Seventeen years into an already prolific career, Brent Smith and Shinedown are about to release their most important album to date.
Sometimes the best opportunities arise from situations that – at least initially – feel like the end of the world. Back in 2000, Brent Smith thought his world was falling when his band Dreve was dropped by Atlantic Records before releasing a single album. The label was unhappy with the group, but they retained Smith because they believed in his abilities as a vocalist and songwriter. Smith was then given the unique opportunity a year later to recruit and develop a new band, Shinedown, which would go on to become one of the most successful and prolific acts of the new millennium. The group is now preparing to release their sixth studio album, ATTENTION ATTENTION, and Smith cannot help sharing his continued excitement towards life.
“We set out to do everything we wanted to do with this album,” Smith explains, speaking over the phone from Canada. It’s the middle of the afternoon in late March and Smith has hidden himself away in the corner of the bus to conduct a series of interviews before the band performs in Edmonton later that evening. The group has only played a handful of dates so far this year, but Smith feels pretty good about how things are progressing.
“We spent a lot of time making sure we were meticulous about a lot of things that we wanted to do differently with this touring cycle. I guess the best way to say it is you have to be able to maneuver in regards to your schedule, staging, and what have you. One day you’re in a theater, the next day you’re in an arena, the next day you’re in a club environment, and the day after that you’re in a gigantic field with 150,000 people. You have to be ready for anything the road throws at you, and I think we have done that time around.”
Shinedown has never shied away from the open road. In fact, the band’s current schedule keeps them busy and away from home for the majority of the calendar year. Following their current run in Canada, the group will return to the US in early May for a string of nine performances with fellow rock juggernauts Five Finger Death Punch. That tour is followed by a run of shows in the UK, as well as various festival performances around the globe. The band with then appear in amphitheaters around the US with Godsmack until the start fall, at which point Smith claims they will hop on another, as of yet unannounced tour package.
“We’re not robots, and we have a pretty large staff out here as well so I’d say there’s probably like four breaks laid in there through the year,” he says with a hint of laughter in his voice. “There are five days here; then there’s one stint where there are about ten days off, and then there’s another one where there are another five days and one more that’s like a week. But hey man, we’ve got a lot to do right now, and it’s a very very important record for us, so we’re ready to bring it to the people.”
Smith isn’t joking. Shinedown is preparing to launch their most ambitious release date, a concept record that urges fans to take a hard look at the uncomfortable parts of themselves and make a change, at a time when the attention span of most listeners is growing increasingly short. The idea was not one the band had been kicking around for long, but rather an organic development of the creative process. As Smith explains, bassist Eric Bass spent the fall of 2017 recording ideas for new material while the band was on tour with Five Finger Death Punch. When he played his creations for Smith, he couldn’t help noticing how the demos, around twenty tracks in total, flowed together.
“I heard what he had put together in early January,” Smith explains, “and, hearing all of those songs or those compositions together, they just seemed like they were tied together and that’s where the concept idea started. I think I did say when I was listening to it, “wow, it kind of sounds like it’s a concept in a way, even musically.” But the interesting thing about once we began writing for what ATTENTION ATTENTION became, we didn’t use any of those compositions. We wrote everything from the ground up once we hit the studio, but we also didn’t do it from a traditional standpoint either with other records that we have put out. We traditionally [wrote] like one-hundred songs and took the ten songs of those one-hundred that we felt were the strongest. [ATTENTION ATTENTION] wasn’t like that; it was when we wrote a song it served as the next part of the story. From the beginning of writing to the very end, we had an understanding of what we wanted to tell and how it would progress.”
Speaking more specifically to the concept of the record, Smith references the opening track, which is comprised entirely of sound effects. The introduction is meant to imitate the listener’s journey into a dark room away from the rest of the world. There, alone with only their thoughts, the listener is tasked with confronting their demons and embracing the things they cannot change. It’s a battle cry for those who wish to better themselves as much as it is a celebration of what makes us each unique, and Smith hopes listeners follow their lead.
“The whole record is a journey, a psychological, emotional, and a physical journey and everything takes place inside of the room. The way that the album is laid out from the beginning to the middle to the finale, that’s the entire story, and that’s what it encompasses. It’s a very- it is indeed a journey. We want the listener to put themselves in this room. I won’t lie to you, the room is a scary place, but it’s necessary that we all step inside. You cannot be afraid to fail. ATTENTION ATTENTION is about how people allow their fears and self-doubts to paralyze them. They are so scared of trying something new solely because it is new, and that is no way to live. I don’t think that you’ll be defined by your failures, I think you’ll be defined by the fact that you didn’t give up and the record is also a lot about humanity, man. It’s about not losing that emotion, or I should say those emotions, that we all have as human beings, you know?
He continues, “It’s also a bit of a warning to the public. We live in a very technologically advanced world. That’s a wonderful thing, but you need to take a break from it at times, or else it will steal your soul. I think that human connection, just being in front of someone and conversing with them, is incredibly important. I don’t want people to lose their humanity.”
