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Shinedown - The Sound Of Brent Smith
Watch the new Shinedown video for Second Chance here.

Sometimes you get the chance to hear new music before the masses do in Europe. Thanks to a contact in NYC I got the chance to hear the music of Shinedown back in 2005. Ever since I have been playing their music on a frequent basis and I was stoked the band was not only releasing their new album worldwide, but the band was also going to support Disturbed on their European tour. Before the show I had a short talk with frontman Brent Smith who just had been talking to Metal Mike from Aardschok Magazine for over an hour. Luckily he was still in the right mood to answer some questions and turned out to be a friendly and passionate musician.

Touring Europe
In the past few years the band was dreaming of coming over to Europe Brent explains. ‘It has been a seven year struggle for me and Barry (red: Kech, drums) to get over here cause me and him are the last two original members in the band. We have been waiting for ever to get the opportunity to, first of all, have a record released over here and second play some shows here’. Lucky enough their friends of Disturbed invited them to tour Europe after the band experienced a three year black period where they almost quit due to drug related problems. ‘A friend of ours in Disturbed heard that we were releasing a new album and that this one was going to be a worldwide release. They instantly asked us to join them on this run which so far has been a great experience. They did tell us they weren’t able to give us much but the most important thing they were able promise us: a crowd. And I must say it has been the best experience with this band so far, I haven’t had this much fun in years.’ The fun is mainly caused by the new audience the band is playing in front of, in Amsterdam the band is playing in front of a 3000 people. ‘It is great to play in front of a Disturbed audience this big but still see various people wearing a Shinedown shirt and screaming along all the lyrics. And because it is our first time here it is also a challenge to convince the people who never heard of us.’

The Sound Of Madness
Being the first record to release in Europe Brent is glad is was this record which is titled ‘The Sound Of Madness’. According to Brent it is the biggest album the band has produced so far. ‘It was a dream coming true to release an album worldwide I have been waiting for this moment my whole life. It goes back to the moment when we started recording the record when Rob Cavallo came into the picture. The day before we started the recording process he asked me what the goal was of this record. I answered him that when I was dead and gone this record needs to be remembered as an album the world said it was needed to be made. And as far as I can tell it got made.’ For this record Brent and Barry wrote almost 60 songs of which 11 made it onto the normal version of the album and 14 ended up on the special edition. ‘It was 18 months of work to get this album done. There were a lot of changes personally and artistically.’ The band had a hard time after the release of their previous album ‘Us And Them’. ‘I lost my love of music and found myself and my band being a walking time bomb. I was actually watching the demise of Shinedown. And what Barry and I have accomplished for this record, forming an fresh and new band, is astonishing. We have, together with our friends Nick Perri, Zach Myers and Eric Bass, reinvented Shinedown and made it stronger than ever.’ The end product is something completely different than their previous work, the band has inserted more dynamics and levels into their sound. For Brent this has been a new impulse on how to write lyrics. ‘It was a completely different journey for me, it’s the most blunt record I have ever done. Where my lyrics were mainly built around metaphors on the previous two records it is more cut and dry on this record. I have become more of a story teller where there is a beginning and an end.’ On ‘The Sound Of Madness’ Brent include various themes on his lyrics including politics and love. Personally he once said he never would write a love song. ‘You are right, I did once say that. But my wife and baby are the best things ever happening to me. They are the ones who got me through the tough years and this made me write that song. Theme wise I think there are songs on their which fit every category a human being goes through. That is why I have called this record ‘The Sound Of Madness’. I often speak to people who find the tile and the front cover strange but it all makes sense when they listen to the album. The madness isn’t a negative word, it’s the beauty of being alive. You have to image it combines all the sounds around you, from the city, your work, your child crying for you at night, your alarm clock. It is the madness of life which actually makes this a beautiful word. It just took me 20 years to start talking about these themes.’

