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Brent Smith Talks Smith & Myers Acoustic Project, Shinedown’s Next Album + More

Shinedown
Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com

Shinedown‘s Brent Smith and Zach Myers recently stepped out from the comfort of their band to record a number of cover songs for the ‘(Acoustic Sessions)’ EP. Smith recently spoke with ‘Loudwire Reloaded’ host Sandman about the fan-driven project and also dropped some interesting details about what’s next for Shinedown. Check out the chat below and listen to ‘Loudwire Reloaded’ this weekend to hear a portion of the interview in person.

Very special guest on the phone today, it is Brent Smith of Smith & Myers, Attorneys at Law … It sounds kind of like that though, or not really. Brent Smith of Shinedown! What’s up, man?

I’m doing good, man. It’s either lawyers or like a cough syrup company. That’s the way me and Zach look at it.

Haha! Is it like some of that good cough syrup like Lil’ Wayne uses?

No, no, no. We like to do a higher end of a mixture of codeine and like an herbal tea extract. It’s still gonna give you a buzz but it’s gonna keep you healthy.

Very nice, very nice.

I love how this interview has taken this turn already this early.

Haha, well, we’ll get back on track. You and your guitarist in Shinedown, Zach Myers, have just released the ‘Acoustic Sessions’ EP digitally via iTunes and other digital platforms and it’s all cover songs. Tell me a little bit about the release.

Really, in all honesty, this was very unique project that took on a life of its own because it was all relatable to our audience and our fans because they picked the songs that are on the EP. The idea came from Anthony Delia, who is our product manager at Atlantic Records, who we’ve been working with for over a decade, and we were on the road and we were touring ‘Amaryllis’ and he called me up one day and he said, “How would you feel about doing ten songs — cover songs — and letting your audience pick them; just doing it on an iPhone and just you and Zach do the songs and just do them acoustically?” And I said, “Well, if we’re going to do something like that, I’d want to do it for real and record it good and make sure it’s good in, good out, and video it properly.”

We’ve been working with a director by the name of Darren Doane for many years now. He’s done the videos for ‘Devour,’ he did the ‘Sound of Madness’ video, he did the ‘Unity’ video, the ‘Enemies’ video, the ‘I’ll Follow You’ video, the ‘Bully’ video; I could go on and on. We like him a lot. So we did it in two days and it was recorded by Dave Bassett who we’ve done a lot of work with.

Basically, how we do it though, we put it on Facebook for the audience and we just basically said, “Any song”, to our audience, “that you would like to hear me and Zach cover, of any other band or artist, just submit those songs.” So, no kidding, we did this for a week and every day it seemed like it was crashing our management’s server because of the amount of songs that were coming in from the public. I mean, one day it was like, 1300 or 1400 songs submitted, and overall there was close to 6 or 7000 songs that went into the system for us to basically figure out the percentage of what songs had the highest percentage. So then we took those songs, we took twenty of those, and each day, for two weeks, Monday through Friday, we pitted them against each other. We took two songs per day, and we would put it on Facebook and the fans would vote for which one they wanted to hear us cover. And then that song would win, whatever song it was going to be, and then we knew the ten songs that we were going to do the covers for. The audience picked ‘Blue on Black’ by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, which was really, really cool because Kenny was right down the road, so he actually came in and just did the song with us. Then there was ‘Nothing Else Matters’ by Metallica, there was ‘Runaway Train’ by Soul Asylum, there was Adele’s ‘Someone Like You,’ there was ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ by Bon Jovi, and the list goes on and on, there was ten.

Now, the whole unique thing that happened with Smith & Myers was the fact that the label felt like it would be a cool idea to brand it a little differently than Shinedown, because it was just me and Zach. And that’s why we did a different name and why we called it Smith & Myers, because it was essentially something that just me and Zach did for the audience, for the fans. Because, you have to understand, this was all picked by the audience, by our fans. And everyone’s asking, “When are the four other songs going to get released?’”Because there were some legal issues with Bon Jovi and ‘Black’ from Pearl Jam, just the audio for that, and also ‘In the Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins was another issue, just legally. The whole point of that is that these artists who wrote these songs, they need to be paid for the publishing and for the royalties on that. Some artists are cool with just allowing you to do the cover record … it’s funny because every Frank Sinatra record was a cover album, back in the day.

