photo by: Sanjay Parikh

The road to phase two of Shinedown’s most prolific record, with frontman Brent Smith

I know you’re clinging to the light of day. I’m calling out to everyone.

Guess you might say I’m a little intense, but take it from me, you’re not the only one who can’t see straight. In a room full of mirrors, there’s only one way out. And the devil is in the next room. And the voices in your head are legendary.

You see, life’s too short to run it like a race. It’s never gonna matter if you win first place because we’re all the same. So, you wake up and pull yourself together. You speak up, because no one heard your name (yet). You erupt because it’s better late than never. It may feel like it takes forever, but you gotta try, …you can pull yourself back together. And suddenly in a room full of mirrors “I figured it out” … “It’s my day to be brilliant.”

It’s fair to say nothing about me is ordinary. Sometimes my friends all say I’m going crazy. Like Shinedown, I don’t hear a word they say. And like frontman, Brent Smith – my plan B is to not have a plan B. I’m just gonna keep movin’. Today, tomorrow and the next… just gotta keep movin’.

During a recent three-week summer tour break, I had the chance to speak with Smith. I say “break” loosely because he was in Los Angeles about to begin shooting a lengthy music video project that goes along with the band’s sixth studio record, ATTENTION ATTENTION – which has been chart-topping since it’s 2018 release, simultaneously hitting #1 on Billboard’s Alternative, Top Rock and Hard Rock Albums Charts, while spawning #1 Active Rock hit “DEVIL,” and the rousing track “THE HUMAN RADIO”, in addition to “GET UP” and “MONSTERS.”

And that was all in phase one of the album run as much of the story is still to unfold. The most sincere component here is that Shinedown embody their mission. They have lived “my monsters are real”, cleared their throats, caught their breath, and at times let their hearts bleed out until there was nothing left. But they linked arms, threw a few instruments and a microphone on their backs and realized – “finding someone you can trust gets results.”

Now as Shinedown prepares to fire up their engines for tours with Papa Roach and Alter Bridge respectively, they are also deeply thinking about how the lives this record has already touched can multiply. ATTENTION ATTENTION is doing what it sought out to do, and as Smith I discuss the profound impact here, it’s obvious that there’s desire for much more.

So, say it if you’re one of us, let’s count it down from 10 to one, because I (we) believe you can be whatever.

photo by: Sanjay Parikh

ATTENTION ATTENTION has officially been out for 15 months, you’ve toured extensively and have really illuminated the deep messaging within the record. With all that’s transpired so far, how are you? What is the vibe within Shinedown right now?

We are great. We are embarking on the next phase of the record, which is essentially the second act. When we put the album together, we knew what we had in it being a story-record. It doesn’t matter where you come from the point is that you can find why you’re extraordinary. A lot of what ATTENTION ATTENTION is and what it is becoming focuses on not having a plan B. Whatever your plan A is – you need to focus on that. It doesn’t matter how long it take to get there, just get there. Whatever you really want out of your life, you have to go do it. To see the overwhelming response from the audience with the new songs is extremely gratifying and massively humbling.

There are four videos from the album that you can see now. For the past year I have been prepping what’s coming up here with 10 straight days of filming videos for all the remaining songs. We want to make sure everybody is introduced to a brand-new character. We have a timeline set for February of next year for it to premiere as a film. We’re looking into distribution right now, with hopes of getting it into as many theaters as possible.

When we first spoke about this record it was about four weeks before it was released. I remember being blown away by how much this music meant to you. Personally, it must be an incredible feeling to see it resonate with so many people.

Yeah, it absolutely is. The thing about Shinedown, with the way the music industry changes and there being so much music out there, we had to know exactly how we wanted to approach this next record. After we were done making it, we did feel that it was going to resonate, but we had to not worry about what the new thing was in the industry. We had made this album, a true collection of songs where each song is necessary in order to convey what this entire story is about. It doesn’t revolve around one person, it’s about a bunch of different people. The concept of an album is falling away a bit where people are just releasing EP’s or singles. So, we made an extra effort to stress this is not that and we want people to see it as a complete story where we can also express the messaging visually. We’re not done yet with ATTENTION ATTENTION, there’s certainly more of the story to tell

photo by: Sanjay Parikh

“DEVIL” is a very unique and versatile song. Technically, it’s the first song on the record and you used to close with it. Now it opens your shows. How has “DEVIL” progressed for you because it’s very rare that a song can fit into both the opener and closer role of a show?

