Sanjay Parikh

Shinedown’s Brent Smith: ‘We’re Always Looking Ahead & Looking Forward’

Discovering this band, at any age or during any album cycle, is a formative moment for a rock fan. It’s a moment that is eye-opening, a symbol of resilience and influence, and a reminder of how joyful true rock and roll can be.

The legacy Shinedown has left on the rock music scene is not to be underestimated. The band has multiple platinum records and were named Billboard’s No. 1 Greatest of All Time Mainstream Rock Act. The band has never dropped an album that ‘flopped’ in their entire career – and they are still going strong. What’s insane about this band isn’t even the numbers they reach and the limits they shatter; it’s the depth and connectivity of the music itself. 

Brent Smith, frontman of the band, is a vocalist with rich tones that are commanding on stage ad off. He has a presence that only he can bring to the tracks he sings on. It’s unmistakably him. He doesn’t sound like anyone else, nor do other vocalists sound like him. (That is just a single part of what makes Shinedown so incredible. The whole band is always at the top of their game, too.) If you want more music that sounds like Shinedown, you’re just going to have to wait until they put out another record. No one else does what they do, quite like they do it. 

They are currently touring with Papa Roach and Spiritbox, making a stop in New Jersey at the Prudential Center on September 24. Papa Roach being a cut above every live band in the music sphere currently and Spiritbox have had the largest debut we’ve seen in years, this tour is sure to be one of the greats. 

We had the chance to chat with Brent about the new tour, catch up on Shinedown’s 2022 release Planet Zero, and uncover what being grateful for good news means for a band that has been full-steam ahead since the beginning. It’s a refreshing conversation and not one you’ll want to miss.

The Revolutions Live Tour is happening all this fall. What is going through your head?

Well, the thing was with this particular tour – and my big wish for the last two years – has been to have an opportunity to bring Spiritbox out, which we were finally able to do. Last year my wish was to have Jelly Roll and we were able to do that. Also, just to be able to hang out with our boys in Papa Roach? It’s probably been since late 2018/early 2019 the we did some shows with them! It’s been a minute since we’ve been able to see our boys. It’s an excuse to go out in the fall and bring everybody the biggest rock and roll show of the fall. That’s what we’re most excited about. 

Your history with Papa Roach goes deep. You guys have been teammates as bands for so long. Tell me a little bit about how that relationship has grown.

I think the biggest thing for the two of us is that both bands have such an admiration for each other and respect for each other. We’ve stayed in contact since we first met one another. I remember – Jacoby probably remembers it more than I do – the very first time meeting him. I was a bit enamored and kind of in awe. Everybody talks about “Last Resort” and what they’re known from that particular song, but this band has released a lot of different songs and gone through a lot of different evolutions in not only their band, but also their songwriting and their openness. I think one of the reasons why Shinedown and Papa Roach get along with each other, the music is constantly evolving and we always give that back to the fanbase. They allow us to be ourselves. 

Over the years we’ve just always had a connection and respect  for each other’s songwriting ability. I like the fact you can’t really put Papa Roach into a box. You can’t really put Shinedown into a box. You should always look into the peripheral when talking about writing music/songs and you should be able to evolve. For me, we’ve been friends forever. There’s just a lot of respect for each other. We didn’t know if we were going to do this tour this fall. I didn’t know if we were going to take a second to regroup and figure out what the next step is for Shinedown moving. We’re a year into the record Planet Zero and we’ve got a bunch of international negotiations right now in other countries to play and what have [we] going into next year and going into 2025. Then I went to the guys, Zach [Guitar], Barry [Drum], and Eric [Bass/piano], and said if we have an opportunity to bring Spiritbox out with Papa Roach, and before I could even say anything all the guys said yes. “We don’t care, yes! Let’s do that,” and we’re going to do it! Here we go!

That is so exciting. I’ve seen these three bands live separately and the one common thread is: crazy good live shows. You put this bill together and it’s stacked for any rock music fan.

Yeah, what we tried to do is present the A-game tour, if you know what I mean. Present your A-game. It’s fun to go back to the drawing board with the production. The one thing about our production from last year moving into this year, we’ve had an amazing time just designing the staging and what we’re doing. We’re going to be indoors when we come to your neck of the woods. We have two stages working because half the tour is in amphitheaters and then half the tour is in arenas, so we have to have two different staging components going on. For last year we had the amphitheater staging and this year we’re going to be able to come back in and do it inside. The stage is the full thrust so it’s a completely different show for everybody from last year to this year. For us, it’s just all about giving everybody the most amazing show possible from the opener to the main support to the headliner. We’re all kind of headliners in my opinion. I will say this: we’re really excited about being able to do this tour just because selfishly, these were the bands I wanted to tour with. 

That is so wonderful to hear! Going off something you said, obviously you do arenas and amphitheaters. Something unique that you guys do is typically when a band reaches that amphitheater level success, they won’t ever go back to clubs and theaters, but you’re able to do clubs and theaters with Smith and Meyers and then also do amphitheaters with Shinedown. Do you approach those two kinds of shows differently? 

