Interview: Shinedown frontman, Brent Smith discusses the band’s forthcoming, and incredibly emotional record, ‘ATTENTION ATTENTION’
Pick it up, pick it up, pick up the phone!…
45 seconds into Shinedown’s forthcoming record, ATTENTION ATTENTION, the band wholeheartedly sticks to the moniker. They reach out with welcomed force and completely grab your attention. “Pick up the phone,” frontman Brent Smith belts out like a man on mission. But who is on the other side to pick it up? Who are you speaking to while singing along? Who is Smith calling out to? Perhaps that’s just the point. The person is you. Answer your own call.
Prior to ripping into the captivating lyric out of the gate there is a sound (gesture) that sets the tone for the journey. “THE ENTRANCE” closes with a person taking a deep breath. Ready or not, let’s do this.
Welcome to ATTENTION ATTENTION. The sixth studio record from acclaimed rockers Shinedown, to be officially released on May 4th. The 14-track album, Shinedown’s most raw and personal to date, is a mental, emotional and physical sole-searcher that follows an individual from life’s lowest lows to the highest highs as anxieties dissipate and demons disappear.
For Smith, this artistic record is as authentic as it gets. He digs deep into every corner while delivering honest lyrics filled with cold, cruel, harsh realities. You find yourself immediately trusting Smith without question. The alliance is appreciated and reciprocated, ultimately sending you on your way with a slap on the back — encouraging you that it’s now your day to be brilliant.
In between the deep breath and rolling credits, you are placed right in front of a mirror. Steam clouds the glass, and as it begins to fade, words and sometimes full sentences appear before you.
“Wake Up! Pull yourself together. Speak up! cuz no one heard your name.” “The voices inside my head are legendary.” “EVOLVE.” “special.” “MONSTERS.” “We march.”
Written exactly as you see above, it’s like a kid with enthralling eyes, etching their name into the aforementioned steam filled mirror, knowing the words will repeatedly appear in the same place — until you wash them away.
I recently had the chance to speak with Smith, the band’s courageous singer, literally from the side of a road en route to South Dakota. The band was a day away from kicking off their 72 date, six-month tour in Deadwood, SD. The reception through the valleys was not great so Smith had the bus pulled over so he could speak to me without static. That small gesture, to me, was symbolic to the entire craft-work of ATTENTION ATTENTION and its creators. Thoughtful. Sincere. Precise — a leadership through music delivered eloquently by the platform and power that is Smith’s voice.
The call was answered with grace. Over the next 25 minutes, Smith took me inside the ride. We picked up every stone — even those placed on the dark-side, and then gently put them down. As Smith closed the door behind us in conclusion, we were sent on our way with … “until next time.”
You’re embarking on an extensive tour, the new Shinedown record will be released in May, and the lead single “DEVIL” is officially out now, how are you feeling?
Everybody in the band, including myself, we are all feeling really strong. We are also feeling super humble in regards to ATTENTION ATTENTION being released on May 4th, and of course with the song “DEVIL” being out now along with the video. There’s a lot of touring already lined up. We are technically already booked through November. Everybody is just ready to begin. The record is a huge part of what we really wanted to convey and what we wanted to express to the world. We were able to do that and now its time perform it for everybody.
For you personally, is there a transition that takes places coming out of touring acoustically with Smith and Myers? What is it like going from performing and singing over an acoustic to now kicking it into high gear with the band?
It’s interesting, me and Zach did that run in December of last year. I wasn’t expecting to tour in December. Zach had asked back in October if I wanted to do it and I said, “Sure, why not.” The interesting thing when it comes to the roll-out of ATTENTION ATTENTION and all the work that went into creating it, was that it was the first record we did in house. Eric Bass sat in the captain’s chair and he produced and mixed the record. We were also touring while we were making the record.
We did 44 days with Iron Maiden in April of last year, we toured in July and did a few festivals before me and Zach went out. During all of that we were going back to the studio to put the finishing touches on the new music. It gave us a lot of perspective. We paced ourselves really well. We put much of the touring together ahead of time so that we knew what we were capable of. When you’re touring for 20 years, you know what your limits are.
Everybody’s in good health, everybody’s ready to go, and everybody’s got a strong will going into this album. As performers, we are making sure everyone is taking care of because it’s a really important record.
There are some very strong visuals and accents with ATTENTION ATTENTION. For example, everything is capitalized except for the song “special”. What is the artistic process and intent behind that?
Everything was built around impact. We had a laser focus. We didn’t have any questions going into making this album, we knew exactly what we wanted to do. That helped a lot from a direction standpoint. From an artistic standpoint, we didn’t want to clutter it up, especially visually. The album cover is an exclamation point, but it’s very specific. It came from us. We wanted to find a way to emphasize getting people’s attention — combining the visuals and sounds. The best way to do that is by a symbol and what better symbol than an exclamation point — basically telling the listener, less is more here. There’s something very important inside of this. I really feel like it’s a record the world needs right now. It’s a necessary album that was written from a very real place.
