Brent Smith of Shinedown Just Wants Honesty, Debuts New Single “Planet Zero”

Photo by Jimmy Fontaine, courtesy Press Here Publicity

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For Brent Smith, frontman of the acclaimed Jacksonville, Florida-based rock group Shinedown, honesty is always the best policy. That idea may seem obvious on the face of it. But it can also seem that the more one looks around, the more dishonesty or diversion seems to proliferate the ether. Smith knows this, too. What he also knows is how tricky it can seem to be honest, both with oneself and with others. Honesty is not about consistency or regularity. Sometimes to know the truth about something requires one to be uncomfortable. Smith is aware of this, as well.

These philosophies and vantage points show up in Shinedown’s songs. Their tracks are complex and diverse. The music grabs and shakes as much as it provokes the brain. And this has perhaps never been more evident than on the band’s latest single, “Planet Zero,” which is out today (Jan. 26) and portends a new album of the same name, slated for April 22.

“You’ve got to get uncomfortable,” Smith tells American Songwriter. “If you stay in the same systematic ideology or just do the same thing over and over and over again—what’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over again and expecting a different outcome?”

If one chooses to stay stagnant, the world will pass them by. As an artist, evolution is paramount. Shinedown, Smith says, thrives on it. Why? Because he knows his audience—massive as it is—will always be changing, too.

“We’re constantly evolving from a musical standpoint,” he says. “We’re rock ‘n’ roll to the bone but we’re very much—our palate is pretty vast. We listen to a lot of different music, inspired by a lot of different genres. But our biggest thing is that we only have one boss in Shinedown and that happens to be everybody in the audience.”

The relationship between a band and its audience is always an intricate, symbiotic thing. It’s an ecosystem. When one exhales, the other inhales, and vice versa. For Smith, he enjoys pushing himself mentally and creatively and he loves when he sees the crowd respond. But he knows he’s also making music for them. Together, everyone keeps each other on their toes.

“We’re really big fans of education and learning new things,” Smith says.

Smith’s own musical education began where he was born and raised: Knoxville, Tennessee. As he puts it, even from a very early age, he didn’t choose the music, it chose him. Smith remembers loving melody—especially that produced by singers—from the age of two years old. His grandmother got him a record player in 1979 and it came with the vinyl of “Good Ol’ Boys,” the Dukes of Hazzard theme song, sung by Waylon Jennings.

“I remember the moment,” Smith says, “when I said, ‘I want to do that!’”

He was the only one in his family much interested in music. Smith got through his sports phase quicker than most, finishing his dreams of being a professional athlete in his teenage years. Instead, he was one of those people who always knew what he wanted to do and that was songwriting and singing. In high school, Smith started a band that later signed to Atlantic. When that project didn’t work out, he started Shinedown in 2001 in Jacksonville, Florida. And while the band made big imprints with its first two LPs, Leave a Whisper in 2003 and Us and Them in 2005, Smith says the group really hit its stride with their third album, The Sound of Madness in 2008.

“The fact of the matter is,” Smith says, “had it not been for Zach Myers or Eric Bass, I do not think Shinedown could have continued.”

Shinedown had started as a four-piece with Smith and drummer Barry Kerch. It also comprised a different guitar player and bass player, who contributed to the band’s first two albums. But when those musicians left (amicably, Smith says) and Myers and Bass came in, the group found its core, its sound, its verve. It was “pretty miraculous,” Smith says. It’s no slight to the other players, he adds. But that’s when the band became what the band was always supposed to be. The result has been more Top Five hits than most can count (27, to be exact) to go along with 10 million albums sold, 14 platinum and gold singles, and nearly 5 billion streams. But the road hasn’t always been so peachy.

“My son,” Smith says, “saved my life.”

Smith became a father at 30 years old. His son is now 14. Prior to becoming a parent, however, Smith suffered from what many in his line of work do: addiction. He dealt with substance abuse and weight gain. Thankfully, though, when his son was born, he more fully understood the idea of a higher purpose.

“The way he looks at the band,” Smith says, “and what I do for a living, he could care less. And I absolutely adore him for this and respect him for this. He just helped me understand it was no longer about me. He saved me from my vanity.”

On Shinedown’s new single, “Planet Zero,” Smith says the intention was to write a song and take a side. But instead of red or blue, Democrat or Republican, Shinedown, which is set for a massive tour starting Wednesday, Jan. 26, took the side of “humanity,” he says.

“It’s written by the people for the people,” Smith says.