The interesting thing about that, too, earlier this year – just a couple of months ago, actually – me, Zach, and Eric were out doing a promotional tour in June with Hot AC Radio with “The Symptom of Being Human” because we currently have that song on the chart. Everything we were doing earlier in the year, we brought Three Days Grace out and From Ashes to New earlier as we took the song, “Dead Don’t Die” to rock radio and alternative radio, but we had six shows planned out in July. We did some fairs and we did the only two club shows of the year. We did the Sylvee in Madison, Wisconsin and then we did the EPIC Event Center in Green Bay Wisconsin, and those were the only two club shows of the year. For us, we’ll do theaters and/or clubs, but we’ll only do specific markets for that, and it can be a difficult ticket to get. It’s still fun for us to go into those smaller venues. As Smith and Meyers, that’s a totally different thing. We don’t expect to be playing arenas or amphitheaters with that, but at the end of the day, we put all our energy truly into Shinedown. The Smith and Meyers project is something me and Zach are lucky to be able to do, but the energy and focus always goes into the Shinedown machine. 

Gotcha! That’s a testament to why you guys have been Billboard’s No. 1 successful mainstream rock artist. You’ve always pushed Shinedown first and foremost. 

It’s still really crazy to me. I have to be honest with you: I have to give this to the fanbase. Just earlier today got some newer stats that came in; sometimes I don’t look at these things because I’m always looking forward. I’m the captain of the ship, but I’m only as good as the people I surround myself with. I took the rear view mirror off the vessel a long time ago. We’re always looking ahead and looking forward. To be the band with 31 singles on Billboard in North America that holds the record for the most No. 1 songs, but also the band that holds the record for the most Top 5 and the most Top 10 songs… that doesn’t seem real to me. That’s wild to think of. I think if I looked at it for too long it would freak me out. We’re very grateful for that, but it’s pretty astonishing in this day and age. 

It’s funny because a band like Shinedown judges the level of a song’s success when you’re playing it live and you see fans sing it back to you. At the end of the day, a number is just a number, but when you’re experiencing the connection these people have with you, that’s another level of appreciation. 

The other thing, too, on this particular tour that we’re doing right now, to be able to consistently sell this number of tickets when you’ve also had a record that’s been out for 14 months is always something that shows me that the audience is growing. That shows me that new people are finding out about the band and it’s a conscious word of mouth. I don’t take that lightly. None of us – myself, Eric, Barry, Zach – that for granted ever at all. The audience continues to grow and for that we are able to come out and perform in these large venues. There is a very small percentage of people that can do that. We put it back into the show and we make sure we never phone it in and we’re at the top of our game when we’re doing these types of events. It never falls short on us that we’re able to command these types of ticket sales, even 14 months into an album cycle. 

You’re talking about the record cycle, so I want to ask about Planet Zero. It is an incredible record. You have seven interludes within it that make the album an experience. What went into that choice? 

Honestly, that was something early on when we began writing for the record, and that was Eric. The unique thing is this: the album ATTENTION! ATTENTION! was also a conceptual piece, but it was a loose conceptual piece. Planet Zero… we did not intentionally go into that record saying that we were going to make the most conceptual record we’ve ever made, but that’s kind of what happened. As we were writing the material, Eric started talking about the idea, this voice, this AI that would come into it. It was a little bit 2001 A Space Odyssey that he was borrowing from in regards to how it worked. (We’re dating ourselves a bit for the newer generations.) The fact was that he had that conceptually working through the writing process. He was in the middle of mixing the album and he just kept wanting to remix things, “I’m almost there. I’m almost there.” So finally what I ended up having to do was, I had to call our really good friend Ted Jenson in Nashville. For pople who don’t know who Ted Jenson is, for every record you have ever listened to in the better part of the last 20 years, Ted Jenson – I guarantee you – has mastered that record. There’s the mixing process and then there’s the mastering process of a record. So I called Ted on a Thursday and said, “What does your Monday look like next week?” He said, “What do you need it to look like?” I said, “Me and Eric are coming to master the record on Monday and Tuesday.” He said, “I’m open. Let’s do it.” Then I walked back into the studio room with Eric and said, “Hey ,I’ve got good news,” and Eric looked at me and said, “I love good news! What is it?” I said, “We’re going to master the record on Monday, so finish up!” He goes, “No, no, no! I can’t! I’m not done!” I was like, “Eric, we’re mastering the record on Monday.” Eric literally created every single one of those interludes to glue the whole record together in 72 hours from scratch. 


The guy didn’t sleep for four days, but there does have to be a moment when somebody has to come in and say, “Hey, we need to finish this,” and that’s what I had to do. All those interludes I give the credit to Eric for, because none of that stuff had been created yet and in three days (basically the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) we left at eight in the morning and flew to Nashville, mastered it Monday and Tuesday, and the record that you hear today was finished on that Tuesday.

It’s funny you’re saying that because you look at the Shinedown discography and all of your records, you pretty much take threeyears on the dot to make an album – except for Sound of Madness to Amaryllis and ATTENTION!V ATTENTION! to Planet Zero which had four years. You see you guys took your time with this one. 