That’s very insightful. Zach (Myers, guitarist) was the one who first stated we’d open with it down the line when it was our closer. From the start, the song was getting massive airplay. Our thought initially was to have it close because it was our newest song and was like a taste of what’s to come with this overall record. 

Now, “DEVIL” serves as a perfect introduction to the experience. We book-end it and close with “Brilliant” the last song on the record. When you have a song where the chorus is “It’s about to get heavy” it’s a good idea to have it as your opener, so we always wanted to get it to that spot.

One of the reasons we are filming all of the songs is to be able to bring the entire experience of this record live in the future. We will probably do select dates where we play the entire album from start to finish. It’s an important story and having it out there now, we realize “DEVIL” was always meant to be for the front.

You look at the opening and closing lines of the record and you have “Pick up the phone” and “It’s my day to be brilliant.” You can just see there is room for a heavy narrative in-between and there’s certainly a lot in there.

A lot has to do with we have never approached a record making sure we have three singles and the rest is filler. Every song has to be strong and make a statement. It’s a big undertaking to do what we do sometimes, like going to film 10 days straight. It’s not going to come across as just sitting down to watch 14 music videos. You have to make an art to it so that people really see how far you are pushing the envelope. It allows us to get creative and get uncomfortable. It’s OK to be nervous. We are practicing what we preach in ATTENTION ATTENTION with not being afraid to fail. You are not going to be defined by your failures, you’ll be defined by the fact that you refused to give up. Maybe people find themselves in this record and that’s a reason why it has resonated.

photo by: Sanjay Parikh

One of the brightest moments of ATTENTION ATTENTION has been “Get Up” and now there are different renditions of this song. Did you expect “Get Up” to be such a focal point?

I have been overwhelmed since the day the album was released on how people gravitated towards this song. I knew we had tapped into something very genuine. I wrote it about someone who is one of my closest friends in the world. He happens to also be the bass player in Shinedown (who also recorded, engineered and mixed the record). Eric (Bass) embraced it and knew that it came from a place of love. We thought it could help a lot of people realize that life is not meant to be easy, but in same breath, it’s going to be OK. There are times where it’s never going to not be hard, but you have to find compassion in yourself and the people around you. “Get Up” has a lot to do with people not losing empathy in each other. If the song can help the world and our society then more power to it. “Get Up” is also not done yet.

To come full circle here, has there been a moment within this ATTENTION ATTENTION chapter of Shinedown that made you pause in awe and realize the intent behind the record is happening and it’s working?

There have been a lot of moments but there is one that stands out. There was a lady we met in the UK who was in her early 20’s. She came to the show with her mother who told us she wanted to thank us. She explained that her daughter had not been out of the house in five years, she had been suffering and going through some personal things. Her mother didn’t know how long she would last at the show, she was just excited that her daughter wanted to come and that she was going to take her our of the house for the first time in five years. We ended up linking them with our security and placing them in the front of the house by the sound engineers. They had an area for themselves where they were barricaded in and super safe. I could keep an eye on them from the stage and made eye contact with them throughout the night. She had the biggest smile on her face the entire time. I don’t know what ended up happening after the show, and I hope she is living the fullest life that she can, but to have a hand in her picking herself up that night and coming to see Shinedown was pretty special.

“Until Next Time”

photo by: Sanjay Parikh

Catch Shinedonw on tour starting August 17th through December 21st. For tickets and more information visit Shinedown.com

Brent Smith and Zach Myers will be at the 92Y in New York City on Thursday September 12th joining comedian Chris Porter for an intimate conversation about ATTENTION ATTENTION, plus an acoustic performacne and audience Q & A. Click Here for tickets.