Fifteen years ago, singer Brent Smith had a record deal, but no band.
In 2001, his then-band, ‘Dreve,’ had signed a deal with Atlantic Records, only to be turned away shortly after.
The label, however, retained Smith, who then set out to find a new group of musicians and a fresh sound.
Shinedown was born.
Fast forward to May 1, 2016, five albums (two gold, two platinum, with the latest well on its way), over 6 million albums sold worldwide, and Brent Smith would tell you that he still pinches himself sometimes.
“I still wake up every day and get emotional about it,” Smith said. “I still pinch the inside of my arm every once in a while just to make sure I’m not dreaming.”
Smith and his band mates will close out the 2016 Fort Rock Festival in Fort Myers at JetBlue Park on Sunday.
“We just want everybody to have an amazing time. When we walk on deck, we want everybody to be happy and just go off and enjoy the songs they came to hear. We’ll usually write a set list out for the songs people came to see.”
“I’ll hold to it forever: Shinedown only has one boss, and that’s everybody in the audience.”
This is Shinedown’s first appearance at Fort Rock; less than two weeks ago, the band performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live (not for the first time).
Hadn’t watched this till just now. Our performance of SOMH on @JimmyKimmelLive! Sounds pretty good!
— Eric Bass (@ebassprod) April 28, 2016
“It was super low-key, it’s run by true professionals,” Smith said of the experience.
Smith and Barry Kerch (drums), Eric Bass (bass, piano, backup vocals), and Zach Myers (rhythm guitar, backup vocals, lead guitar) have been together since early 2008, when they released their platinum-selling album “The Sound of Madness.”
Smith and Kerch are the only two original band members remaining.
“I think it’s (being together so long) allowed us to have a career. Because we’ve been together as long as we have, we know each other’s quirks, and what drive’s each other nuts,” Smith added with a laugh. “But we don’t push each other’s buttons.”
“We have a very mutual respect for one another, especially from a professional standpoint. I’ve watched him grow as a man and an artist from the beginning. Fifteen years in the band, 20 years knowing each other.”
Smith mentioned that Kerch got his first cover of Modern Drummer this year, a monthly publication known for being a quintessential milestone for any drummer to grace its cover.
“He worked fifteen years to get that. He’s a very driven human being; he doesn’t quit.”
“But don’t get me wrong, me and Barry would both tell you, this band is nothing without Zach and Eric.”
Smith credits Zach Myers and Eric Bass for ‘saving the band’ back in 2006 and 2008, respectively, when each joined Shinedown.
“If it wasn’t for those guys, Shinedown wouldn’t exist.”
Brent Smith’s conversation with Naples Herald took a turn down memory lane, recalling when the quartet filmed a music video for a song, Enemies.
“We laid this out like a band meeting, but we go into this part of being in a circle, almost like a freakin’ AA meeting,” he recalled. “And we just start literally beating the crap out of each other.”
“You know what’s interesting, still to this day, it’s everyone’s favorite video.”
Shinedown released its fifth album in September 2015, “Threat to Survival”. It sports a more powerful sound than past editions from the band, but sports a raw, edgier tone, in both lyrics and music, according to Smith.
“Our last two albums (“Sound of Madness” and “Amaryllis”) were very produced, big, layered sounds. We didn’t go into this one with any preconceived notions. We just found a really great-sounding amp, and turned it up as loud as it would go.”
Shinedown’s first and third albums went platinum (the second and fourth went gold); the band hopes its future sales sticks to previous patterns.
“I thin it’s been received well,” Smith said of the release. “I don’t think the majority has caught onto it just yet; we just released the third song, Asking For It. We’re finding a big audience in the streaming world.”
Below is the official music video for their first single from the album, Cut the Cord.
Smith said the album has been streamed over 30 million times in less than seven months, versus just north of 200,000 physical albums sold.
“That’s a little funky, but it’s not hurting us by any means. We’re going out and a lot of shows we’ve been playing since June have been sold out.”
“We think there’s a lot more life on the record, it just hasn’t caught on yet.”
A little-known aspect of Shinedown pertains to how the band was named.
The name originated from a painting.
“A girl that I was seeing in Jacksonville about 20 years ago, a mutual friend of ours was getting married. The girl was a brilliant artist. She painted this silhouette of two people embracing each other. We gave that to our friends as their wedding gift, and they put it in their foyer into their bedroom.”
The relationship didn’t work out for Smith, but he remained friends with the newlyweds.
One day, he stopped by their home and saw the painting on the wall.
“I said to him, ‘it would be cool if you mounted a light to shine down on the painting!’”
His friend knew he was contemplating a name for his new band.
“He called me the next morning and said, ‘why don’t you call the band ‘Shining Down’’?”
After a small tweak by the singer, the 2016 Fort Rock Festival headliner’s band name came to fruition.
“In retrospect, it really solidifies what the band is about. It’s the premise of what we represent: Shinedown is the yin and the yang. Everything that’s good has a little bad, and everything bad has a little good.”
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