Shinedown’s ‘ATTENTION! ATTENTION!’ Has a Motivational Message
Shinedown's ATTENTION! ATTENTION! (due May 4) is an album all about overcoming obstacles and pushing forward without fear of failure.
This may be one of the band's most personal records; instead of hiring an outside producer, bassist Eric Bass handled production. But the album is only the beginning of it, as singer Brent Smith reveals in our new interview. The vocalist chats about the idea behind the disc, hits on the recent singles "DEVIL" and "THE HUMAN RADIO" and discusses the impact that their fans and audience had on the new disc. In addition, Smith weighs in on their summer tour with Godsmack and shares a piece of advice Sully Erna gave him a while back that continues to pay dividends for both the band and their fans. Check out the chat below.
How difficult of a journey was it for you putting this album together? Or was it a little easier this time around?
The whole record was different for us; we self-produced it. Eric Bass, he's our bass player, who's quite frankly way much more than just a bass player, decided to sit in the captain's chair and be the main producer of the record. He also mixed the album as well. Eric was so clear every day of exactly what the mission statement was for the album and that it made it really, really enjoyable for us.
We knew exactly what we wanted to do. We didn't go in and go, "Alright, we'll write 100 songs and pick the ten best ones."
The whole album is about not being afraid to fail. I think sometimes people will paralyze themselves mentally if they have achievements that they want to go after. They never tried to do them before or they've second-guessed themselves and their accomplishments and are they even willing to go the extra mile. I think sometimes they'll just put themselves in a very compromising position, and I don't think that people will be defined by their failures. I think people will be defined by the fact that they didn't give up. And that's a lot of what the album is about.
"DEVIL" was the first song we heard. It's not literally about the devil as much as it is dealing with your own personal demons. What birthed that idea? Do you feel you've gotten better over time with your own self-sabotage?
I feel like I got better at just being myself if that makes any sense. "DEVIL" is the beginning of the story. The person that is inside of this story, to be quite honest with you, is the listener. So, this album is about putting yourself into the album and putting yourself into the chair. And the reason I say the chair is the whole album takes place inside of a room. If you watch the "DEVIL" video, you can see that the young man is being led to a door.
Then there's the knock, the door opens, the individual walks inside, they pull a chair up, they sit down, they take a deep breath, and they exhale. And that's when "DEVIL" starts. The album is laid out sonically like that, as well. And the album is also bookended to the beginning of the record, which is really starting in probably one of the worst possible places. But it's also... it's taking an initiative. This individual is also making it known to themselves that they're gonna have to face this. Some of the things that inhibit them from their day to day life and just navigating, not only their own mental health but also just the world and how the world will really throw a lot at you.
"DEVIL" is really about understanding that maybe in your past you might have run into the brick wall. But the fact of the matter is that the brick wall is undefeated. You know what I mean? Like if you run into it, it's gonna win. You got to figure out ways to maneuver those obstacles that come at you. And that's a bit of what the basis is for "DEVIL." It's this person accepting the fact that if they're gonna continue moving on in their life, and in their journey, then in their world, they're gonna have to make some changes. It's only gonna better them. But in the same breath, they're going to have to face these issues.
There's a video for "THE HUMAN RADIO." The song speaks to your relationship with the audience. Can you talk a little bit about what the fanbase has meant to you and the band?
Like I said, the whole album is a story. We're working with a real great film director named Bill Yukich and he just has a very, very incredible eye when it comes to visual mixed in with the sonic approach. With this record being different for us and also different for him, that's really just allowed to us to have some serious cool artistic moments. Because the goal is to do a video for every single track on the album and actually tell the story. But "THE HUMAN RADIO" is part of the story. It's actually towards the end of the story. Then again, the story really doesn't end either.
Twenty-four hours before we filmed the video, we did an open casting call for anyone in the greater Los Angeles area, if they wanted to be a part of the new Shinedown video, we would love to have them. And we thought we might get like maybe 20 or 25 people, and like 170 something people showed up. People flew in from other cities. We had incredible people fly in from out of the country, which I thought was amazing.
The majority of all of the people that are in the "THE HUMAN RADIO" video, outside of ourselves and Arianna, who is the main character in the video, everybody else involved are all real fans and part of our family. And it was really really cool to be able to do that with our fan base.
But going back to "DEVIL," with this project too, we really listened to the audience. And I think over the last two albums, especially with Threat to Survival, the last record that we had put out ... I think that Threat grew on a lot of people, because it was so outside the box for them. But, it wasn't for us though.
We were just making music that got us excited and that we were excited about. It's interesting, man, like between 2016 and 2017, "State of My Head" was the number one most played rock song in the country for 2016, and then last year, "How Do You Love" was the number one most played rock song in the country. We were touring on the last album and then leading up to this record and we were listening to what the fanbase wanted.
We opened up for Iron Maiden in 2017 for 44 days. And one of the meet and greets we were in, there was a 15-year-old young man who was like "Hey, at the end, can I have a word with you after you finish with, you know, meeting everybody else." And I was like, "Yeah, man, absolutely."
So, we finished the meet and greet. I walked over to the young man and I was like, "So what's up man? What's on your mind?" And he said, "I know you're in the middle of making a new record right now, but I have a request." And I said, "Well, what is it?" And he said, "Can you make the album heavier?"
