Podcast Transcript

Speaker 1:

Takin’ A Walk.

Buzz Knight:

When I was growing up, I never really focused on a plan B. And I know that from my generation, you grow up with people telling you, “Well, what if it doesn’t work? What if it doesn’t happen? You need to have a plan B.” I never focused on that because my plan A meant so much to me, and also that plan A can evolve over time.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for joining us for this virtual edition of the Takin’ A Walk Podcast. Buzz Knight’s special guest is the lead singer from the multi-platinum chart-topping rock band that continues to build a legacy decades after it was formed. Brent Smith once said that as a band, Shinedown has only one boss. It just happens to be everyone in the audience. Brent Smith will take you on a journey that will bring you behind the scenes of one of America’s great rock bands, Shinedown, as he joins Buzz Knight next on Takin’ A Walk.

Buzz Knight:

All right, well Brent, congratulations on your success and the legacy you and the band continue to build.

Brent Smith:

Thank you. Yeah, we try to keep the mentality of don’t ever arrive. In this industry it’s not about the arrival, it’s about the journey more than anything. But thank you, I appreciate it.

Buzz Knight:

I mean, I know your music and your touring obviously are something you’re very proud of, but where in the, let’s call it the hierarchy of pride do you put your work with the mental health community

Brent Smith:

At the very top. At the very top, I’m in a band that is known for being a very lyrical band. We spend a lot of time on the message in the songs that we write in the studio. And for me, I’m also in a band that’s been… We’ve talking about mental health for the better part of two decades. So now seeing how it is being spoken about more and being brought to the forefront. Because as human beings we evolve. The world that we’re in now is everybody has a platform in regards to social media. And so I think that the most important thing in regards to mental health and why that’s so important is that should be something that is looked at and talked about during your lifetime because it’s your journey.

I think for the longest time people were made to feel embarrassed or ashamed because maybe they started to feel different as they were growing as an individual and what have you. And some of that can be scary at times. And when you don’t feel as if you can talk to somebody about that, it can be very, very detrimental to your psyche. And I think the mental health aspect of what Shinedown does is we give everybody a platform to talk about it and to let them know you’re a work in progress. It’s okay, but you can’t be quiet about it. I mean, the bravest thing you can do a lot of times is speak up and not be silent. So I would put it at the top.

Buzz Knight:

How are you able to be so transparent about it?

Brent Smith:

I listen a lot. I’m aware of my surroundings. I don’t necessarily have to be the first person in the conversation to speak because I’m trying to understand what someone is going through. I’m trying to understand what the situation is. I started writing songs because I had something to say. I didn’t start writing songs because I wanted to be famous. I think that’s kind of at the core, a really important element of being a songwriter, at least from the way that I look at things. But I also genuinely care about people. And in the band, our fan base has given us a platform to be ourselves and we want them to be themselves as well.

And inside of that too, I think my perspective also comes from, I grew up kind of hard in regards to people not necessarily understanding what I was about because I was a bit different than everyone. Words were always a big deal to me from the moment I could write. And I also have always been able to put my thoughts into a song format even before I knew what a song was. I used to write poems when I was really young, not really knowing what that was. And then I always had a melody. Every day I would wake up there was always a different thing going on in my mind and I was always creating something. Yeah, I think I’m just very aware of my surroundings.

Buzz Knight:

Did you share that poetry with anybody at that point in your life?

Brent Smith:

Not at the age that I started. I mean, I think I started writing… what I can remember is probably at 10 years old is when I started to really kind of figure out what was going on. I mean, as I entered high school I kind of started hanging out with a different crowd and they were a lot more… I was kind of a goth when I was in high school, but I was broad. And what I mean by that is I just hung out with a lot of artistic people. My dad had me in sports at a young age and I was pretty good at baseball and basketball, and I remember I turned 15 and I told my dad, “Dad, I don’t want to play sports anymore.” And I think it crushed him in a lot of ways. And my dad is amazing on so many levels and definitely my mom and my dad are probably my two biggest fans in the world.

But although it might’ve not necessarily disappointed, my dad, he was just not aware of this artistic side of his son because I kept it from him because I didn’t know how he was going to react to it. But when I told him and I started to express myself, he basically said, “You know what? All I ever want you to be is authentic. I want you to be real. That’s the biggest thing that I can teach you son, is how to be authentic.” So that helped out a lot. But I think that when I was… I remember showing some of my poetry to my dad and my dad be kind of taken aback by it, didn’t really… I think when I showed it to him in the beginning, he looked at it and I was thinking to myself, “He’s going to think this is garbage. He’s not going to get it.”