The other thing, too, is that I understand how people look at the consumption of music. How Generation Z, that newer generation doesn’t care about a “born on” date for songs. They don’t care when a song came out, they just know if they like it or not. [With] consumption of music, there’s the question mark about albums. Are albums relevant? Do you need to write an entire record before you put a body of work out? Because you can release a song at any time and you don’t have to go through cycles… this and that. The way that we look at it is, what works for us is not necessarily what’s going to work for another band or another artist of any kind of genre. Maybe what works for that band and/or genre/artist isn’t going to work for us either, so we have to be very, very honest with one another. We have to let the music talk to us. We have to let the songs evolve when we’re making an album. There’s still a dynamic of what we do as a band where making an album, a collection of songs, is still very important to us. 

I agree! With so much of the rock scene pushing towards singles, there’s something to say for a cohesive piece. Putting on a record start to finish, especially with the rise of vinyl records themselves, shows that fans are hungry for it. I don’t think that concept of an album is ever going to go away fully. 

Because we work with Warner Music Group, we’re on Atlantic Records, and on this particular album, Planet Zero, it was the first time we’re working with Elektra Records with the promotions staff. It’s wild to be connected to two different labels on this particular record. On WMX, which is the merchandising side of what Warner Music is, when it comes to the vinyl record, we started putting vinyl out as early as The Sound of Madness album. The first two records, Leave A Whisper [2003] and Us And Them [2005], didn’t have vinyl at that time. Then there was this massive resurgence with vinyl. We were kind of at the forefront of that with Warner Music Group. In the last 12 years, I don’t think we’ve left the top of Warner Music Group’s international and domestic vinyl album sales. Our audiences have always really wanted to hold a physical copy of our albums, and when vinyl took off again, we really started putting a lot of effort into that. The cool thing about Planet Zero is we really made that an experience for vinyl – all the way from when you open it up. The artwork that was not digitally made, that was all hand drawn, the liner notes inside, creating the alphabet, and how we did these symbols with everything… we had such a blast designing all of those features for the physical copies. It was really fun. 

I’ve talked to a few artists about what we’re talking about now, including Randy Blythe of Lamb of God. You don’t feel like you own a record until you hold it. “I bought this record, it’s my record. “

It’s cool, man, because you have the younger generation that are really getting into vinyl. It goes back to the same thing when I was a kid and I would look at a CD or cassette tape. That was another fun thing, – for the first time ever, we actually released an album on cassette, which was Planet Zero. I think we only did 1,000 and they sold out in 24 hours. That was just fun to do, especially when you open up the liner notes and look at everything. W

When I was a kid I wanted to know who wrote the song, what were the lyrics, where the band recorded it, who was the engineer, who produced it. All of those types of things were really interesting to me and you see this younger generation really looking at that, especially if they want to be in the industry from the business side or just the artistic side. There’s still a connection to print with human beings. 

I understand the instant-gratification. That’s there for you if you want it. There’s still a lot of people that really do love the physical style of the music industry. Listening to a record on Spotify is one thing, but getting an album, having it arrive at your door, or going to what record stores are still left – which there’s actually more now than there were five years ago and there are some more starting to come back up. It’s going into that store, getting that record, taking it home, opening it up, putting it on the turntable, and listening to that record as you’re reading through everything/looking at the artwork; it’s an experience, man. We look at the vinyl as a piece of art. 

As it should be! I’m going to take it back to ATTENTION! ATTENTION!‘s record cycle. Every single track is capitalized except for “special.” I would love to know why that is. 

I remember when we were getting that record finished and I told everybody at the label, and our product manager at the time whose now senior Vice President of Elektra Records goes, “Brent, I can’t guarantee you that the digital aspect of this on iTunes or whatever, that they’ll get all of the other songs capitol. It’ll be lowercase on ‘special’ just from the digital side. I think it was one of the first times that was requested to be done, too, so his fingers were crossed. He’s like, “I think it’s going to work. We’re going to find out at midnight when the record comes out.” I remember as soon as midnight hit, I looked and it had happened.

Some people got it immediately when they heard the song – why that was what it was and why it’s lowercase as opposed to all the other songs on the record. That whole song is not actually saying to you that you’re not special. What that song is representing is that nobody owes you anything in this life. You have to work for what you want to be, who you want to be, and the life you want to have for not only yourself, but the people around you. Sometimes you have to remember that you have to come from a place of growth. You don’t start off as an adult in your life; you start off as a baby and you need to grow and be nurtured. It’s reminding people there’s an element of your existence (even as you get older) that you can always learn something new. You can always discover something new. You can always find a subject matter that you know nothing about and that interests you, but you have to start from square one in order to be an aficionado. They always talk about it, but when you master something, you need 10,000 hours, and then after you master that, it’s another 10,000 more. You’re constantly, always evolving. 

That whole song was just reminding people that whatever you want in life you’re going to need to work for it. You don’t need to be afraid of failure. As a matter of fact, you need to fail more than not because it’s going to teach you what to do next time. Your life and your legacy isn’t built by failure. Your life and your legacy is built by the fact that you refuse to give up. That’s the symbolism as to why we did it.