Photo Credit: Jimmy Fontaine
Florida Rockers, Shinedown, have been sharing their enormous breadth of talent and passion with the music world and beyond over nearly two decades. Having recently released their sixth studio album, it is evident that the guys of Shinedown have tore down their walls as they capture a dose of humanness throughout purposeful lyricism that is brimming with positive intent throughout ‘ATTENTION ATTENTION’. I caught up with Lead Vocalist, Brent Smith, to discuss the release of the new album, the inspiration behind “Get Up”, the powerful meaning behind one of his tattoos and much more.
First and foremost, congrats on the recent release of your sixth studio album, ‘Attention Attention’. What did you learn about yourself throughout the creative and writing process this time around?
The reality is that ‘ATTENTION ATTENTION’ is an album that the four of us have wrote about not being afraid to fail. I think that a lot of times people will become very hard on themselves psychologically, physically, etc. if they want to go after something that they may have never achieved before. People may have a bit more fear when going after something that they feel might be bigger than themselves. But, that’s the beauty of being a human being. I mean, the fact that you’re going to need to fail in order to learn how to win.
Absolutely. I perceive that those falls and failing in general allows an individual to rise up again even stronger than before as they carry that experience of failing from the past into a new opportunity to win in the future.
Yeah. I mean, for us in general as a band and who we are and what we want to accomplish, one of the big things is the fact that our own Bass player, Eric Bass, who is way more than a bass player is the Producer and Mixer of ‘ATTENTION ATTENTION’. You know, we are six albums in as a band on Atlantic Records and next year, we are going on 20 years of being signed to Atlantic. In our day and age, that in itself is not a very known fact and it is rare that one artist or band maintains being on the same label for nearly two decades. It is interesting because prior to even turning in ‘ATTENTION ATTENTION’ and right in the middle of the recording process, Atlantic Records sent over a request for an extension for two more albums after this release which is pretty remarkable. It is living proof that you can’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to try. There is a lot of psychology in the album, but it is a very genuine record.
I can tell. You guys have always just let it rip and pour forward throughout the lyricism within your albums, yet throughout ‘ATTENTION ATTENTION’, there are no walls.
Yeah, I think that when you go into anything that is creative and have a huge respect for one another the way that we have for each other in our band, you are concerned about potentially crossing a line. But, the fact of the matter is that we removed the line. Here’s an example: the song, “Get Up”, was where the line was removed. I write about what I know, what I’ve been through, what I see, the places that I have been to and the people that I have met and “Get Up” was written about my bandmate, Eric. He deals with depression and it can be singled out in some ways that it is considered clinical. Eric will tell you that he wishes that he would be able to reach into his brain and take that part of his psyche out. There are days in which he wakes up and knows that he doesn’t have any reason to be upset or sad or feel like there is a cloud hovering over him. But, the reality is that this is something that Eric has to fight through. This is something that Eric has to deal with and being with him for as many years as I have, we were very up front on all of the lyrics within this album and speaking openly about where this record came from. I remember the day that we finished “Get Up”. Eric looked at me and I said to him, “You know what the song is about, right” and Eric looked right back at me and said, “Yes, the song is about me.”……
It is a very triumphant song. ‘ATTENTION ATTENTION’ is an album that is a story; there is a beginning, middle and a finale. “Get Up” is the turning point in this story where the individual begins to get their confidence back.
Powerful. I perceive that this back-tale can inspire fans as well. I think that the shame that was once societally wrapped around depression is becoming less relevant. The conversation behind depression is becoming a lot more open and fluid. There is no need to wrap shame around depression. It is what it is.
You know, to a point it is what it is. But, I think that what has to be addressed is that depression is also what you make it out to be. I don’t like using terminologies such as mental illness. Illness is a very strong and powerful word. Illness usually means that there is a sickness involved or that it is not going to have a good outcome. Unfortunately, people that are in the public eye are taking their own lives. There is a bigger conversation to be had these days. I do believe that people need to talk about it. I do believe that people don’t need to be quiet. There are times when you don’t really need to mind your own business, particularly when you see someone struggling. A lot of times, people are afraid to talk about what they are experiencing because they feel that they are being weak; that’s not the case. It’s just the fact that some people don’t have anyone to talk to. A lot of times, people that suffer from a clinical depression don’t ever want to feel like they are bothering others. There are times when you have to be the one that sees what is happening and just walk up to that person that you care about and tell them that you are there for them and want to talk to them about what is going on. I don’t have a degree. I mean, I’m not a doctor, but I care.