And I think his expression was more of when I first showed it to him that he was a bit more… like a light bulb went off because he had found a connection there also with his son because I think he felt, wow, this is insightful. For a 15-year-old kid. This is insightful, very mature in a lot of ways. So yeah, I remember showing some of it to my dad. And as I was hanging out with more of an artsy group of people, they encouraged me. That was what was cool about it. Not that my friends that were in sports and all that, I didn’t stop being friends with the people that I played with in sports and things like that. I was finding myself, I was really opening myself up to a lot of different experiences.

Buzz Knight:

Was there a defining moment where you knew that music was going to be your life somehow?

Brent Smith:

I knew from birth. I know some people are like, “How is that?” I just can’t ever remember not being completely captivated by songs. Music is one thing, but songs I build that into… If you’re listening to classical music or you’re listening to instrumentation, the center stage is the instrument. But a song, there’s a message in that because there’s lyrics and a melody. So ever since I can remember, I was fascinated by songs and what the language was and what was going on. And as I got older, again, I love words and I love being able to create those different atmospheres and those different situations. And again, too, if I think about it more so now, I also started writing songs I believe because it was going to be cheaper than therapy. Because I don’t want to be super ethereal and say I kind of figured out ways to heal myself by just being very vocal about how I felt.

I could always put it down on paper and for whatever reason I could sing it out. That’s another thing too. I was very vocal from the moment I entered the earth. My mother would tell you that, she was always like, “He had no problems letting you know he was in the room.” And I am extremely grateful that from the moment I entered the earth, I also always had an idea of what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be. I never really struggled with that. I always wanted to be a performer. I knew I wanted to be a singer. I felt like I could have a real opportunity, and I felt like I was good enough to be able to write and come up with my own original material. So I always had a direction. So I feel really lucky about that. My granny used to tell me all the time, she still tells me to this day, “Find something you love son, and you will never work a day in your life.”

Buzz Knight:

Desmond Child who I know you worked with, the great songwriter he talked about on this podcast that he sort of feels there’s a role for him to give people hope. And I feel like that’s very similar to your view of the world. Would you agree?

Brent Smith:

Yeah, because we all understand the negativity is not going anywhere. It’s always going to be there. It’s something I think that as human beings, we all share the human condition with each other, but we’re all connected to one another. And there are moments in the day with me where I see, again, talking about how technologically advanced we are and how everybody has a platform with social media and what have you. I just try to lean more towards the positivity on a daily basis because I don’t want people to give up because it’s not happening for them right this second. It doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. And what I mean by that is whatever you want for your life, whatever you want your life to be, whatever direction you’re going towards, it’s important to fill people with confidence.

I’m not saying you ain’t going to have to work for it, but that’s the journey inside of it too. You have to work for it. I’ve said this before, when I was growing up, I never really focused on a plan B. And I know that from my generation you grow up with people telling you, “Well, what if it doesn’t work? What if it doesn’t happen? You need to have a plan B.” I never focused on that because my plan A meant so much to me. And also that plan A can evolve over time. And I think sometimes people too, they get really afraid of a specific thing, which is called failure. I don’t want to fail. What happens if I fail? You need to fail. You need to fail a lot.

I encourage people to fail because it teaches you what to do next time or it gives you a different perspective of the architecture that you’re trying to build for your own life. But I tell you this, your life and your legacy won’t be built by your failures. Your life and your legacy will be built by the fact that you refuse to give up. That’s the whole point. Just don’t give up. And if it takes you a minute to figure out what your plan A is, that’s okay, but go after that. And as far as the negativity and all that that we see in the world, I’m like, “You know what? There’s enough of it. I get it. It’s not going anywhere.” So I try to be more of a positive reinforcement.

Buzz Knight:

Well, we’re going to talk about music and the connection of that and healing on our music Save Me podcast with Lynn Hoffman, where you’ll be guesting on that. But I did want to go back to Desmond Child. What was it like writing with him and what did you learn from him?

Brent Smith:

Man, that was a tornado of brand new. It was so wild because the band that I was signed to Atlantic with first, we got an opportunity to go to Nashville and work with him. And you know what’s interesting about it, we wrote a song and the song was okay. Again, this is Desmond Child, I mean one thing… But that’s the whole thing, it was Desmond Child. And I think Desmond spent more time with me during those two days of really, yes, we were working on a song. Yes, we were in a multi-million dollar recording studio and all that. But I spent more time with Desmond asking him questions just about songwriting and the music industry and life on the road and all the artists that he works with and how he goes in and looks at each individual artist differently.