At first, he and the band tried to imagine the world post-COVID-19, post-social uprising, post-climate change. But that was impossible and, he says, to ignore the past two-plus years would be irresponsible. The globe saw George Floyd murdered, the globe has endured the pandemic, is seeing the effects of weather patterns change. So, then, what it comes down to is not the events at hand, but whether or not the people can trust the reporters of these events. Who can we trust? That became a theme for Shinedown’s new work.

“’Planet Zero’ is a song that is giving power back to the individual and back to people from all walks of life,” Smith says.

If change is to be made, we have to do it together, Smith says. And he believes that is happening in the real world. Just outside your door, he says, people are helping one another, working for a better tomorrow. But if you look on social media or in the news, it’s all fire and brimstone. Again, who do we trust?

“People just want the truth,” Smith says.

And music is a tool that can be used for that. For Smith, music, perhaps even more than its capacity for truth, provides a type of balm that can heal, too. In fact, describing its ability to aid, Smith quotes the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who said that, Without music, life would be a mistake.

“What I love most about music,” Smith says, “is that it’s medicine. You don’t have to be sick for it to, not only be cathartic but also healthy for you. And if you are sick, it can heal you. I’m not just saying that—I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It’s air; it’s just as important for me as the blood running through my veins.”

SHINEDOWN TOUR DATES 2022

January 26 – San Francisco, CA @ The Warfield ^

January 28 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern ^

January 29 – Valley Center, CA @ Harrah’s Resort Southern California ^

January 30 – Phoenix, AZ @ Arizona Federal Theatre ^

February 1 – Denver, CO @ Mission Ballroom ^

February 2 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex ^

February 4 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas ^

February 5 – Reno, NV @ Grand Sierra Resort & Casino ^

February 7 – Seattle, WA @ Moore Theatre ^

February 8 – Portland, OR @ Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall ^

April 1 – Spokane, WA @ Spokane Arena #

April 2 – Boise, ID @ ExtraMile Arena #

April 4 – Billings, MT @ First Interstate Arena #

April 6 – Fargo, ND @ FARGODOME #

April 8 – Green Bay, WI @ Resch Center #

April 9 – Peoria, IL @ Peoria Civic Center #

April 11 – Sioux Falls, SD @ Denny Sanford Premier Center #

April 12 – Des Moines, IA @ Wells Fargo Arena #

April 14 – Toledo, OH @ Huntington Center #

April 15 – Hershey, PA @ GIANT Center #

April 16 – Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun #

April 18 – Portland, ME @ Cross Insurance Arena #

April 20 – Baltimore, MD @ Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena #

April 22 – Charleston, WV @ Charleston Coliseum #

April 23 – Columbus, OH @ Schottenstein Center #

April 24 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Van Andel Arena #

April 26 – Evansville, IN @ Ford Center #

April 28 – Wichita, KS @ INTRUST Bank Arena #

April 29 – Little Rock, AR @ Simmons Bank Arena #

April 30 – Birmingham, AL @ Legacy Arena #

May 3 – Greensboro, NC @ Greensboro Coliseum #

May 4 – Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena #

May 6 – Greenville, SC @ Bon Secours Wellness Arena #

May 7 – Knoxville, TN @ Thompson-Boling Arena #

May 21 – Daytona Beach, FL @ Welcome To Rockville

June 3 – Nuremberg, Germany @ Rock im Park

June 5 – Nuremberg, Germany @ Rock am Ring

June 7 – Budapest, Hungary @ Groupama Aréna +

June 9 – Hamburg, Germany @ edel-optics.de Arena

June 11 – Donington, UK @ Download Festival

June 13 – Belfast, UK @ Ormeau Park +

June 16 – Utrecht, Netherlands @ Tivoli Vredenburg

June 17 – Clisson, France @ Hellfest

June 18 – Dessel, Belgium @ Graspop Metal Meeting

July 14 – Madison, WI @ The Sylvee ^

July 19 – Quebec, QC @ Centre Videotron *^

July 20 – Montreal, QC @ L’Olympia *^

July 22 – Toronto, ON @ History *^

July 23 – Windsor, ON @ The Colosseum at Caesars Windsor *^

July 26 – Winnipeg, MB @ Burton Cummings Theatre *^

July 27 – Moose Jaw, SK @ Mosaic Place *^

July 29 – Saskatoon, SK @ TCU Place *^

July 30 – Calgary, AB @ Grey Eagle Resort & Casino *^

July 31 – Edmonton, AB @ Convention Centre *^

August 2 – Penticton, BC @ South Okanagan Event Centre *^

August 3 – Abbotsford, BC @ Abbotsford Centre *^

KEY:

* with Pop Evil

^ with Ayron Jones
# with The Pretty Reckless and DIAMANTE
+ with Iron Maiden

Photo by Jimmy Fontaine / Press Here Publicity

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