Shinedown's Brent Smith: 10 Records That Changed My Life

Brent Smith

Like many music fans of a certain generation, Shinedown's Brent Smith fell in love with music his parents didn't understand. 

"The first album I ever bought was Motley Crue's Girls Girls Girls," he tells Classic Rock. "I brought it at a shop called Record Bar. It was the first time I felt like I was doing something dangerous. It was a cassette, I was very young – maybe 10, and I hid it from my parents. I also had Appetite For Destruction. I was in the fifth grade when that came out, and I gave a friend of mine's brother money to go and get the album. I had a walkman tucked away in a closet in my room, and I'd listen to it at night after my parents went to bed." 

Cut to the present, and Smith has an album of his own with which to terrify parents. Shinedown's sixth album Attention Attention is in the stores, and he's telling us about the records that got him here. 

Attention Attention is out now.

Soundgarden - Superunknown

"It's just one of those records. It was an extension of the learning experience I went through in finding my own voice, from the gravel to the high register. When I got Superunknown I hadn't heard any of the singles – and I hadn't been that big a fan of Badmotorfinger – but I heard Limo Wreck, and there's that part where he [Chris Cornell] is singing 'I'm the wreck of you, I'm the death of you all!' and I was like, 'Holy God, man!' And when you go into that album, it's just brilliant. The music's great, the performances are incendiary, but it was the vocals, man. It was effortless." 

Nirvana - Nevermind

"I'm Generation X, so I remember where I was and what I did the day I saw the Smells Like Teen Spirit video. I faked having a stomach ache so I could go to my granny's house to watch MTV, which was barred in my house. The last video of that particular day was a buzz clip, and I'd never even seen human beings who looked like Krist, Dave and Kurt. Especially Kurt. I believe that in a lot of ways he was a modern day Mozart, from a teenage angst point of view. You could hear it in his his voice. But that wasn't contrived: that cynicism, the sarcasm, that defiance. It was devastating, but also unbelievably powerful. It's a very important record."

Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction

"This is the other side of the vocal thing for me. All of my high register came from Axl. When I was 14 years old my parents would go out leave me alone on Friday nights for a couple of hours. We had a garage which had great natural reverb, and I'd go out there, put Appetite on, and sing it verbatim. It was at the tail end of glam, and they were still kinda glam, but they were also dirty. It's a very explicit record, and the first record where I'd heard language like that in a song structure. It just blew me away. And the song that got me on that record was the last song, Rocket Queen. That's an emotional song, man. 

AC/DC - Back In Black

"This album taught me how to rock. It gave me a platform for how to study rock'n'roll. It's beyond legendary. And it came from such tragedy. I don't want to be disrespectful and say it was a rebirth, and I don't want to be disrespectful and say it was a reinvention, but I think Bon was making sure it continued from beyond the grave. That might be a little too spiritual for some people, but that album is necessary. If you want to know what rock'n'roll really is, it's 100% Back In Black. It's rock'n'roll to the bone. It's extremely important."

Bad Religion - Stranger Than Fiction

"I was never really a Bad Religion fan until Stranger Than Fiction. It was an education listening to a guy who was so very sophisticated, very articulate and very world-conscientious. The album featured a lot of different dynamics and a lot of different subject matter. It was very society-driven: the power of the big corporations versus the little man. 

"Yes, it's a political record, but listening to it was like being in a school I wanted to be in. When I was listening to that record I was being taught something. It started with 21st Century Digital Boy with the lyrics, "My daddy's a middle class intellectual/My mommy's on Valium, so ineffectual/ Ain't life a mystery?", and I was like, 'what the fuck?' He sounded very informed and very honest. These subjects were important to him."

Def Leppard - Hysteria

"Let's just talk about the fact that the drummer lost his arm as they were riding high on the success from the previous record. They have this insane accident, and what follows is all about the love of the band and the love of a band mate. Anybody else would have been like, 'it's over it's done,' but if you go and research Rick Allen, no one even looked at it like that. They're all just, 'this is where we are, let's figure out what we've got to do.' 

"There was never a moment of feeling sorry for themselves. In the midst of this moment, the person it happened to rose to the occasion, and with the help of his band and the producer they go in and proceed to write one of the most innovative albums ever. The melodies! The harmonies! That record taught me how to sing harmony, and about the gang vocal, and how to use it from a melodic place rather than a shouting place. That record doesn't sound like anything else, even to this day. It lives in its own universe."

Johnny Cash - American IV

"I have to be respectful when it comes to this record. When you look at Johnny Cash, he did a lot of recording, and reading some deeper interviews with Rick Rubin about this particular record and the process, Rick was like, 'he just wanted to sing and he just wanted to record.' There's a wisdom in this record. I think he knew the songs needed being presented with a different take, and the way he sounded on that record? You can't invent that. It's impossible. There's just a mood this record puts me in. It's kinda sombre, but listening to his voice does something to me."

Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska

"It's dark and detailed, and you get lost in this record. Even the name: Nebraska. It's very cinematic, and you kinda feel like you're in a movie. There's so many levels to Bruce Springsteen, and a lot of people talk about the big shows and the stadiums and 20 people on stage and him singing for hours every night. But this is a completely different side of him. It just showcases him as a songwriter and as a storyteller, and it's a brilliant piece of work."

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

"I found out about Rumours and Fleetwood Mac by watching VH1's Behind The Music. It's Shakespearean: the love triangles, the back and fourth, the drama, the sexual chaos and crazy drug addictions. It's one of those old school rock'n'roll stories. You go back and listen to it and you think about the time, and even Lindsey Buckingham admits it's amazing that the record was written, and it was amazing that it got recorded. It sounds like that era: free love free drugs. It was indulgent. 

"There's a lot of warnings in that record, too. I've always had a thing for Christine McVie, because she's kinda awesome, but all of them were very very talented in their own right. Take them individually and it's not all that interesting, but put them together and something magic happens."

Various artists - The Crow (soundtrack)

"It's one of my favourite films of all time, but one of the reasons it's one of my favourites is because of the music. It's very important. That particular soundtrack has so much diversity. It's very eclectic, but it's also super super hooky. Some people think it's like a bunch of b-sides where the artists gave whenever they had lying around, but there's something intriguing about that: what you think is a b-side is actually quite brilliant. 

"Pantera are in there. Nine Inch Nails are in there. The Cure. Helmet. Machines Of Loving Grace. It's very up and down, and it's also a snapshot in time. I was in high school, I just entered my freshman year, and the soundtrack was pretty much the soundtrack of my life at that point."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.