I love people. I believe in life. I am not one-sided. I am not left. I am not right. I am not neutral. I am everybody. It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is. It doesn’t what gender that you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old. I am just for humanity. That’s really what I’m about.
Photo Credit: Jimmy Fontaine
Beautiful. Let’s talk tattoos. You have a piece on your left hand that says that your pain is a gift . What experiences led you toward getting that piece tattooed?
I put that message and tattoo on the top of my hand so that it could always be visible to me. You’re going to always see your hand. Yes, I am a singer and performer, but I am also a writer and lyricist. I am always using my hands. I don’t type lyrics on my phone or on a computer while we are in the studio. I don’t even own a computer. I write everything down. It is all about the exercise of it coming out of my brain, going down my arm, holding a pen and putting down my thoughts onto a piece of paper. Whenever I look at a blank piece of paper, I call it ‘Staring Down the Beast’. There’s nothing there yet and that’s the beast. But, you have to make something out of nothing.
Yes. The beast can also be yourself because as a writer, you have to overcome your thoughts and just spill forward onto that piece of paper.
Absolutely! The things that have hurt you and have caused you pain is ultimately the reason as to why I got that tattooed on my left hand. I am always going to see it on my left hand while I am writing with my right hand. Even when things feel like you are being pushed to your breaking point, you have to remember that you held on and kept going; that’s a gift that is going to make you stronger and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Isn’t that the truth. You guys are currently touring overseas and are gearing up to hit the road in the states with Godsmack. Do you incorporate any wellness practices while on tour that aid in creating the best experience possible for both yourself and the fans?
Yeah. I’ll be up front you. I have a ten-year-old son and if you know anything about my past (which I have been very forthcoming about) I have always had a problem with substances. I don’t do AA meetings. I have never been to rehab. I don’t talk about it on a daily basis, but if I am asked about it, I will talk about it. Personally, I have to look at each and every day one day at a time. I have to live day by day. One of the things that has really helped me out was back in 2011, I had gotten really heavy. I was eating really bad and drinking way too much. I had a very close friend of mine see me in really bad shape and she told me something that really changed my life. As simple as it was, the statement that she made to me was very powerful. She looked at me and said, “You are way more dangerous when you are sober. When you are clear-headed and focused, you are virtually unstoppable. But when you drink and do drugs, you are worthless. Nobody likes that guy when you are drinking and doing drugs. We fucking hate that dude.”
That’s a true friend.
Yes, she is and still is. Through hearing that, I started to learn how to exercise and eat right. I started to get really into fitness. I am 5’8 and at my heaviest, I weighed 222 pounds and my body fat was at 36%. Over the following year, I dropped down to 11% body fat and I weighed 160 pounds. I have just maintained it. All four of us in the band have a strict workout regime while we are on the road. We keep each other accountable. We eat pretty good even though when are out on the road, our metabolism is through the roof because we are on stage every night. Even when we have a day off, we still stick to our workout regime. It is very rare that we will take an entire day and not do anything unless someone is sick because if that happens, they need to rest. You just have to keep each other accountable on the road.
Photo Credit: Jimmy Fontaine
That is so important. Ultimately, you feel better yourself and have so much more energy to share with your fans while on stage if you are taking care of yourself. If you are eating shitty food and drowning in alcohol every night, to each their own, but that’ll weigh down on you.
Yeah, totally. I mean, I turned 40 this year. I look better at 40 than I did at 24. I am here to tell people that there is no fountain of youth! It is called exercise, live life, move your body and if you feed your body life, you are going to have life. If you feed your body death, then you are going to feel like shit.
Absolutely. Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans or anything else that you want to share about ‘ATTENTION ATTENTION?!
It is interesting because the four of us have lived with this album for almost a year and a half. The album has been out for a little over a month and it is a record that was genuinely written about people. It was a record that was written about not only us, but about our fans as well. Our fan base continues to grow. We have an audience that we call ‘8 to 80’ which means that it is a very wide group of people. There is something for everybody throughout all of our audiences and within our music. I can’t thank you all enough for allowing us to be ourselves.
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