I completely agree. I find it very inspiring how much music has a true purpose behind it right now, especially in rock. I’m a big lyrics person and I was very moved immediately upon listening to “DEVIL”. There’s this buildup and then boom you come out swinging — the first words you hear on the record are, “Pick it up, pick it up, pick up the phone.”
We always knew “DEVIL” was going to be the first song because it’s the beginning of a story. In the “DEVIL” video, you can see how the beginning of the album should be looked at in regard to the journey. The story had to start off in a very intense place. This person is making a decision to confront these subject matters. They are saying, “I need to face my fears, it’s going to be terrifying, but if I’m going to move forward in my life, I am going to have to do this.” That’s why the whole record takes place inside a room. There’s a lot of symbolism in the fact that the person is in a chair during much of this.
It’s bookended too. The last says, “The devil’s in the next room” but the last chorus “The devil is right beside you.” It goes into the next song. Then the final song on the record, which is “Brilliant”, the last thing you hear is “It’s my day to be brilliant.” As that song ends, you hear the individual get out of the chair, walk back outside, and say “Until next time.” The journey never ends. You just move on.
Funny you should say that, I often look very closely at the first line in a record and the last line when listening to a new album full of meaningful music. What I really appreciate with ATTENTION ATTENTION, is that there is no shying away from what you have to go through in between the first and last line of the journey. There’s a lot of focus on facing your fears and it’s going to be tough. For example, in the title track you have this line, “The voices in my head are legendary”. It’s subtle, but hits so hard. How important was it for you to focus on this concept of — the only way out is through?
It’s the idea that you have to fall into a hole in order to get out of it. The record is about facing different fears, but also about accepting that you are terrified of those fears. The world can be a very tricky place. It can be scary and at the same time beautiful. The journey for this person is them trying to find their humanity again. They are trying to remember what it was like to be a human being and discovering that it’s not always about them. There’s a great good in the world. Sometimes we get lost in technology and inside of ourselves and we get selfish. There’s nothing wrong with that. We live in a world that is technologically advanced. Any questions people have, you can go to the internet. People always say the internet is undefeated. That’s an interesting way to embark on the world. If you truly believe that, a bit of your sole has been lost. There’s so much information. So many people have a platform and they have opinions, but that also generates a lot of negativity and something I call false positivity. You see all these hashtags of “blessed life” and you think — do you feel like that or are you doing that because everyone else is hash-tagging that?
You can’t lose sight of yourself, what you believe in and what you want in your own life. You’ll be the first person you see in the morning when you look in the mirror. If you can’t make that person happy then you won’t make anyone else happy. But you can’t forget that you are human. You are going to make mistakes. This record is about not being afraid to fail. People too often, put themselves in a corner and paralyze themselves mentally and physically. They want to achieve certain things, but they think because they’ve never done it before, they are not going to win. You are probably right, you’re not going to win every time. That’s the beauty of being alive.
That’s a very important point. How much did you tap into your own personal experiences when writing the lyrics?
The whole record is about everyone in the band. Specifically, to me, I feel I’m everywhere in there, but so is the rest of Shinedown. There’s a song called “Monsters”. When I make that statement about “My monsters are real, and they’re trained how to kill”, that’s about as blunt and bold as I can be about those voices that I did say were legendary, but can also be my demise if I let them. Personally, it has a lot to do with substance abuse. I will forever be an addict. I’m clean now, but the fact is — I have to take it day-by-day. Those pathways are already paved in my brain. I know exactly what’s on those roads. For me to think I can go into a bar today and just have one drink, that would be great, but that’s not reality. If I were to go into a bar and have one drink I would end up drinking every single one in the building and probably wind up in jail. I know the parts of me that I must respect. It doesn’t mean I have to like it, but I do have to respect it. It’s something I can’t think about in the future, I literally have to take one day at a time. I haven’t gone to rehab, I don’t do self-help, nor am I a part of a 12-step program, I only know how to do it this way. I’m also very lucky because the other three guys I’m in a band with are my brothers and they’ve never judged me. They’ve just been there to pick me up when I fell.
What was the Shinedown process in writing and recording these songs? Was there anything brand new that you tried?
One thing that was new was that we didn’t talk about any outside producers. We are really fortunate to have had to some great engineers that we’ve worked with over the years, male and female, but there was no question that Eric Bass was going to produce the record. He’s our bass player, but he’s way more than that. He mixed it as well. It was all four of us writing, but having someone at the forefront that we are with all the time, from both a creative and technical side, was incredible. He put himself through it. He made this record with all his heart. That was a big part of why it doesn’t sound like any other Shinedown record.
