Sound of Survival
Despite early hardships, chart-topper Shinedown thrives
Just when things seemed bleakest for alt-rock heavyweights Shinedown, the band had its hugest success. Despite internal problems—creative differences and serious substance abuse—2008’s The Sound of Madness became a career-making album. It went triple-platinum in the U.S. and generated six No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart.
And the band continues to thrive. It’s been a year and a half since the release of the its latest, Threat to Survival, and the album is still producing hits. In March, “How Did You Love” became the third single to go to No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock chart. It was the 11th Shinedown song to take the top spot, pushing the band past Metallica and into third place just behind Three Days Grace and Van Halen.
With that kind of success, Shinedown is able to continue what seems like a never-ending tour cycle behind the album, and guitarist Zach Myers says that life in the band is better than ever.
“Our relationships in the band are healthier now than they ever were,” he said in a recent phone interview. “There’s no bad blood between anybody in this band. That’s hard when you’ve been in a band for 12 years and have five albums out … and had some success.”
It was during the lead-up to The Sound of Madness when the band decided to fire original guitarist Jasin Todd and and bassist Brad Stewart, leaving only founding frontman Brent Smith, drummer Barry Kerch and touring guitarist Myers.
At the heart of the turmoil were the substance problems of Smith and Todd. “I think, when it came down to it … if we kept the two of them together, one of them was going to die,” Myers said. “Jasin and Brent were [like] Steven Tyler and Joe Perry [of Aerosmith]. They were toxic twins, man.”
Smith, for his part, says Myers wasn’t overstating the seriousness of the situation. “I don’t think his comment’s too off base,” the singer said in a separate phone interview. Both Todd and Smith have since gotten sober and mended fences. “He is in a way better place now and I’m in a way better place. And it’s all, it’s a good story to tell now.”
A big forward step came during the period that produced Shinedown’s 2012 album, Amaryllis. Before starting the recording, the four band members—including new bassist Eric Bass—got together for what became a five-hour meeting during which all grievances were aired and the band members came away with some understandings that have allowed the revamped lineup to gel.
Amaryllis produced three more No. 1 rock singles and another productive tour. The band then took a break that extended for nearly two years, during which time Smith moved to Los Angeles, continued to lead a sober life and had a child, while Myers got married.
Such life changes, and the realization that he will always be an addict who has to guard against relapses, gave the singer plenty of fodder for the lyrics on Threat to Survival, which he calls his most autobiographical album.
“None of those songs were written out of thin air. Those are all real situations. Those are all real feelings,” Smith said. “I think of Threat to Survival, in a lot of ways, as a guidebook to life maybe, just from the experiences I’ve had over the years.”
And musically, the production on the album is also more stripped back than previous releases.
“On Amaryllis … we did a million tracks,” Myers said. “On this record, it was more about what fits the song. What can we do for the song that will make the song what it is? We just kind of took this really raw approach to the production.”
If Shinedown embraced a more stripped-back approach to the latest album, that’s not the approach the band is taking with the production of its live show.
“It’s a show we’ve never ever done before, as far as visually,” Smith said. “It’s pretty over the top.”