But now, legally, things have changed over the years. And the number one goal that we had with this was not only to make our fans happy, because they picked the songs, but also, it is a cover record and the artists should be paid for the songs that they wrote. So, long of the short of it is, we released the six that were cleared on the EP, but we’re working with legal right now with the other artists and their publishers to maintain the reality that if they allow us to use those four songs on the EP, and we can strip them on later, of course the artist will be compensated for the songs that they wrote. So, hopefully, all ten of the songs, within the next couple of weeks, will be on the digital release.

Gotcha. What I really love about it is, it showcases the versatility of your voice. I mean, you’re going from singing The Clash to Otis Redding and doing it very well.

Thanks.

So, I think it really shows people what a wide spectrum of styles you’re capable of producing vocally, too.

Well, I got to give a lot of credit to Zach though, too, because when the songs started to come in — you have to understand, we weren’t part of the decision making of the songs. These were all songs picked by our fans. So, some of those songs, like, I knew them but I didn’t ‘quote unquote’ “know them know them”. The Clash being one of them with ‘London Calling’… I’ll tell you a quick story about that. That was the first one we did because I knew the song but, like I said, I didn’t “know it know it.” So, we go in there, and the first take we did it. I kind of listened to the song before we went in and did it, I printed the lyrics out, I looked at it … So the first take we did I’m thinking, “That should be good. That sounds good …” And Zach is looking at me like, “No. No, that’s not going to work…” and I’m like, “What’s wrong with it?” and he’s like, “That’s not the way the song goes…” and I’m like, “Okay.” So we did a second take and I kind of did the same thing again on it and Zach was like, “Listen … if we’re going to do this song, we have to be true to the song. We have to be true to all 10 of these songs. The way the artist presented it when they recorded it, we have to stay true to the way the song was recorded by the actual artist.”

You always want to make it your own when you do a cover, but Zach was very upfront with me that first day, just being real honest with me about, “Listen, I know you’re a good singer. I’m on stage with you every single night. We’ve done multiple records together. We’ve recorded a lot of stuff together, and I know you don’t know all the ins and outs of all these songs, but you have to treat them all with the same amount of respect.” As soon as he told me that, that’s when it really kind of clicked for me and I went in and we really learned all ten songs that day and kind of focused on that and then we started over. So, I think, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ and The Clash, we actually had to do it three times to get it right, and it was all one solid take and we kept the best take but, I got to give a lot of credit to Zach because he really pushed me to make sure that we stayed true to the song that the artist had written.

Well, you guys did a great job. So, the record ‘Amaryllis,’ which came out in 2012. We had heard that when you recorded this album, you actually recorded enough for a whole other album. Is that true?

We did. We recorded 33 songs all in all because we wrote 33 but when we went in to actually demo for this particular record the demos really sounded like the done record. But then when we got in the studio with Rob Cavallo again — because he produced ‘Sound of Madness’ and he also produced ‘Amaryllis’ — we really started focusing on the fact that all 33 songs, in our opinion, they were all A-list songs. So we said, “Why don’t we just record it all, for real?” And that’s what we did.

Essentially you can kind of say there’s three albums with the whole ‘Amaryllis’ session, because there were the songs that made ‘Amaryllis’ and there were these twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two plus songs left that we could release, like, a double record if we wanted to.

I have to be honest with everybody, we’ve already gone into the studio and started writing what we consider to be Shinedown number five. Now, of course, it doesn’t have a title yet, but we’ve already started writing again. And a lot of that is because when you’re writing a record you’re in a moment in time at that place in your life and we’ve never been a band to rest ‘quote unquote’ on our laurels. We’re always trying to out do what we already have done because we always want to climb a bigger mountain. If we reach the peak and reach the top of one mountain it feels good to have accomplished it but usually we just go look for a bigger mountain afterwards to climb. So, for us, we were in a different place personally and where we are with the band. We’re in a very healthy place, but we have other things that we want to talk about with new material and we want to write new material.

