Brent Smith, (seen here on the left), vocalist with rock band Shinedown, chats with Kevin Cooper about their album Threat To Survival, his musical inspirations, working on a new album and their tour of the UK supporting Iron Maiden.

Shinedown is an American hard rock band from Florida, formed by lead singer Brent Smith in 2001 after the dissolution of his previous band, Smith.

The group have released five albums; Leave A Whisper in 2003, Us And Them in 2005, The Sound Of Madness in 2008, Amaryllis in 2012, and their latest offering, Threat To Survival in 2015. Shinedown has sold more than ten million albums worldwide, and has had eleven number one singles on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts, the third most of all-time, behind Van Halen and Three Days Grace.

Whilst currently on tour with Iron Maiden, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Brent how are you today?

I’m doing okay thanks Kevin, how are you?

I’m very well thank you and let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No, I should actually thank you. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to do some press here for the Nottingham show so thank you for taking the time out of your day.

You are more than welcome and let me ask you, just how is life treating you?

I have no complaints, life is good right now. We are so looking forward to touring the UK, in fact we have been looking forward to it now for many months since we found out that we were being given the opportunity to do it. We have just played a short run of twelve shows on the West Coast here in the USA in order to get ourselves prepared for the tour. Also we have been in the studio since January working on our sixth album but having said that everybody is in good spirits and life is good my man.

You have mentioned the UK tour and you will be opening for Iron Maiden. It doesn’t get much bigger than that does it?

One hundred percent it does not get much bigger than that (laughter). It is a massive opportunity for us but let me stress from the outset that we one hundred percent know our place on the tour (laughter). But I have to be honest with you and say that from the very first day in Antwerp where the tour started, the crew and the band themselves are just lovely people. We go out there every night; we are very well rehearsed and we are ready to do what we came here to do. What you have to remember is that it is their audience and we are very respectful of that fact. However, I don’t think that they would have invited us to come along and do this tour if they didn’t know that we were going to come out there and throw down, warm the audience up and get them ready for Iron Maiden.

Which is exactly what we are having a great time doing. It is super cool because we have done three shows with them so far and when you are talking about a band with Maiden’s status, this is a legacy band. You are talking about almost four decades here. So you think to yourself, I am going to walk out there and the arena might be half full by the time that we get to the end of our set. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth which for me is even more humbling. When we have walked out there on the last three shows the arenas have been full to the rafters with people, right from our very first song. The fact that the audience is even in there for us shows that there is a lot of respect out there for us in itself.

It has to be one of the events of our lifetime which we are all taking very seriously. It is almost kind of dreamlike in a way. But at the end of the day we didn’t get all dressed up for nothing. We came here to do what we do and we are having a great time so far.

So not only are you working hard you are actually managing to enjoy yourselves as well?

Oh my gosh, yes one hundred percent (laughter). Everybody associated with the tour are really wonderful people. It’s wonderful, it really is from that side of things and the audiences have received us well right from the beginning of this tour. Don’t get me wrong, you have to go out there and play with the audience a little bit if you know what I mean because at the end of the day they are there to see Iron Maiden. Although I have seen quite a few Shinedown t-shirts which is pretty cool (laughter). And another thing too with this tour that has made it such a big deal to us, it’s not like we are out here with Maiden along with three other bands; it’s just us.

It’s not like a four band bill; it is literally Iron Maiden and us. We are there to open, warm them up and get them ready. The Iron Maiden show is ridiculously awesome. It is everything that you would want an Iron Maiden show to be and more. But we are very respectful of the fact that they have given us fifty minutes which is really radical.

Were you a fan of Iron Maiden before they invited you onto the tour?

(Laughter) what I would say is that Iron Maiden are a legacy band so I knew of them rather than about them, if that makes sense. However, I am learning more about Iron Maiden than I thought that I ever would on this tour so far. That for me is pretty great.

And just what can we expect from Shinedown’s set?

You know what, they have given us fifty minutes and we are just all killer, no filler. There will be a lot of energy right out of the gate. We kind of look at the set list and we are not really changing it that much from city to city. We are a little bit more known over there in the UK than we are in Central Europe so we looked at it as being two different set lists. If we can put in a song that we feel will be better known over there in the UK then we will change things slightly. But what you are going to get is a total of nine songs and in our opinion they will be nine of the songs that you want to hear. It will be exciting, it will be fast, and most of all it will be fun (laughter).

In 2015 you released your last studio album Threat To Survival and I have to say that I think that it is a great piece of work.

Thank you very much, that’s great of you to say.

I really do like Black Cadillac.

I am so pleased that you have said that because I too love that song. Oddly enough Black Cadillac was released as a single over there in the UK but not here in the USA. However, due to a hell of a lot of radio play over here we are now going to release Black Cadillac as a single in the USA. The fans have basically demanded that we do that.

Were you pleased with how well the album was received?

Yes, in certain places I was and in certain places I think that the record might have gone over some people’s heads. I’m not being disrespectful when I say that, it’s just that it was a different Shinedown record. And I have to say that was all done on purpose. The other four albums were generally one producer whereas for Threat To Survival we used five producers, one of them being Eric Bass who is also our bass player. Eric is far more than just a bass player; he is a multifaceted musician, singer, songwriter, producer and engineer so he took on the duties of producing the first single off the album which is Cut The Cord.