In terms of the songwriting, everything was fair game. Anyone who had an idea, we’d be open to them. We navigated it all together.
Well, it’s heartfelt process, resulting in a heartfelt record.
Coming full circle here, in a close-your-eyes moment and all things considered, what does ATTENTION ATTENTION mean to you?
It means don’t lose site of yourself. Don’t be afraid to fail. You will not be defined by your failures, you’ll be defined by the fact that you did not give up. There was an interview that I read early on in the writing of this album, that was one of the last interviews that Miles Davis did before he passed away. Miles said, “The music is already inside of you. It’s always been there. You’re a vessel.” The next thing he said was the most powerful,“If you’re going to tell a story then till it with an attitude.” That’s exactly what ATTENTION ATTENTION is. It’s an attitude.
WATCH: the video for “THE HUMAN RADIO” — a brand new track off ATTENTION ATTENTION
Official “DEVIL” video:
SHINEDOWN TOUR DATES 2018:
April 9 Modesto, CA @ Modesto Centre Plaza
April 10 Chico, CA @ Senator Theatre
April 12 Riverside, CA @ Riverside Municipal Auditorium
April 13 Scottsdale, AZ @ Arizona Bike Week Live at the Rock Yard
April 14 El Paso, TX @ Speaking Rock
April 16 San Antonio, TX @ Tobin Center for the Performing Arts
April 17 Corpus Christi, TX @ Concrete Street Pavilion
April 18 Baton Rouge, LA @ Raising Cane’s River Center
April 20 Tampa, FL @ 98RockFest Live at Amalie Arena
April 21 Orlando, FL @ WJRR Earthday Birthday Live at Central Florida Fairgrounds
April 28 Sunrise, FL @ Monster Energy Fort Rock Fest Live at Markham Park
May 4 Concord, NC @ Carolina Rebellion Live @ Rock City Campgrounds
May 6 Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena
May 8 Lexington, KY @ Rupp Arena
May 10 Tulsa, OK @ Bok Center
May 11 Council Bluffs, IA @ Westfair Amphitheatre
May 12 Maryland Heights, MO @ Pointfest
May 14 Salem, VA @ Salem Civic Center
May 16 Birmingham, AL @ Legacy Arena at BJCC
May 17 Evansville, IN @ Live at the Ford Center
May 18 Moline, IL @ Tax Slayer Center
May 20 Grand Forks, ND @ Alerus Center
June 2 Nürberg, Germany @ Rock am Ring
June 3 Nuremberg, Germany @ Rock im Park
June 8 Interlaken, Switzerland @ Greenfield Festival
June 10 Donington Park, England @ Download Festival
June 14 Nickelsdorf, Austria @ Nova Rock
June 16 Firenze, Italy @ Firenze Rocks
June 22 Dessel, Belgium @ Graspop
June 24 Clisson, France @ Hellfest
June 30 Madrid, Spain @ Download Festival
July 14 Oshkosh, WI @ Rock USA
July 22 Clarkston, MI @ DTE Energy Music Theatre
July 24 Darien Center, NY @ Darien Lake Amphitheater
July 25 Mount Pleasant, MI @ Soaring Eagle Casino
July 27 Tinley Park, IL @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
July 28 Noblesville, IN @ Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center
July 29 Des Moines, IA @ KAZR Bday Show
July 31 Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center
August 2 Salt Lake City, UT @ USANA Amphitheatre
August 3 Las Vegas, NV @ Downtown Las Vegas Events Center
August 4 Irvine, CA @ FivePoint Amphitheatre
August 6 Albuquerque, NM @ Isleta Amphitheater
August 8 Bonner Springs, KS @ Providence Medical Center Amphitheater
August 11 Houston, TX @ The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 12 Dallas, TX @ Starplex Pavillion
August 14 North Little Rock, AR @ Verizon Arena
August 15 Biloxi, MS @ Coast Coliseum
August 16 Atlanta, GA @ Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood
August 18 Virginia Beach, VA @ Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater
August 19 Bristow, VA @ Jiffy Lube Live
August 21 Saratoga Springs, NY @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center
August 22 Gilford, NH @ Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion
August 24 Hartford, CT @ XFINITY Theatre
August 25 Boston, MA @ Xfinity Center
August 26 Camden, NJ @ BB&T Pavilion
August 28 Burgettstown, PA @ KeyBank Pavilion
August 29 Syracuse, NY @ Lakeview Amphitheater
August 31 Scranton, PA @ The Pavilion at Montage Mountain
September 1 Holmdel, NJ @ PNC Bank Arts Center
September 2 Wantagh, NY @ Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater
- For tickets and more information including dates with Godsmack visit Shinedown.com