Although we have a catalog that’s pretty long, we’re going to go in and we’re going to write a completely brand new record and then we’ll look and see where we’ve gone with that and we’ll release it when the time is right. It has to be massive and it has to be brilliant and it has to be 100 percent our best, every single song. We’ve never been a band that puts out an album and it’s got three singles on it and the rest of it’s filler. We don’t work that way. It’s supposed to be an album the listener is supposed to want to hear it from the beginning to the middle and it never really ends because when you get to the last song, hopefully, the album is so good you just start it over and listen to it again. And you do that over and over and over again. Because that’s what we like to do is to take people on an emotional roller coaster ride.

And the unique thing about this next record is that there’s going to be an accompaniment with it because we’re making a film about the band and about the music industry and about our management and about our fans and about what it’s like to literally be in this band that we call Shinedown. So, it’s a pretty adventurous undertaking that we’re doing with this film on top of recording a record but we’re up for it. We want to do it; it’s time to do it.

Well, you have given me more than I’ve bargained for, so I’m pretty excited about all this news. I do have one more question before I let you go … You guys are such road warriors. Are you thinking [about a] tour yet? Are you guys going to be doing some of the summer festivals? Maybe a Carnival of Madness run later in the year? What is in the planning stages that you can tell me?

Well, I mean, going back to ‘The Sound of Madness,’ we toured that record for 37 months and on ‘Amaryllis’ we did 21 months and yes, we do genuinely love the road because we love the people and we love playing in front of audiences around the world.

I can be very upfront with you about the touring, only because we want to make sure that it is an unbelievable spectacle when it’s time for us to return to the stage. We will probably not be touring until 2015. I don’t see us doing any festivals this year and I don’t see any touring in 2014 — only because we have a pretty grand master plan for how we want to roll out, not only the next record, but also how we want to tour the next installment of Shinedown and the fact that we want to step up our game considerably on the next tour with the production, the bands that we want to bring out on the road with us, the bands that we would like to play with, and the festivals that we would like to be a part of, and we really want to come back extremely strong. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with building anticipation for a band because the last thing we ever want to do is be stagnant, stale, or think that we’re going through the motions. That’s not the way we’re designed, that’s not the way we feel, and that’s not the way we’re built.

Our audience is the number one priority for us because they’re the ones who decide whether you stay or whether you go and we want to make them proud. Believe me, when it’s time for us to return to the stage it will be well worth the wait and we will be bringing back, not only the Shinedown name, but the Shinedown experience and we want it to be magical for everybody that attends. Whether they’ve been with the band from day one or they’re just finding out about the band, we want it to be spectacular.

We will all be waiting. In the meantime, to quench that Shinedown thirst just a little bit, check out the Smith & Myers ‘Acoustic Session.’ It’s six songs, right now, perhaps four more coming soon, and those are available via iTunes and other digital retailers. At your leisure, pick that up.

Yeah, actually, if you go on YouTube, there’s ‘Blue on Black’ that’s out, then there’s also ‘London Calling,’ ‘She Talks to Angels’ by the Black Crowes, that video is out. Soul Asylum’s ‘Runaway Train’ is out, Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ is out also, and you can also see our rendition of the song ‘Black’ by Pearl Jam. So, if you just look up one of those — of  course ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’ by Otis Redding, we’ve got that out there too — if you just look up one of those then the other one’s should follow underneath when you look it up on YouTube.

Brent Smith, thank you so much for your time today, I appreciate it very much.

Sandman, my pleasure, man. Thanks so much for all the love and support, man. I got nothing for respect for you, my friend, and I look forward to seeing and talking to you again very soon.

Our thanks to Brent Smith for the interview. You can pick up Smith & Myers’ ‘(Acoustic Session)’ EP via iTunes. To see where you can hear ‘Loudwire Reloaded’ and the countdown of the top rock songs in the land, click the button below.

See Which Stations Air 'Loudwire Reloaded'

Listen to Smith & Myers Cover of Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’

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