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Shinedown’s Brent Smith: “I thought I was gonna die from withdrawal”

Brent Smith of Shinedown
(Image credit: Press)

Brent Smith founded US rockers Shinedown in the early 00s, releasing their debut album, Leave A Whisper, in 2003. Since then, their last four albums have all reached the US Top 10. In 2014, he put together Smith & Myers with bandmate Zach Myers, releasing two albums, Volume 1 and Volume 2, in 2020.

Metal Hammer line break

What’s the worst thing about being in a band?

“COVID-19, though I’ll be honest, Zach and I are among maybe 10% of the music population still able to do live events. As Shinedown that would be impossible, though for the last two months I’ve been working with Eric [Bass, bassist] on ‘Shinedown 7’, and we’re about nine songs into that. But as Smith & Myers and with a couple of crew guys [live shows] are just about doable. You have to duck and dive.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“I live by the adage: don’t take yourself so seriously all the time. There are 24 hours in a day, so find the moment to lighten up – especially in this climate where everybody is on high alert. Enjoy your life.”

When was the first time you felt like a rock star?

“I don’t think of myself as a rock star, except when I’m onstage and that’s performance. In 2003, Shinedown played at Memphis In May, a multi-genre event that over the course of a week attracts a million and a half people. It was my first time facing a crowd of 30,000 and that felt massive. Although there was a 10-foot gap between the audience and the stage, I ran from the drums to dive out into them. That was a punk rock moment for me.”

What’s been your worst experience on drugs?

“I’ve had a lot of bad moments on drugs, I’m lucky to be alive. In 2014 I had a bad slip-up with my addiction and the following year, when we were touring Threat To Survival, I was clean, but man… it takes a while to get the residuals out of your system. We played at The Mayan Theater in Los Angeles and the withdrawal made me feel like I was going to die. To my band’s credit, they pulled the slack for me. They were the rock stars that night.”

When was the last time you cried?

“I cried the day that Eddie Van Halen died [in October 2020]. I was lucky enough to hang out with Eddie during the early days of Shinedown. He was among the sweetest, kindest people I knew.”

Tell us about the formation of Smith & Myers.

“In 2014, at the request of the fans, we released two EPs. We allowed them to pick the songs we covered. I wasn’t sure about calling it Smith & Myers as it sounded like a law firm, but three years later we did 22 shows and to our surprise they all sold out. And now we’ve done two records [Volume 1 and 2, comprising both originals and remakes].”

Did you look at some of those fan-sourced suggestions, from Post Malone, INXS and the like and think, ‘No fucking way!’

“Not at all. That was the principal point, but with these covers we’re not making carbon copies, and that’s what makes them fun.”

The murder of George Floyd inspired Not Mad Enough as a plea for a meaningful dialogue, rather than anarchy and violence.

“Seeing that story on the news broke my heart, but I find it hard to listen when I’m being screamed at; let’s have a conversation and create an actual plan. Your gender, age, sex, religion or the colour of your skin – none of that matters. We can go forward together but you have to let the other side speak as well.”

Does the world really need another version of Neil Young’s Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World?

“It needed our version, and we did that one because I believe that its second verse is an overlooked example of pure poetry. The song’s essence is not simply the chorus; it’s right there in that second verse.”

Tell us a secret about Zach

“He’s the king of surprising the people that he loves with unexpected gifts. You can be on the tour bus talking about admiring a Rickenbacker guitar from 1978, and days later you’ll walk into your hotel room and there’s a package on the bed – what the fuck?! Zach is so thoughtful.” 

Published in Metal Hammer #343. Smith And Myers Volume 1 and Volume 2 are both available now via Atlantic Records