Shinedown is one of those bands who got the chance to play in front of the US troops in Iraq. Many artists experience this as a unique opportunity to inspire and motivate the people who protect their home country. ‘We were able to do it the way that we wanted it to happen. We came over with a full band, plugged in and played a live set. It was a life changing experience for me. We weren’t there for a political reason, we just went there to play some music for the troops. During that tour we have played for 20.000 soldiers in the course of four days. Afterwards we sat down and had long conversations with as many soldiers as possible. They keep our country safe and it was worth it being there doing what we do best.’ As like many people Shinedown is not supporting the war, they do know these people have to be there but like many they want these people back with their family. ‘The biggest struggle we had when we got back is to find a way to get these people back as soon as possible. They are fighting a war in which they don’t even know where they are fighting for. And the worst thing is that people are dying there. I, and many others, don’t want that anymore and we just want them to come home. I they can’t come home I would love to go back there and play in front of them again to give them some extra power.’ After the band returned to the US they wrote a song about they journey and experiences. ‘Right after we got back we wrote the song Devour. And you know, I could tell you a 100 stories but there was one that got to me. There was a general that I met and he told me it was tough over there and what the day to day business was. He explained to me all the things that drive you mad over there. But the worst thing was that he had a three year old daughter at home that he never seen in person. That is what triggered me that something needs to be done by the leader of this country. And the leader we have in office right now isn’t capable of doing that. That is why I wrote this song like a letter to him. He has suffocated a nation and he is now in his final hours so how do you feel about yourself now.’ When I confront Brent with what he thinks will happen if all soldiers get pulled from Iraq he responds he is not the guy who is saying there is such thing as world peace. ‘ I don’t know what will happen and it is something nobody could say until we do. But let’s at least put a date on when we will leave those people living their own life. And then our people can live theirs’

On ‘The Sound Of MadnessShinedown has included many layers into the music which bring a lot of extra dynamic into their sound. The band also included a 21 piece orchestra.
‘I wanted it to be the biggest sounding record Rob Cavallo ever created. It surprised a lot of people that we were recording an album with Rob Cavallo. They constantly asked me how we got him to do our record, I had to respond with the fact he actually came to us. The first time I have met him I didn’t even know who he was. And 11 months later when I met him again he worked with our rough demos and he told me he was ready to do a record. By that time I haven’t even thought about producers and my A&R guy at Atlantic Records Steve Robertson told me he did American Idiot and Dookie (red: Greenday), the last My Chemical Romance and he had worked with Phil Collins. Right now he is actually doing the new Dave Matthews record. And even though that didn’t impress me since I am not in either one of those bands he got exactly what I wanted to do with Shinedown. I told him everything had to be grant, epic, intense and swooning. Besides the orchestra we used a lot of synthesizers and a lot of piano. All this resulted in a lot of layers.’ Live this always brings a lot of complications, Shinedown still plays these songs live including these extra layers using a electronic tracking system. ‘We have to play these songs live and we simply cannot afford adding more than twenty people on our stage. This is something we might do on a special event somewhere in the future. And the fact we add these layers electronic isn’t really a bad thing since the songs would sound as big as on the record if we didn’t include them.’

A lot of bands have got a distance relationship with their fan base. This is a strange thing due to easy community sites like Facebook and MySpace where bands can directly communicate with their fans. Shinedown is using their own website to directly interact with their fans. ‘In the end they are the people who are letting you do what you do. It is an honor to play our music in front of those people and actually seeing them enjoying almost every song. We have always told ourself one thing: we have got one boss, and that is everybody in the audience. They make the decision if you can stay or you should go. All that respect goes to them. And that is just reality’. On the European tour the band is having problems communicating directly to people in the audience due to strict bus call times and security. ‘We are leaving early almost every night and if we have got some time the security is already sweeping everybody out of the venue. That is the down side to playing venues this big. But we grab every chance we get to sign some stuff, talk to fans or take a picture. We love to do that stuff.’

Last but not least
The band has now done a big European support tour with Disturbed. When will they be back and what will they do? ‘We will be back in January doing a smaller headlining tour and we will play some smaller venues. Until now we are facing 14 shows including Holland.’