July 2009

Sound of Madness • Shinedown Rocks Hilton Head’s Shoreline

Author: Blanche T. Sullivan | Photographer: John Brackett

Their sound has been touted, by various sources, as exemplifying hard rock, post-grunge, alternative metal and even pop genres. But the talented group known as Shinedown identifies itself as simply an American rock band. And rock they did for the hundreds who turned out for their May 2009 show at Hilton Head’s popular Shoreline Ballroom and left feeling satiated, but eager for more.

Originally established in Jacksonville, Fla., in 2001, by front man and vocalist Brent Smith, drummer Barry Kerch, bassist Brad Stewart and guitarist Jasin Todd, Shinedown’s current foursome includes Smith, Kerch, bassist Eric Bass (yes, that’s his real name!) and guitarist Zach Myers.
Shinedown’s first album, Leave a Whisper, released in 2003 under the Atlantic Records label, went platinum. The second, Us and Them, released in 2005 under the same label, went gold.

The concert at Shoreline marked Shinedown’s second on the island, following a performance at Monkey Business two-and-a-half years ago, and represented just one of the countless stops on the group’s tour promoting their third album, Sound of Madness, which was released in 2008 and has been referred to as their most powerful, most brilliant endeavor to date.

The new album includes intense, memorable singles, such as “45” and “Devour,” as well as the hugely appealing “Second Chance,” featuring passionate vocals which satisfy Shinedown’s traditional and devoted fan base, while its chart-crossing sound is attracting new listeners less inclined to tune in to harder material.
Yet, in spite of releasing numerous chart-topping singles, prestigious appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2008 and increasing fame, Shinedown is a far from your stereotypical, partying rock band. CH2’s Blanche T. Sullivan was thrilled to hang with the band in the “green room” before the show and cut through their “Sound of Madness.”

CH2: What was the most important thing you wanted to achieve with your new album?
Brent Smith: We wanted this album to be the biggest sounding, most in-depth, in-your-face album we could possibly produce, to convey all the emotions of everything we’ve been through.

CH2: What inspired you? How was this album different than the others?
Smith: Quite frankly, I was bored with what was out there, what we were hearing. I thought the last great album was American Idiot, by Green Day. I had fallen out of love with music and wanted to do something epic. Have no regrets.
Zach Myers: Lyrically I think he [Brent] went somewhere he’s never been before. With this record he went straight to the finish line. It’s his most honest record.

CH2: You mentioned that everyday life offers topics for your songs and that “Devour” was inspired by your experience in Iraq. Tell me about that.
Barry Kerch: We all, in the band, have different views about different issues. But we have always been hugely supportive of our troops. You have to be. A lot of those folks come out to our shows and one was a member of the USO.
Smith: We actually shied away from press. We didn’t do it for exposure. We want to support the troops and thank them for America, for being free.
Eric Bass: Everything is hugely political these days. We don’t want to be viewed as a political band. We have been approached several times to stand for a particular cause.
Kerch: We don’t want to push our views. We’d rather let our fans make their own decisions.

CH2: A lot of people would seem fairly surprised to learn that, unlike many stereotypical rock bands, you don’t tear up hotel rooms, engage in out-of-control partying, etc. How do you respond to that?
Smith: I had a battle with addictions—cocaine, etc.—but, once my son [Lyric] was born [in 2007], that was the day I quit all my addictions and became clean. My son saved me from my vanity, from my selfishness. It suddenly wasn’t all about me.

CH2: In spite of your fame, fortune and overwhelming success, you guys seem extremely level-headed and down-to-earth. I’m thinking you must have had some solid role models or upbringing. What is the best advice you ever received or that you would give someone?
Smith: My granny is probably the hardest working woman I know. She raised three kids during the ’50s, which was unheard of. She is pretty remarkable. She taught me a lot and to be aware of your surroundings. I say be aware of ‘shape shifters’ and know where the snake is.
Myers: If you believe in something, never give up. If you start something—life, music, whatever—see it all the way through… to the bitter end.
Kerch: My dad always said that nothing good happens after midnight. I still break the rule, and he’s right!
Bass: Be humble. Treat everybody with respect. It’s not really advice, but something that was instilled in me. I grew up in the South.

CH2: Where would you like to see yourself in, say, five years?
Bass: Doing the same thing I’m doing now. I hope I’m a more successful musician and producer. That’s where I’d like to be.
Myers: With the band.
Kerch: Pretty much the same, maybe playing in some big arenas.
Smith: Hopefully having enough time to go home [from touring] to take my son to his first day of school.

CH2: I understand that some of your favorite charities include: HEAL! (Healing
Every Autistic Life), Cure Autism Now and VH1’s Save the Music. What inspired you to adopt these worthwhile causes?
Barry Kerch: My wife is a behavior analyst. I spent a lot of time with some of her kids and it really impacted me. And VH1’s Save the Music…it’s important to put music in the schools.

CH2: Speaking of music, I was researching your backgrounds on your Web site and learned that you all have pretty diverse interests. Brent’s musical influences included Otis Redding, Billie Holiday and Soundgarden. Interesting mix. I’m curious to know what you think of Soundgarden’s new, very different, album.
Smith: You mean Chris Cornell’s new album? I haven’t listened to it yet, but I like all music. Otis Redding is number one, and he got me into all the other stuff. All the soul music was a big influence on me. I need to revisit. I’m not biased. Music is great because it’s not biased; it’s a very worldly artistry. If it’s good, it’s good.

Shinedown’s savvy producer, Rob Cavallo, obviously knows what’s good. Linked to such artists as Green Day, Kid Rock and the Goo Goo Dolls, Cavallo is no stranger to multi-platinum stardom. Shinedown’s shows are energetic, entertaining, intense, moving, mesmerizing and refreshingly—unexpectedly to newcomers—filled with positive messages. Smith is confident that Cavallo is quite capable of helping Shinedown reach a whole new stratosphere of success. Check them out, experience their “Sound of Madness,” and you will undoubtedly, emphatically agree.

For more information regarding Shinedown, such as behind-the-scenes footage, informative blogs, merchandise and a schedule of upcoming concerts, visit shinedown.com.

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