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Shinedown’s Brent Smith Talks Carnival of Madness, Next Album + Rise of Rock ‘N’ Roll

Shinedown
Photo by John Stephens and Jonathan Lipking

A few years ago in 2010, Shinedown lent their collective talents to help usher in a brand new rock tour called Carnival of Madness. Now, in 2013 they are making their return appearance to the COM, hoping to inject some energy back into the brand and reinvent the tour they helped get off the ground.

With Papa Roach, In This Moment, Skillet and We As Human also set to take the Carnival of Madness stage, the tour is promising lots of surprises, potential live collaborations and yes, a full-fledged carnival.

Loudwire recently caught up with Shinedown singer Brent Smith to get all the details on Carnival of Madness and what fan can expect on the next album from the hit-making rockers.

Shinedown helped kick off the inaugural Carnival of Madness tour in 2010. What can you tell us about your return this year?  

The biggest thing about this year’s Carnival of Madness and the fact that we’re returning as the headliner is that we are very serious about reinventing the brand of Carnival of Madness. We did see a lot of success the first year when we headlined it and then it seemed that the last couple of years have been rough for the tour – not to take anything away from those bands and those tours during that timeframe –  but for us we take it very personally this year. Not only is CoM going to be more of an experience than a “rock show” and more of an event than a “rock show,” it’s all about the presentation.

We’re very fortunate that the bands we’re going to be touring with are of the caliber that they are. When you start talking about Papa Roach, those guys are getting into a legend status now. Also when you start talking about Skillet, you’re talking about a band that has an insanely wide fanbase that I believe, on this particular tour, they’re really trying to bring in all of their fans to this show. If people don’t know about Skillet they have kind of these two different markets that they work in, they work in the Christian market and they work in the mainstream market. I think they’re being a lot more vocal about wanting everybody to come to the Carnival this year. It’s more about a universal approach for them. Then you have Maria and all the guys in In This Moment. They are completely on fire right now and well deserved because she’s put in the time. They have a brilliant record and we’re extremely huge fans of Maria Brink’s and huge supporters of hers. Then you have this band We As Human, a brand new band on Atlantic Records that’s coming out with their debut album. I believe John from Skillet is affiliated with that band as well; just a great new band.

So what can fans expect?

I can’t give away all the secrets that we have going on with the show. In planning with the other bands, we said everybody bring your “A” game. So that means that this is going to be one of the most, if not the most, theatrical tours of 2013. I can guarantee people that this will be a show like no other. This is going to be 100 percent all Carnival of Madness.

I know in the past when you’ve toured with In This Moment, Maria joined you on set for a live collaboration. It’s still early but are you thinking about anything like that for this tour?

Yes, we want to make it really fun for the audience. I don’t want to jinx it in any way but if time permits we’d really like to put together an all-star jam at the end of the night which would be something really badass that we’ve all got to start talking about early. To put something together like that takes a lot of work but it is something that we’re discussing right now and if we can pull it off it’s going to be something really rad.

With so many summer festivals out there for music fans to choose from, what would you say to fans who are on the fence regarding which festival to attend?

What I should be very upfront with everyone about is that it’s just not going to be like anyone else’s tour, to be honest with you. It’s very structured, we’ve been very strategic about the audience, and we want to give them an experience. We don’t want them to just come in and think, “Okay we’re here, here’s the lineup, here’s all the bands, let’s go to our seats and hang out and listen to music.” At the end of the day, that’s what matters. You can have all the bells and whistles, all the explosions and fireworks, but it’s about the songs. If you don’t have songs that connect with people and that they want to hear then you really don’t have anything.

We have taken the initiative to go out later in the year and later in the summer on purpose. We wanted to let all those other tours do their thing and if people are going to go to them, that’s fine and good, but we’re going out later in the year because we felt confident that people are going to hold on to their money to come out and see it. And the other thing about that is money is a very big issue. We are doing our best to make these tickets affordable. In some markets we’re trying to do an e-ticket where you could actually package three tours together, meaning that you’d buy one ticket for two different shows and CoM might be a part of that.