You can take "heavier" in a lot of different ways. I mean, "heavier" could mean sonically heavy, lyrically heavy, percussively heavy, but I did kind of understand what he was talking about. Because he told me, "I just want you to punch me in the chest with this next record." And as there are a lot of dynamics in ATTENTION! ATTENTION!, one of the reasons why "DEVIL" was first and because it is part of a story, but it was kind of a wink and a nod to that young man. So even in "DEVIL," I say it, that you wanted it heavy. It's about to get heavy. So, it was a little bit of a tip of the hat to him. And just to the fan base in general.
You mentioned doing videos for every song on the album. Do you have the videos in the can?
I don't want to jinx anything. Anytime I try and say something, I always feel like I jinx the project. The goal is to get it done sooner than later, let's just put it that way. We're not trying to make people wait two-and-a-half years to see all of this. So, we're trying to do it ahead of the singles that are released because we're just looking at this project way differently than any other piece of work that we've done in the past.
Another thing, working with Bill, he comes from an editing background. You can be a director and be really good at directing people and with framing a shot and getting content but if you don't know how to tell the story then it really does fall flat because that's really what it's about.
Bill was the main editor for Beyonce's Lemonade for all those videos. And he was working with Johnny Depp and Marilyn Manson before he started to work with us on a four song kind of miniseries he was doing with Depp and Manson. The band and I and Bill, we're having a lot of fun right now putting this story together.
Speaking of directing, serious question here. Maybe a bone of contention all summer long, given that you're touring with Godsmack. Who is better director: you from the "Asking for It" video or Salvatore Pasquale from Godsmack's "Bulletproof"?
Oh, [laughs] 100% Sully, man. Holy crap! That is extraordinary. I just saw that yesterday. I was like, because me and the guys in Shinedown and of course the awesomeness that is Godsmack we haven't done a tour together in a while and we really wanted to do something this summer that was going to bring a lot of excitement to people. Sully called me in December of last year and we were talking about putting it together. It's really rad that we're gonna be able to do this awesome tour this summer.
But I saw "Bulletproof" yesterday and I mean, dude, I was like over the moon with just how great it was. It's not even the fact that they're poking fun at certain things but it was done really cool and I just appreciate the fact that not only Sully, but all of the guys in the band did this. It didn't come off, when you watch it, that they're doing this because they think it'll be funny or it'll give them cred. You can see the fact that it really is done very very well. Yes, some of it is tongue in cheek, but that's the great thing about being an artist -- doing things that are different and expanding yourself and pushing yourself not only as being a writer in a band or a songwriter / performer or what have you.
Those guys have been around for a long time. They hold a lot of merit. They're a part of some fantastic songs and an incredible catalog. So to see them do something that really is just a joy to watch, because it's done so well -- I was on the ground yesterday. I thought it was awesome. But he definitely, nah he totally takes the cake. Definitely Salvatore. He earned it, he deserves it.
You mentioned you and Sully and the guys have been friends for years. Can you talk a little bit about that relationship, and what you're looking at in terms of the rollout of the new music this summer on this tour.
As far as the rollout, it couldn't be lined up more perfect. It's awesome how the schedules have lined up with their record [released last week, on April 27] and our record [being released this week, May 4] and the release dates and that the music is coming out around the same time. I'd be on here for another two hours talking about how awesome Godsmack and Sully is. It's not lip service, I've known that gentleman for a long time; he literally is salt of the earth. He is such a professional. He really is, he's a good soul. He really cares about stepping things up and so do we. I can't wait. I think it's gonna be one of the funnest tours we've ever been involved in.
I think the audience is gonna have a blast too, because you're gonna see a camaraderie between us also. We're trying to work up some things right now where were both bands are a part of each other's sets and doing some special stuff for the audience during the night.
As far as Sully from a personal side, man, I'll tell you a quick story just with how authentic Sully is. It was probably the very beginning, the first year that we were on the touring cycle for The Sound of Madness record. So that first year we didn't play the song "Simple Man." We were in Boston, sold out show, I had no idea that Sully was in town. This is probably 2009?
Long story short, but I'm onstage doing the show and we didn't play the song. There was a VIP room and everyone was upstairs at the end of the show just hanging out. Unbeknownst to me, everybody from Aerosmith was at the show expect for Steven Tyler and Sully was actually working on an album at that time and he was kind of frustrated (I learned this later on). He just looked online to see what was going on in town and saw that we were playing, so he came out and bought 10 friends with him, and they were up in the balcony watching the show the whole night and I didn't know that. He kept going like, "Wait until he sings this song, 'Simple Man' by Lynyrd Skynyrd." We had toured with Godsmack and Rob Zombie back in 2006 - we were the first of three.
But we didn't do the song and then I saw him up in The Foundation Room and I was like, "Holy crap what's up?" He's like, "Hey, come here." He takes me outside. He's like, "Let me ask you a question." And this is him talking to me, he's like, "Why did you not play 'Simple Man'?" I said, "Man, I just ... I didn't really want to do it for this first year." Things had changed in the band and I was going through all these "excuses." Sully is like, "Listen, far be it from me to tell you what to do with your career. But let me give you a little bit of advice, it's not your song to hold onto." He wasn't talking about the fact that I didn't write the song or anything. He was making a point about the audience loving the version that we do. You have to sing these [popular] songs and you have to sing that song. He was making the point about it's not about the painter it's about the painting and that stuck with me for a long time. The following night we put the song back in the set.
Is it safe to say it'll be in the set list this year?
Shinedown's 'ATTENTION! ATTENTION!' album is due May 4 through Atlantic Records, you can order it here. Shinedown also have a wealth of spring tour dates and festival appearances before hooking up with Godsmack on tour this summer. See all of their stops here.
Shinedown, "THE HUMAN RADIO"
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