And he’s not necessarily writing for himself, he’s trying to put himself in the same environment as that person that he’s writing with. And this whole element as a songwriter is also to get that artist to talk to him when they’re trying to figure out what they want to write about. And there’s a lot of psychology involved. And I learned in that short period of time, those two days really had an impact on me because he gave me a sounding board in a lot of ways to, once again, don’t stop asking questions. Know when to stop, listen, and keep your eyes and ears open. But also to remember that songwriting and music in general, it’s constantly evolving. He was fantastic. I got to find a way to reach out to him too, because it’s been twenty-five, twenty-six years since that moment in time. But I did, I learned a great deal from him in those forty-eight hours.

Speaker 1:

We’ll be right back with more of the Takin’ A Walk Podcast. Welcome back to the Takin’ A Walk Podcast.

Buzz Knight:

I want to talk about Jelly Roll, who’s been a guest on these podcasts as well. How did you find his music and how does it make you feel that both of you, meaning you and the band Shinedown and Jelly Roll defy categorization?

Brent Smith:

Well, first of all, if there is a person on this planet that deserves the amount of overwhelming and extremely earned success, it is Jelly Roll. I’m going to tell you what Jelly roll is. Jelly Roll is necessary. I mean, because it didn’t happen overnight for him. It didn’t happen overnight for us either. But the path that he has created for himself is because he has been patient yet grinding so hard for his entire career and his entire life up until this point. Seeing him win these awards and seeing him be brought to the forefront, that didn’t happen overnight by any stretch of the imagination. And to see the Billboard nominations, to see him win New Artists of the Year at the CMAs the other night to see, I believe he had six Grammy nominations. I’m just unbelievably, or I should say not unbelievably. I’m so believably proud of this guy because he deserves it.

Well, how I got introduced to him was, honestly, I was on YouTube one day and I think I was probably one of the first people to watch the live version of him in the studio for the song Save Me. I remember being, I think it had like 150,000 views when I watched it for the first time, and I was just completely floored by it. I think it’s up to almost 300 million views now. But again, it was very genuine. It was very unique. And again, going back to that realism and that authenticity that I was talking about a minute ago that my dad told me, “Focus on being authentic.” That is a prime example of where I watched something for the first time, not knowing who he was, never hearing his voice. And obviously I went down a very unique rabbit hole after I watched that because you see that he’s multi formatted, you see that… And the way I feel about it is the exact same way he does.

It’s not about rap music, rock music, metal music, pop music, country music, R&B, gospel. It’s about all music. It’s about not being pigeonholed and not being put into a box. You don’t want to handcuff yourself creatively. And for me and him, I met him in, I think it was 2021. Yeah, it was 2021 at Blue Ridge Festival, and he was on the same day that we were. And so we went to him early in the day, I knew he was going to be there, had never met him before. Zach, actually, our guitar player, Zach Myers, I actually didn’t know this, but he knew him a little bit just from the Tennessee, the link-up of… Because I’m from Knoxville, Tennessee, Zach’s from Memphis, Tennessee Jelly’s from Antioch. So there was a Tennessee connection there. And so I met him and we were just talking about music and I was talking to him about Save Me and how just blown away I was by that.

And then I just said, “Hey, you want to come up on stage with us tonight and do Simple Man?” And he was like, “Really?” And I was like, “Yeah.” And that’s the great thing about Jelly. He’s down for anything, and he’s such a wealth of knowledge mentally when it comes to, again, just all kinds of music and all kinds of songs. That’s the steel trap he’s got. So he comes up and we do the song together and it gets filmed and it goes out on YouTube. I think it’s up to six or 7 million views. And this is just like a phone recording of it. And our videographer, Sanjay, he was on stage filming it as well, but that got put out. I got his number, we started talking to each other. And then at the beginning of last year, probably February of last year, I just kind of made a decision. I knew what the touring schedule was going to be for us and what we wanted to do and how we wanted to build it out.

So I called him and I said, “Would you be main support for our Revolutions Live tour in the fall? It’s about 42 shows. It’s all amphitheaters and you’d be main support.” And he was at the time, he just was like, “Are you serious?” And I said, “Yeah, we’d be honored.” So we took another awesome young man too at that time, John Harvey. But when I went to everybody at the label and management, and I understood why they were a little hesitant because they didn’t know who he was, but I told everybody, got to remember, this is last year in February for a fall tour. And I said, we’re going to bring John Harvey and Jelly Roll with us this fall. And everybody was like, “Who?” And I said, “You’re just going to need to trust me.” And dude, the rest is history. And he would come out every night and do Simple Man with us, and Zach would go out on his set and they’d do 99 Problems, Jay-Z.