We’re not trying to break people’s backs, we understand the way the economy is. I have to give props to Kid Rock because of his tour that he’s getting ready to launch, the tickets are like 20 bucks. He’s taking a big pay cut in production and my hats off to the guy for that. That’s a lot of what we’re trying to do with CoM too, to be very appreciative to the fans. At the end of the day, we have a huge production we have to pay for, that’s part of the ticket, the production of all these bands, but we also know that people need to afford it. We know that this concert is probably going to be a lot of young people’s first concert. We want parents to know that they can bring their kids to CoM and not be worried that it’s going to be a bad experience or that it will be dangerous. Its rock ‘n’ roll, it’s going to be controlled chaos – let’s put it that way. It’s going to be fun and it’s going to be the event of the year. We want kids to feel awesome if it’s their first concert and we want their parents to be able to say I know these bands and we feel comfortable letting our kids go to that because we know that it’s about lifting this audience up and about rising above.

Overall, the massive positivity is the theme to these shows that we put on, we want to empower people. That’s a big part of what we do live. We also want entire families to feel cool about going together and coming to see this show. We take the live part of what we do very seriously and we want everyone to come out and watch it.

One of the things I really admire about you is your passion for music, even extending beyond Shinedown. Since the release of ‘Amaryllis’ in March of last year, you’ve been pretty vocal about asking fans to rise up and take a stand for rock music – how do you feel the fans have reacted to that challenge and what compelled you to put that out there?

Well yes, I’ve hashtagged on Twitter the rise of rock n’ roll (#theriseofrockandroll). It’s something that I use a lot but I also try to use it sparingly. It’s really a call to arms stemming from the beginning of the album cycle for ‘Amaryllis’ going back all the way to January of last year when we started touring for it. The beautiful thing about music is, it’s a pendulum, and it swings back and forth. But the way that I’ve always looked at rock ‘n’ roll is there’s no gray area for me. I listen to a lot of different genres of music, I’m inspired by a lot of different styles, but the thing is, I don’t believe that it will ever stray too far away from drums, bass, guitar, badass vocals and a killer song.

What I mean by that is rock ‘n’ roll is not a genre of music; rock ‘n’ roll is a way of life for a lot of people. It’s the type of scenario where it evokes an emotion – that’s what rock ‘n’ roll does. When you’re upset, rock ‘n’ roll pushes you over the edge to have you break through those barriers to give you strength again. When you’re down, when the world doesn’t make any sense and no one understands who you are, you have to think about how many times rock ‘n’ roll has been there for you when you needed it most. It’s always been there for you, it’s always been there for me. It’s lifted me up in my darkest hours. When I was at my weakest, rock ‘n’ roll made me strong again. I do take it really personally. I think that its coming back, it’s getting there.

We did a tour earlier this year with Three Days Grace and P.O.D. and it was amazing to see the audience during those two legs. There were 31 shows and the demographic that were at those shows spanned from age 8-80, no B.S. There was such a wide demographic of people from really, really young to even some older generations. It was wild to watch. We did tons of meet and greets on that tour, and we’re going to do tons of meet and greets on CoM, but entire families were coming to these shows. It was amazing to look out and see the ratio of males to females was right around 50/50 and see so many teenagers at the shows. You really see this rise already happening for rock music. It’s something that I take very seriously and there’s a reason that people write songs that state the obvious – that rock n’ roll will never die, because it’s the truth.

So that has to be encouraging, seeing the younger generation out at the shows.

Absolutely, the younger generation likes you to be honest. They like you to have an attitude, to be confident and to be sure of yourself. When Shinedown walks out onstage every night, we’re there to perform for you. The reason we’re on that stage is because the audience put us there and we take that very seriously. We’re going to give you every single ounce of who we are.

I wanted to talk a little bit about your Warner Sound’s Live Room Sessions EP that just came out. I know your fans are loving it. Can you tell us about the unique process of recording all in one take and the cover song you selected for it?

