When Shinedown was gearing up to promote its first album, 2003’s “Leave a Whisper,” lead singer Brent Smith sat down at a table with his bandmates and said, “They don’t like us.”
Barely 22 years old, Smith believed Shinedown would immediately grace the covers of magazines, have paparazzi following them and be the face of MTV.
“What happened?” Smith says rhetorically. “We got hit with a big dose of reality, which, in hindsight, was the best thing that ever happened to us. The press was saying we were not good. We were boring looking, unattractive and we’d be lucky to sell five albums. I remember one journalist actually printing that.”
Instead of sitting at home sulking, Shinedown made a conscious decision to defy those comments and odds. They took their van, and traveled thousands of miles around the United States, and rationed the money they had for meals.
“We would eat McDonald’s for lunch and dinner,” Smith says. “That was all the money we had.”
Shinedown has dropped the figurative mic on naysayers by scoring its 14th No. 1 song on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart with “Monsters.” “Monsters” has already amassed nearly 15 million streams, as of late June.
The video is striking, exploring the demons and self-sabotaging inner voices that everyone battles. That video, along with the others on Shinedown’s latest album, “Attention Attention,” are clips of an eventual feature film.
“We have a feature film coming out next year,” Smith says. “We have a lot of characters you haven’t met yet. If you watched ‘Monsters,’ you’ll see some of those people in (another single) ‘Get Up.’
“‘Monsters’ took days to make. In between takes, we kept laughing a lot during the day. The scenes were heavy. We’re not done just yet.”
Shinedown—which also includes guitarist Zach Myers, bassist Eric Bass and drummer Barry Kerch—headlines Comerica Theatre on Saturday, July 20, and, like the music, is getting bigger and better.
“We’re bringing all the bells and whistles,” Smith says. “At the end of the day, though, it’s all about the music.”
The last few years, the band has co-headlined shows with bands of the same stature. This summer, Shinedown is bringing their favorite bands to open—Badflower, Dinosaur Pile-Up and Broken Hands.
“When some people look at the lineup for this show, they’re going to say, ‘Who are these bands?’” Smith says.
“The unique thing about this, though, is we’re big fans of these bands. Last year, I saw Badflower and I thought, ‘Who is this?’ I couldn’t put my finger on it. That’s because it was a brand-new band. Some bands make a sound and some bands make a noise. Those guys make a noise. They’re extremely talented.
“Dinosaur Pile-Up is a three piece who has this unique quality about what they do. Broken Hands is coming over from the U.K. for the very first time. They’re a quirky, alternative band who’s very unique in what they do. They definitely make a noise. They have a lot of attitude. We didn’t want the same old, same old bands. That’s why we’re so excited about the tour.”
Smith says fans can expect Shinedown to bring it to the stage.
“I have to be very transparent,” he says. “We have the most amazing fans in the world. They’ve given us a platform to be ourselves. The last thing we’re going to do is phone it in.
“We’re always keeping ourselves accountable for everything. Looking at the big picture is always a priority. Like Zach says, ‘It’s not about the painter, it’s about the painting.’”
The fans’ attitudes take precedence over the negative comments from listeners, journalists and music business folks.
“What those people actually did created a fire inside of the band,” Smith says. “The fire was already kind of there. I’ll be very up front with you. It’s all because of radio. We decided we were going to do everything and anything radio wants. We went to every function and did every promotion they had. We didn’t say no for a better part of 10 years.”
“Monsters” is Shinedown’s 26th single, and Smith was proud to predict the inevitable that it hit No. 1. Smith owes the success to his “bosses.”
“We genuinely love what we do,” he says. “We have one boss—everybody in the audience. We’re never going to shortchange the fanbase. We’re not writing the same song over and over. We’re not making the same record over and over again. You have to look at the big picture. Male, female, solo band, country, Polka, pop, hot A/C, metal, rock—it’s all music. As long as it’s good, emotional and real, you’re going to be successful. In the grand scheme of things, in the big picture, I swear, we’re the luckiest four people who walk the Earth.”
Shinedown w/ Badflower, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Broken Hands
Comerica Theatre, 400 W. Washington Street, Phoenix, 602.379.2800, comericatheatre.com, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 20, tickets start at $39.50.