Jelly’s set was so amazing and just a cornucopia of all kinds of music and styles and everything. So it was super, super rad. Man, that was one of the funnest times on tour that I have had in the last 20 years is going out there with him and being a part of that and watching his rise. And again, going back to your question about the multi-format and the broadening of that, I have never been in a band that in regards to Shinedown from day one, I never wanted the music to be put into a box. And again, it goes back to… Me and Jelly would’ve a lot of discussions about that on the road with each other. Again, going back to you can have country influences and rock influences and pop influences and alternative and all that. You shouldn’t be categorized into staying in one lane.

And I think the future for a lot of artists, if we can be anything to help with that as we move forward in music, that pendulum constantly swings back and forth. But you don’t have to as an artist, you shouldn’t be put into or pigeonholed into being, you can only go down this road. You can only do this kind of music if you’re known for this. You can’t do anything else. And that’s just not true. You should be able to be diverse. You should be able to evolve. Music is powerful. And as you move forward in your career, again, you got to keep your eyes and your ears open. But also too, you should be inspired at different times in your career with different styles of music. You should always be open-minded, that’s the point is to be open-minded.

Buzz Knight:

Well, you preside over one of America’s biggest and best rock bands.

Brent Smith:

That’s true.

Buzz Knight:

So you’ve seen-

Brent Smith:

And proud of it, proud of it.

Buzz Knight:

And you should be and see and continue to see great success. What do you tell somebody like Jelly Roll who’s experiencing this tremendous rise and amazing success? What do you tell them to keep them in check and be something where you don’t lose perspective?

Brent Smith:

I’m going to be honest with you. He’s doing fantastic in regards to what you’re talking about from a psychological standpoint and handling everything that’s going on in his life right now and in his world. He’s doing a fantastic job at that because that’s just who he is. He’s really, really gifted. And he’s also really smart because again, he continues to ask questions, he continues to… We have a saying in Shinedown, which is, “You can’t make it about the painter. You have to make it about the painting.” So you have to look at the big picture. And I mean, I remember last year when we were on tour together, we talked a lot about… Because at the time, I believe that was really the first time he had gone out on a tour where it was consecutive weeks in a row.

We were out there for almost 10 weeks together. And one of the biggest things that I told him just from a performance standpoint, because he had not really done that kind of a schedule, and we talked really, really early on too, before we even got out on the road with each other. The two biggest things that I told him was, “From a physical standpoint, your voice is something that you cannot plug in. It’s not like you can break a string and restring it. It’s not like if you are a drummer, you drop a stick real quick, you can just grab another one. Your body is your temple, so your voice has to be healthy. So you can’t go out at night a bunch and party and this and that and the other, or loud bars or this and that.

You got to remember when you’re on tour, if you go out and you yell all night because you’re having a good time or what have you, you’re going to wake up and you’re not going to have a voice.” And the other thing was I told him was water, water, water, water, water. And I think at the time he was like, “How much water do I need to drink?” I’m like, “A lot.” Because there’s that physicality of that when you’re on the road. And what’s awesome is that I know that he listened to me during that time because when he goes on the road… He just got done with a completely sold out tour. I think it was sixty-four shows, and everyone was sold out. And these are huge buildings. These are like 20,000 capacity, twenty-five thousand capacity. Every one of them sold out.

But if you notice in that timeframe that he was out on that tour, he did social media and you would kind of get a recap from the shows and this and that and the other. But he wasn’t on social media a lot during that time because he was taking care of himself. He was resting his voice, he was doing what he needed to do, but he’s got it, man. He knows what he’s doing. He’s been waiting his whole life for this man. And I’m just so happy for this guy, man. I really, really am. He has such an incredible future. He’s also showing the public… That speech he did the other night at the CMAs, he full-on preached, in one minute man, gave the most rousing and inspiring speech for winning best new artists of the year at the CMAs. He is locked and loaded, man. He knows what he’s doing.

Buzz Knight:

Congratulations on the crossroad, the crossover success of a symptom of being human.

Brent Smith:

Yeah, still working on it.

Buzz Knight:

My goodness gracious. That’s song is stunning.

Brent Smith:

Thank you.

Buzz Knight:

It is just amazing. The lyrics, the invitation to the lunatic ball. I mean, that’s an amazing song. Can you tell me about the creation of that and how it makes you feel on how that song is connecting with people?

