Shinedown's Brent Smith: My Life in 10 Songs

Brent Smith, singer of Shinedown
(Image credit: Press)

Next year, Shinedown will celebrate twenty years of hard rock hit-making. In that time, the Jacksonville four-piece and their frontman, Brent Smith, have ascended from playing Southern clubs to being an arena-filling tour de force. 

In the build-up to his band’s November and December UK tour, the singer reflects on the ten songs that mean the most to him – and throws in some stories of how he beat his demons.

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1. Shinedown – 45 (Leave A Whisper, 2003)

“I was signed to Atlantic Records with a different band at the beginning of my career. That band got dropped ten months into the demoing process, but I was re-signed to a development deal. I travelled all over the US as we were figuring out what Shinedown was going to be and I was put into a writing session with Tony Battaglia. 45 was the first song where I felt like, ‘This is who I am.’ Now, it’s a staple in the setlist. It’s a part of the history of the band.”


2. Shinedown – Fly From The Inside (Leave A Whisper, 2003)

Fly From The Inside was the very first song that went out on the radio and to the establishment. It was the very first thing that people heard from Shinedown. That is so significant because of what it started. I remember, I was in Jacksonville and driving down the road, and the very first time I heard it on the radio, I almost crashed my car. That was the first time a band I was in was on a major label and on the radio. It was awesome!”


3. Shinedown – Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd cover; Leave A Whisper: The Sanford Sessions, 2004)

“Our original guitar player, Jasin Todd, was married to Melody Van Zant [Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant’s daughter]. When I was writing Leave A Whisper, Judy [Van Zant, Ronnie’s widow] put me up in her guesthouse, and our first show in front of an audience there to see us was at a club Judy and Melody owned.

After we started touring, we played Simple Man on a radio show in Boston. They released it as an MP3 and it got downloaded 500,000 times. After that, we recorded the song in the studio in three takes.”


4. Shinedown – Save Me (Us And Them, 2005)

“I wrote Save Me at 16 and it came from a very real place. My substance abuse is pretty well documented; that song was a reflection on that. It was a cry for help. I had just read the book Junkie by William Burroughs and was inspired by that. 

It was about this guy resigning himself to the fact he’s going to be a junkie and live this seedy life of heroin addiction. I put myself in that position: ‘If I were a junkie, what would the song be that I would write to ask for help?’”


5. Shinedown – The Sound Of Madness (The Sound Of Madness, 2008)

“I have been asked more times than I can count, ‘If you only had one song that could encompass what Shinedown is, what would it be?’ It would be The Sound Of Madness. ‘I created the sound of madness, wrote the book on pain, somehow I’m still here to explain’ is what me and this band represent: do not give up. Accept failure but don’t live in it. Find the next step, platform or road. Whatever means the world to you, are you willing to die for it? Because I am.”


6. Shinedown – Second Chance (The Sound Of Madness, 2008)

“I wasn’t easy to raise: I always had a vision and knew what I wanted to be. But I was also a troubled kid that got into a lot of trouble. When I got re-signed by Atlantic and was preparing to leave home, my mum said, ‘I won’t pretend to know what this life of music means to you but I know, if you stay here, you’ll die here.’ 

Second Chance is about my mother saying, ‘I don’t know what this is, but I want you to show me.’ ‘Sometimes goodbye is a second chance’ – that’s her giving me permission [to leave].”


7. Shinedown feat. Lzzy Hale – Breaking Inside (The Sound Of Madness deluxe edition, 2010)

Lzzy Hale is a total pro. When we did Breaking Inside together back in the day, she already knew her verse and what she was going to do, and came in and knocked it out of the park. 

Before Halestorm’s first album, they had this live EP and toured with us all through the US. They were with us for the entire two years they toured that album. We’ve known them for years; we practically watched them grow up. Lzzy’s a force of nature: very versatile and a wonderful human being.”


8. Smith & Myers – In The Air Tonight (Phil Collins cover; Acoustic Sessions Part 2, 2014)

“Zach [Myers, Shinedown’s guitarist] came to me about doing a covers band because of Simple Man: our audience was saying, ‘Would you ever do this song, or that one?’ We weren’t going to tour or do anything with it, so Zach suggested calling it Smith & Myers, which sounds like a bakery or a law firm ha ha! 

In The Air Tonight was the last song we recorded for those first two EPs. It was midnight when we did it and it was all one take: we filmed the video live. We didn’t rehearse the song at all, really.”


9. Shinedown – Cut The Cord (Threat To Survival, 2015)

“That song’s a reflection on whatever it is in your life that has a negative hold on you: cut the cord, release it, get away from it. I got clean for the first time during [Shinedown’s 2012 album] Amaryllis. I lost 70 lbs and relearned how to eat and exercise, but then, after getting home, being domesticated was something I didn’t know how to do. 

I relapsed; it was bad. The band rallied around me, like, ‘You gotta get your shit together, man,’ and Cut The Cord was the first song I wrote.”


10. Shinedown – A Symptom Of Being Human (Planet Zero, 2022)

“This song is just about being a human being: all the things that we go through in our lives on this planet. It’s also my love letter to our road crew. A lot of people in our crew have been with us for a decade-plus. These are the people that are the first into the venue and the last out.

They build these cities every single night and a lot of them were with us when we were playing for 200 people. This song’s a thank-you to the men and women that let us do what we do.”

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Shinedown UK tour dates 2022

Nov 26: Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
Nov 27: O2 Apollo, Manchester
Nov 29: Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
Nov 30: O2 Academy, Glasgow
Dec 01: OVO Arena Wembley, London

Tickets on-sale now (opens in new tab)

Louder’s resident Cult Of Luna obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.