Also on board was our long-term companion and friend who has worked with us on the last three albums, Dave Bassett. Dave had quite a bit of real estate on the record. Then we invited Scott ‘The Ninja’ Stevens to come along to produce Dangerous and How Did You Love. Also there in the mix was Pete Nappi and so we had five producers working on the album producing eight different mixes. It was a record where we really wanted to test a lot of the boundaries sonically and not have any restrictions put upon us whatsoever.

That is one of the things that I like about Shinedown, none of the albums sound like each other.

Thank you, I am so pleased to hear that as we like to think that we are not known for making the same record twice. Threat To Survival was a statement in a lot of ways, and hopefully it showed the fans that we are not just a one trick pony band. We care very much about songs my friend and to be totally honest with you, to us the songs are the most important things. Being great musicians, being fluid and learning your craft is very important to us as well but the melodies, the lyrical content, the structure, and the songs themselves; well we are not shy with that. We are all the type of individuals that are not afraid to go in and try new things and that is exactly what we did with Threat To Survival. We are all really proud of it.

You’ve had three more number one singles off the album. Just how many number one hits do you guys need? (laughter).

(Laughter) as many as we can get. We released How Did You Love and that was technically the twenty-third single that the band has released from going all the way back to the very first single which was the song Fly From The Inside off our debut album Leave A Whisper. So twenty three singles released as a band and gearing up for number twenty-four. I have to tell you that we are all very humbled by that.

Would you agree with the fans that Threat To Survival is your best work to date?

I think so yes, but I mean the reality of each individual record is that all five are very different. Is it our best record to date; well I have to be honest and say that I don’t think that we have written that yet. We are always trying to look for another glass ceiling to break. However, we are very appreciative though to the fans if they feel that way about the record, then that is actually a great thing because that is our latest record. However, whenever your fans are saying that your latest record is your best work to date then that means that your fans are growing with you and that is something that we take very seriously.

Sometimes you will have a group of people where they only like one style of the way that you do things and are not really into it if you want to change things. We have been very fortunate with our fans worldwide in the fact that they have always allowed us to be ourselves and they have always been able to grow with us. I have always said this and it holds true because it is true, we only have one boss, and that is everybody in the audience. They are the ones that decide whether you stay or whether you go. The fact that they can grow with us means a great deal to us.

What can you tell me about album number six; how far down the road are you with it?

Well, we are around thirteen songs deep into the next album, working on a fourteenth track right now. We write a lot of songs for the records anywhere upwards of sixty songs for any one record before we start narrowing things down. I think that we could possibly be looking at the first Shinedown concept record as there is a concept starting to form. There is a lot of work that goes into making a concept record and making sure that it is a cool concept record. I think that we may be embarking upon that right now.

Who has musically inspired you along the way?

Some of my biggest influences tend to throw people a little bit because my biggest influence is built around Soul music and R&B from the early 60s. People like Otis Redding, Al Green, Sam Cooke, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Henry Rollins has a great quote about Billie Holiday and he said “whenever I put on a Billie Holiday record I feel like she is singing just for me”. I learnt my crooning craft from listening to these fabulous men and women. But from the rock and metal side of things, it was on the very same day that I found out about Otis Redding, that I also found out about this little band from Birmingham, England called Black Sabbath (laughter).

So as you can see that was a very interesting day for me. Black Sabbath in turn got me into Led Zeppelin and it was always about the singers for me. I am not trying to be biased but the more powerful the singer is the more I would be attracted to it, whether it be male or female. The vocals were and still are very important to me. A lot of my heavier influences are built around Sabbath and Zeppelin and a lot of the Soul music from back in the day. You also have to remember that I was a teenager when Nirvana came out so I then learnt everything about Seattle, Washington and everything that was happening on the West Coast of America. They were very much eye opening times and as for my ears they were open too.

Tell me something about you that the people won’t know?

(Laughter) something legal you mean (laughter). Right here goes, I didn’t listen to The White Album by The Beatles until I was twenty-four years old. I didn’t really understand The Beatles until I was well into my twenties. But definitely now they have been a huge influence on me as well and also The Beach Boys mainly because Paul McCartney is quoted as having said that his favourite album of all times is Pet Sounds. I can remember that I was probably thirty before I listened to Pet Sounds. So as you can see I am always finding new things but I kind of go back in history to find where the roots were put down. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of new music too but my influences kind of come from the artists of the past.

What was the first record that you bought?

The first record that I ever bought with my own money was Girls, Girls, Girls by Mötley Crüe.

Who did you first see playing live in concert?

Oddly enough the first band that I saw playing live was The Beach Boys.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Oh my god, that’s a heavy question. Jesus man, what a question. That’s hard. You know what people are going to make fun of me because of this but I really don’t care (laughter). It was actually one of our new songs whilst I was going back and listening to some demos of the tracks that will hopefully make it onto the new record. I can’t give you the title of the song, I wish I could because as yet it doesn’t have one. So there it is, it was listening to one of our songs that last made me cry and that was four days ago now.

I recently asked Burt Bacharach the same question and he said “that’s easy; it was The Stranglers cover version of Dionne Warwick’s Walk On By”. So I asked him if it had really moved him that much, to which he replied “no, it was bloody awful” (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) no, it didn’t move me that much; it was a bag of shit (laughter). Kevin, you need to interview me when the new record comes out. You can then ask me that question again and I will find something that moved me to tears in all the wrong ways (laughter). So the next time that we have this conversation and you ask me the same question, I will be able to say “it was this song because it was totally shit”’ (laughter).

Brent, once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great and I will see you here in Nottingham.

Thank you, I really do appreciate you taking the time Kevin. I look forward to seeing you at the show in Nottingham my man. Have a good day.