“DEVIL” serves as the lead single off ATTENTION ATTENTION. The song was released online March 7, and the response from fans was overwhelmingly positive. The track quickly climbed the rock singles charts, landing in the top five within three weeks of release. It also became a permanent fixture on prominent rock playlists across all streaming platforms, which in turn helped the song quickly accrue well over one-million plays.
“The reason “DEVIL” was released first is very specific because the album is a story and “DEVIL” is the beginning of that story. The visual to it was very very important because there’s going to be a video made for every song on the album that helps to the story. And as far as the reaction from the audience has been, I’ve not seen anything but a lot of positivity. There’s a lot of comments about like “wow, this feels a lot different” “this is way heavier than we thought it was gonna be” “is the whole record like this?” So, I like it when people are wondering what we’ve done, that’s what we’re good at. You never really know what we’re gonna do, but we don’t make the same record twice, and this record is no exception.”
Fans received another taste of Shinedown’s latest evolution when “THE HUMAN RADIO” arrived online in early April. The song is not an official single, but it is the only other song being made available to fans who pre-order ATTENTION ATTENTION. The song also plays a pivotal role in the record and the message the band is hoping to get across with the album.
“THE HUMAN RADIO” is everybody outside of the room calling to the person inside letting them know “hey, you’re not alone, we all feel the same way.” As far as the second single is concerned, we’re actually not 100% sure what we’re going to do just yet, and that’s actually a good thing because the label and myself, the band and management, we’re like “we want to see how far “DEVIL” can go.” “DEVIL” is a very very unique song, it’s a very heavy song, but it’s not indicative of the entire album. This record is not something where, you know, it’s a marathon. It’s not supposed to be a sprint. I don’t want to rush two singles just because certain markets are wanting another song, that’s not the way this record is going to be rolled out. There are 7 billion people on this planet, and I want to make sure everybody gets an opportunity to hear everything. There’s such a bold statement made on this album; we’re not in a rush.”
The conversation briefly turns to the band’s 2012 album Amaryllis, which celebrated its six-year anniversary in March. The group made no official plans to mark beyond a brief mention of the date on social media, but speaking of the occasion over the phone it’s clear the record still holds a special place in Smith’s heart.
“We were coming off of The Sound Of Madness,” he begins,” and that was a record that we toured for 37 months because it crossed over, and it was our first real international record that hit in a lot of different locations. We were able to play [a lot of] countries for the very first time. When we finished everybody asked, “What are you going to do now? What kind of record are you going to make?” I made the decision that we were going write the next chapter, and that’s what Amaryllis was, you know? Amaryllis isn’t like Leave A Whisper, and Amaryllis isn’t like ATTENTION ATTENTION, and Amaryllis isn’t like The Sound Of Madness or Us And Them or Threat To Survival. None of those other albums are like Amaryllis. We never make the same record twice. We’re not designed that way, but we kind of nicknamed Amaryllis “the kitchen sink” because it was our over the top album, you know what I mean? It was the fastest production, and that’s what we wanted to do like we had songs with a 24-piece orchestra on it. We did a lot that we’ve never done before on Amaryllis.”
In many ways, ATTENTION ATTENTION feels like the start of Shinedown’s next chapter. From the writing and production of the record to the promotion and release, every element of this album has been thought out in extreme detail. The group set out from day one to do something different, and they have done just that, delivering a fantastic audio voyage that possesses the power to soothe emotional wounds and ignite a fiery passion for change in the gut of anyone willing to listen. Smith remains humbled when given such praise, but he does feel the album fills a void.
“I feel like [ATTENTION ATTENTION] is a necessary record right now. Even with certain individuals, it may take them a minute to get to the album, or it may take them a minute to listen to it as an album and not just hunt and pick what songs they like, but it’s also not a hunt and pick record if you know what I mean. I don’t think that there’s any song in the album that is, for lack of a better phrase, there’s no album track on this album. Everything on the album is specific, and everything on the album is necessary. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have made the album. That’s another part of the record where we kept ourselves in check at every turn. We weren’t trying to sugar coat things, and we also weren’t trying to make it hard on the listener. We were getting to the point of everything, but I feel like it’s a very very necessary record, not only for the world right now but just for music in general.”
SHINEDOWN TOUR DATES 2018
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
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 Detroit, MI @ DTE Energy Music Theatre ###
July 27 Chicago, IL @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre ###
July 28 Indianapolis, IN @ Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center ###
August 2 Salt Lake City, UT @ USANA Amphitheatre ###
August 4 Irvine, CA @ FivePoint Amphitheatre ###
August 6 Albuquerque, NM @ Isleta Amphitheater ###
August 11 Houston, TX @ The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion presented by Huntsman ###
August 12 Dallas, TX @ Starplex Pavillion ###
August 19 Bristow, VA @ Jiffy Lube Live ###
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 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 ###^ – with Empire City
– with Starset and Empire City
** – with Seether, Three Days Grace, and Fozzy
^^ – co-headlining with Five Finger Death Punch; guests Starset, Bad Wolves