It was done in one take, yes. We did ‘Bully,’ ‘I’ll Follow You,’ ‘Amaryllis,’ ‘Miracle’ and a cover of the Carole King song ‘I Feel The Earth Move.’’ It’s funny because . . . fans keep asking why we’d cover that particular song. So let me give you some history on that. Barry did the drum tracks for ‘Leave a Whisper’ in Henson Studios and part of what Warner Sound is is they like you to go into a studio where you have a history and record a cover song of someone else that’s been in that particular studio and has their own history there. So I found out that Carol King had recorded ‘Tapestry’ there and Barry had recorded there. I love Henson Studios; it’s a great great legendary place. A lot of people talk about studios and how they’re’ legendary, of all the studios that are left in Los Angeles, it would be Henson and Capitol Studios that in my opinion are the best sounding rooms. That’s why we did it though, Carol recorded her record there. But yes, all the songs were done in one take; we just went in there and knocked them out.

True or false – the TV show ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ was instrumental in you becoming a singer?

True, very, very true. Waylon Jennings and that theme song, that was kind of the moment in my life where I was so enamored by his voice when the show would start. I was more interested in the theme song than the show, but early on that was a light bulb that went off in my young mind.

How old were you when that happened?

People don’t believe me when I tell them this, but I was like 2 years old. I knew I wanted to be a singer. I knew I wanted to sing that young.

I think you should cover that song live.

I don’t know how well that would go over. I don’t know if people would get it.

Back in April you let your Facebook followers vote on a bunch of cool covers that you were going to record acoustically (including everything from Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ to Adele’s ‘Someone Like You.’) Can you give us an update on the status of that?

It is 100 percent on schedule to happen, and just so you know, we’ve already filmed and recorded all of them, they are already done. All of the artists are being very cool, but there are licensing issues because we’re not selling this. This is going to go out on YouTube. It’s not audio files, the way we’re presenting this is we filmed it in one take – kind of like the Warner EP – but this was done for the fans that we thought would be fun and we thought they would enjoy being a part of. We’re just trying to finish up with the legal aspect of things, making sure all the artists are cool with what we’re doing, and then we’re going to release them as soon as we get the okay from everybody. So probably within the next week to two weeks they should start coming out.

Historically, you are not a band that rushes new material and everything seems to be very well thought out. With that in mind and your heavy touring schedule have you even started thinking about your next studio album?

We’ve already started to kick around a couple of ideas and a couple of thought patterns as far as where we want to go with the new material. I never want to jinx anything by throwing it out into the atmosphere because I like to see it unfold naturally. For me personally, I don’t write on the road, I just don’t have the mindset for it. When we’re touring I’m only thinking about the performances and the production, and making sure we spend as much time as we can with the audience and the fans. There’s a lot of work that goes into touring with Shinedown. I push people really hard, because I’m pushed, and I’m a driven individual. We as a band have the most outstanding touring crew in the world, and I’m not just saying that. They are out of control awesome. It’s very laid out, it’s very organized and it’s quite methodical what we do out there.

So it’s tough to start getting ideas to create new material because I don’t like to go 50 percent at anything, I have to go 100 percent at anything I do and I want to make sure all of my time is invested in that particular project that we’re on if that makes sense. We have been thinking about things and really in all honesty we’ve been talking about how we would record the next record because I think we’re going to do some different things on the next album, some things that aren’t traditional for us. We’re known for making really big sounding records, we us a lot of layers and instruments, we love to layer things and make soundscapes, so we’ve been tossing around the idea of just making a brutal brutal rock record next. Just a four piece band – what’s the best way to describe it – Shinedown is basically a power trio with a singer – drums, bass, guitar and vocals. We’ve been talking about not even overdubbing things and just going full on and seeing what happens. We’ve already done two albums that are massive in sound with a lot of layers, a lot of orchestration, and we love those records (‘Sound of Madness,’ ‘Amaryllis’), those are big records, but you can’t do the same thing twice. Not that the two sound alike, I think we’ve been very diligent about making each record sound different. We’re always going to want to do something that pushes us and we want to be creative. We don’t want to get stagnant or complacent, we like to push the envelope.

Our thanks to Shinedown’s Brent Smith for taking the time to talk with us. The Carnival of Madness tour has announced its initial dates, and tickets can be purchased here.

Brent Smith: 2013 Carnival of Madness Will Be a 'Full-Fledged Carnival'

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