Why I ❤️ Soundgarden's Superunknown, by Shinedown's Brent Smith

Brent Smith superimposed on the cover od Soundarden's Superunknown
(Image credit: Jimmy Fontaine)

"It's just one of those records," Shinedown's Brent Smith says of Superunknown, the Soundgarden album that was the band's breakthrough release. "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."

Below, Smith reveals how the album came into his life, and details Frank Sinatra's unlikely influence on the grunge classic. 

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“It came into my life in my sophomore year in high school. I was sixteen, so Iwas getting a car. That was amoment in my life where, for the first time, I knew what freedom really was. On the weekends I could go to Nashville, go to Atlanta and come back, things like that, and that was my soundtrack. 

“When that album came out, I wasn’t that big a fan of Badmotorfinger. I think the first single was Spoonman, and I was like: ‘Wow, that’s different.’ And then when I heard Black Hole Sun I was like: ‘What is this? It’s so interesting.’ 

“Michael Beinhorn, who produced Superunknown, came to Knoxville [Smith’s home town] with the first band I was signed to. And of course I was like: ‘Dude, tell me all the stories of making that record…’ 

"With Black Hole Sun, Michael Beinhorn was asking Chris: ‘Have you ever listened to Frank Sinatra?’ And Chris was like: ‘What are you talking about? No!’ 

"So the following day Michael goes to Tower Records, grabs every CD that they have of Frank Sinatra, brings them to the studio, hands them to Chris and says: ‘Listen to all of these, and get inspired and bring me a song.’ 

"Long story short, Chris goes away, comes back with a song. He strums the chords and he goes [sings the first line of Black Hole Sun]. He was proving a point to Chris. Frank showed him how to croon, cos if you listen to that, that’s Frank Sinatra.”

Brent Smith was speaking with Polly Glass.

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.