Brent Smith:

Yeah, I mean, I think I have a tendency to get long-winded, but with that particular song, we wrote that song in the midst of a pandemic when we knew that people were scared and afraid and frustrated and angry and confused with everything that was going on in the world. And when I arrived in South Carolina with Eric, our bass player… Another thing to that people may not know, so Eric Bass, who’s our bass player, who’s probably a bass player last in all reality. The last two albums, Attention Attention and Planet Zero, he has produced, engineered and mixed both full-length records. So when I arrived in South Carolina with him, this was June of 2020, I remember… That song was a gift. It really was. And you don’t get gifts when you’re making an album all the time. They’re actually very, very rare. And what a gift is, is when you’re in the studio and you’re working on a record and you’re writing new material, a gift is a song that really, in a lot of ways, it writes itself.

It kind of utilizes you as a vessel in order to be born. Because I remember the song came very quick. The lyrics came in a flood. I just remember I was kind of holding on while we were writing it, myself and Eric. And then taking a step back when we looked at it before I went in to do the vocals, I’m reading the lyrics and I’m looking at the structure of the song and how it was laid out. And I mean, we wrote that song in an afternoon and I did the vocal that you hear on the album that made the actual record because we don’t really do demos anymore. When we write a song, we go in there and we’re recording it for real nine times out of 10. But we wrote it in an afternoon and I sang the vocal that evening. And that’s the vocal that you hear on the track. And again, it was a song that I feel it needed to be… it wanted to be born so badly that it utilized us as a vessel so that it could present itself to the public.

And the overwhelming response from people with that song in particular has been humbling. It really, really has. And again, it’s a song about understanding that we’re all a work in progress. Life is the journey, you’re not promised tomorrow, and you have to focus on what you’re doing today. But at times, the world can be an interesting place to navigate it, and it’s going to throw a lot of different curveballs at you, and you have to figure out a way to navigate that in life. But for me, it was a gift. I think in our career in Shinedown, there’s only really been three gifts. 45 on the first record was a gift and Second Chance on the Sound of Madness album was a gift. Those two songs were written quite quickly. And when you take a step back and you look, you’re like, “Did I write this?” You’re kind of stunned by it, and it’s been a minute. And the symptom I would say would be number three. They don’t come often, man. So when they come, you’re very grateful for them.

Buzz Knight:

Well, in closing, what are you still learning these days?

Brent Smith:

That’s an interesting question to be put in that and be presented like that. If I’m continuing to learn anything, it is quite frankly to keep learning. To not think that, again, don’t arrive. Don’t worry about the arrival, focus on the journey. I’m learning that the younger generation, I think a lot of people, I see them, and I mean this from a creative standpoint, that the younger generation is really gifted and really talented, and we need to help guide them forward and not be so mean-spirited and really focus that for the future of all of us. Look for me, when I think about the rock and roll sensibility and the community that is rock and roll, this is what I’ve learned and what I continue to learn. I’ve never looked at rock and roll as a genre of music. I’ve always looked at rock and roll as a way of life.

I remember when Ice Cube got inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame with N.W.A. He walked up to that podium and the very first thing he said was, “Rock and Roll is the spirit. And it’s an honor to be here.” And that’s what I mean, man, where the rock and roll community is so inviting and welcoming because it is for everybody. It doesn’t matter. Listen, anyone from anywhere at any time is welcomed all the time in the rock and roll community. And it’s about being diverse, and it’s about being open-minded, and it’s about not always needing the platform to speak or to yell what you want to say to the world. Sometimes you have to take a step back and listen to people and really be aware that we’re all human beings and we’re all connected, and we share this planet with a lot of other creatures, and we should be respectful of that.

I think the biggest thing that I learned is that I just want to see, especially for Shinedown and what we do as rock and roll ambassadors, that you got to remember something. This is something that’s key. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, and it doesn’t matter if you’re younger or you’re older, the color of your skin, that’s irrelevant. Your religion, that’s your business. That’s up to you, that’s what makes you an individual, and that’s what makes you original. And it’s that support for each other. It’s that understanding that we should all evolve together, but that we should focus more on supporting each other as much as we possibly can. So if anything, I’m just trying to learn as much as I can on this journey and when I can do it, teach somebody what I’ve learned.

Buzz Knight:

Well, thank you for all that you continue to give us.

Brent Smith:

Thank you for the opportunity.

Buzz Knight:

Congratulations for being not only one of America’s great rock bands, but one of the best global rock bands, Shinedown.

Brent Smith:

Thank you so, so much. I’m honored to be here, that means the world to me. And thank you for giving me the time today. This has been an absolute blast.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Takin’ A Walk Podcast. Share this and other episodes with your friends and follow us so you never miss an episode. Takin’ A Walk is available on the iHeart Radio app, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your podcasts.

 

About The Author

Buzz Knight

Buzz Knight is an established media executive with a long history of content creation and multi-platform distribution.

After a successful career as a Radio Executive, he formed Buzz Knight Media which focuses on strategic guidance and the development of new original content.