated us nicer, could not have been more respectful to us. And the band themselves could not have been more genuine and more supportive. And that just really blew us away.

On Heavy Metal Influences

I'll just say it straight up man. A lot of it had to do, for metal for me and the beginning phase of that where I really started to look at it from a wow factor was the day I heard Vulgar Display of Power by Pantera. That just completely shifted everything for me. First of all I never heard a record sound like that and I'd never heard like the lyrical content. They kind of went from Cowboys From Hell, which I didn't really listen to at all. I didn't really know who Pantera was until Vulgar Display of Power. I'll never forget my favorite lyric in that record is in the song 'Regular People' where Phil goes 'Most regular people would say it's hard, but any streetwise son of a bitch knows don't fuck with this.' And I just thought that was one the most amazing, most poetic things I ever heard. It just happened to be from this incredible metal band.

Going back a ways from an instrumental type outlook on certain things. Not that we use a lot of it, but the band Death. A lot to do with the fact that the bass player used a fretless bass. And I remember thinking why does Death sound completely different than all these other death metal bands? And you find out like a musicianship and what all went into that stuff. Some people think that it's just noise and it's the furthest thing from noise. That's a totally different level.

Pantera definitely was a huge part of that from the more extreme side and definitely Death. As I get deeper and deeper into things, sometimes people don't agree with this, but Tool had a big influence on me. The earlier Tool stuff though. When they got prog it didn't throw me off, but Undertow is definitely my record. Some people don't consider that a metal record, but I do. I mean, it's all how you look at it. But that Undertow record was a huge influence on me.

Catch Shinedown on tour next year, where the band will dive into its extensive catalog to perform an array of deep cuts and B-sides along with their biggest hits

April 15 – Chattanooga, TN @ Tivoli Theatre [Tickets]
April 17 – Tampa, FL @ WXTB 98 Rockfest at Amalie Arena [Tickets]
April 18 – Orlando, FL @ WJRR Earthday Birthday at Central Florida Fairground [Tickets]
April 19 – Columbia, SC @ Township Auditorium [Tickets]
April 21 – Greensboro, NC @ Piedmont Hall [Tickets]
April 22 – Savannah, GA @ Johnny Mercer Theater [Tickets]
April 25 – Memphis, TN @ Orpheum Theatre [Tickets]
April 26 – Little Rock, AR @ Robinson Center [Tickets]
April 28 – Louisville, KY @ Louisville Palace [Tickets]
May 01 – Lake Charles, LA @ Golden Nugget Casino [Tickets]
May 02 – Houston, TX @ Revention Music Center [Tickets]
May 03 – Austin, TX @ ACL Live at The Moody Theater [Tickets]
May 05 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues [Tickets]
May 06 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues [Tickets]
May 08 – Tulsa, OK @ The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino [Tickets]
May 11 – Midland, TX @ Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center [Tickets]
May 12 – El Paso, TX @ Plaza Theater [Tickets]
May 14 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern [Tickets]
May 15 – Indio, CA @ Fantasy Springs Resort Casino – Special Event Center [Tickets]
May 16 – Valley Center, CA @ Harrah's Resort Southern California – The Events Center [Tickets]
May 18 – San Francisco, CA @ The Warfield [Tickets]
May 19 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Pearl [Tickets]

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