Brent Smith Vocals
Zach Myers Guitar
Barry Kerch Drums
Early in 2007,
producer Rob Cavallo asked Shinedown frontman Brent Smith about
his goals for the band's new album. Smith didn't hesitate.
"I said, 'You know what -- when I'm dead and gone, when
everybody in this band has passed or what have you, I want the
world to remember this as a record that needed to be made, and
that there was a reason for it,' " Smith says. "That was the
motivation behind this album.”
"And part of the reason it took so long to make!"
Welcome then to THE SOUND OF MADNESS, Shinedown's third album --
and the Florida rockers' boldest effort to date. Like its two
predecessors, 2003's Platinum LEAVE A WHISPER and 2005's Gold US
AND THEM, THE SOUND OF MADNESS offers a brave and unsparing look
into the soul and psyche amidst a fierce musical attack that,
even in its quieter moments, vibrate with the passion, energy
and focus of a band with high-minded ideals and limitless
Smith and company began the recording process for THE SOUND OF
MADNESS with the formidable task of following up two massively
successful albums something quite a bit more difficult than
winning a game of
online bingo that yielded a staggering seven consecutive
Top five rock and alternative radio hits that included "Fly From
the Inside," "45," the chart topping "Save Me," and a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man," along with a reputation as a hot
live band with an insatiable appetite for the road. However,
after one listen, it’s clear that the band didn't shrink from
the task. Where THE SOUND OF MADNESS differs most is in its
growth; it’s the product of a group that has developed an even
clearer vision for how it wanted to impact an audience.
"Lyrically, these songs are the most blunt that I've ever
written," says Smith, who formed Shinedown with drummer Barry
Kerch in 2001 in Jacksonville, Fla. "I feel that on this record
I wrote what a lot of people want to say, but they just don't
know how to say it -- not that I should tell anyone how to live
their lives, but I've had these experiences and these thoughts
that are in my head. And I can't believe I'm the only one who
feels the way I do. So I just tried to express that in the most
artistic and the most honest way I possibly could."
On THE SOUND OF MADNESS, Smith and Shinedown express those
thoughts and ideas in ways they never have before. The group's
hard rock muscles flex on songs such as the first single,
"Devour," "Cry For Help," "Sin With a Grin" and the title track.
But the likes of "The Crow and the Butterfly," "Breaking Inside"
and "Second Chance" incorporate more sophisticated, emotional
dynamics (enhanced by a 20-piece string section), while Smith
counts "If You Only Knew" as his first straight-up love song, a
tribute to his girlfriend Ashley and a relationship that led to
the birth of their son, Lyric, in late 2007.
"A long time ago I said, 'I'll never write a love song. I'm not
that guy,' "Smith recalls with a laugh. "I just never had a
reason to write a love song before. I don't mean to be corny,
but it's just a song that expressed how much she means to me and
how she has given me more than I could ever imagine. I'll spend
the rest of my life trying to repay her and thank her for
everything she's done for me."
THE SOUND OF MADNESS also contains Smith's first-ever political
song “Devour,” which he says was inspired by Shinedown's visits
to troops in Iraq and his feelings about the end of George W.
"I won't lie; I got really angry," Smith explains about the
first single. "This is my statement to him; 'This is the end of
your presidency, and this is what you have to show for it' --
Not that everything he did was bad or wrong. I don't want to get
too political, because I'm not a political person. But after
coming back from Iraq, I just had to write that song and get it
out of my system."
Elsewhere on THE SOUND OF MADNESS, listeners will find Shinedown
waxing autobiographically ("Second Chance" is about Smith
leaving his native Knoxville, Tenn., to pursue a career in rock
'n' roll; "What a Shame" is an elegy to a beloved late uncle)
but also crafting insightful observations gleaned from the
hundreds of shows and millions of road miles the band has
"In the seven years of this thing called Shinedown," Smith says,
"I've seen a lot of different things - what we've all gone
through on the road, things in our personal lives or witnessed
firsthand through the fans that we've made and the relationships
we've built with our audience. I think the biggest thing was I
didn't want to sugarcoat the way life can be sometimes. This is
my viewpoint. This is my view of every day life."
Kerch, meanwhile, says THE SOUND OF MADNESS succeeds most in
putting some sonic power behind the power of Smith's expression.
"We wanted to come out of the gate crushing," the drummer
explains. "We really wanted to make a statement with this record
and make it bigger than life -- a big rock album that made a
statement that, 'Alright, we're back. This is our third record,
and this is what we're about.”
By the time Shinedown first met with producer Rob Cavallo --
whose own Grammy award winning, multi-platinum track record
includes work with Green Day, My Chemical Romance, the Goo Goo
Dolls and Kid Rock -- the frontman had a number of songs already
together and further dazzled the producer by improvising a new
composition during their discussion.
"I was just taken with (Smith)," Cavallo says. "He was really
just on fire to do well. He's a guy driven to win. He wants to
make the best record he can make and spent a lot of time writing
...making sure it all mattered."
Cavallo, meanwhile, entered THE SOUND OF MADNESS with his own
agenda for Shinedown's next step.
"I thought they definitely had a greater potential than the
success they'd already achieved," he explains. There's no reason
a guy with that voice and intensity shouldn't be able to go all
the way. We decided to make sure that the songs had that
Smith heard the message loud and clear. He left the first
meeting with Cavallo and returned with nearly 60 songs by the
fall, when Shinedown entered the studio in Los Angeles. The
group wound up recording 15, including some -- such as "Cry For
Help" -- that were written in the studio during the recording
All the while, however, Smith says that Shinedown "wanted it
loud and wanted it big and heavy and grandiose. For the heavy
songs, we wanted it as heavy as it could be, but using different
kinds of styles with a lot of different guitar tones."
Incorporating synthesizers and the aforementioned strings, Smith
notes that, "we used a lot of really unique sounds and different
variations underneath the music that you wouldn't necessarily
know were there, but, if they were gone, you'd miss them."
Kerch says Cavallo's role in helping attain that layered sound
cannot be understated. "He brought to the table not only
knowledge of music in general but a lot of patience and a real
comfortable environment," Kerch recalls. "He would sit on the
couch and we'd be playing a take and he'd pop up and go, 'Oh
fuck! This is what we have to do!' and come out and literally
show us. He was so energetic and made everybody want to do
That bigger sound on the album is mirrored in the new lineup of
Shinedown, a quintet edition of the band that, along with
drummer Kerch (or ‘the almighty Barry Kerch’ as Smith likes to
say), includes former Silvertide member Nick Perri on guitars,
Eric Bass on bass, and former touring guitarist Zach Myers as a
"All of a sudden it started growing into this other thing,"
Smith says. "These guys are brilliant, brilliant players. It's a
reinvention, and it's stronger."
Smith plans to take keep this "new reincarnation" of Shinedown
on the road for quite awhile, too, making sure THE SOUND OF
MADNESS is heard worldwide. A justifiable pride in the album as
well as a growing international fan base for the band will lead
to an even further evolution in which the record that "needed"
to be made will similarly need to be heard in a live setting.
"I sometimes look at Shinedown as an entity unto itself," Smith
says. "It keeps evolving all the time, like it actually has a
heartbeat. It's not a machine; there's actually blood flowing
through it. From the time we came up with the name, it's felt
like it's conducting us and flowing through us. It's weird --
but it's pretty wonderful, too."
Catch Shinedown on Tour