Friday, February 19, 2010

Interview: Shinedown vocalist Brent Smith

Singer Brent Smith knows how to make a solid rock hit. After all, his band Shinedown has scored nearly a dozen chart-toppers since 2003: "Second Chance," "Fly from the Inside," "Devour," "Save Me," and "The Sound of Madness," to name a few.

Shinedown's latest, "If You Only Knew," sits No. 3 on the active rock chart (at press).

The band, who has appeared at Common Ground Music Festival in Lansing twice, headlines the Fillmore in Detroit on Friday (sold out) and Saturday, with Puddle of Mudd and Skillet.

Shinedown got together in the early '00s in Jacksonville, Fl. Post-grunge was exploding, and Shinedown's sound fit well: chunky guitars, melodic vocal lines and Alice In Chains-style layered harmonies.

Smith always knew he wanted to be a singer.

"When I was 14 years old, my father gave me a tape that changed my life: Otis Redding," he said. "Lots of people are surprised when they learn that my biggest influences are Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald.

"After I started listening to that, I got more into rock, like The Doors, Metallica, Soundgarden. Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave) is a huge influence."

Like many musicians, Smith writes from a very personal place. Take, for instance, the track, "Save Me."

"'Save Me' is a song about how people will take on everyone else's problems and issues," he said. "When they put that much pressure on themselves, they're going to hit a wall eventually. A person in my life saw me go through the darkest times in life. They picked me up. Eventually they had that dark time and I had to pick them up."

When Smith think about his journey with Shinedown, what really stands out is meeting the hardcore fans.

"They've been with us from day one," he said. "Us and Them [the band's 2006 CD] was written about our fans. The title was a 'thank you' to all of them, because when you're on the road for years, you meet a lot of people with inspiring stories."

~Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ/NOISE

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