Spring 2020 saw Shinedown’s “Deep Dive” tour go up in smoke when the pandemic hit. It was going to be a rare opportunity for fans to see the hit-making group play a selection of album cuts from across their career.
Now some 17 months later, the group is finally able to go back on tour. The group plays Arizona Federal Theatre on Sunday, January 30.
But the deep dive isn’t happening — at least for the time being. After having been away from fans for that long — and without a new album to promote just yet — Shinedown is doing a 180 and playing essentially the hits.
And with that comes a different kind of challenge when crafting a set list.
“We have 28 singles. So it’s like it gets a little dicey. When you try to make a set list, you want to make everybody happy,” guitarist Zach Myers said, considering the difficulties in trying to squeeze as many of the group’s rock radio hits into a show. “Obviously, you have your, we call them the four corners. You’ve got to play ‘Second Chance.’ You’ve got to play ‘Simple Man.’ You’ve got to play ‘Sound of Madness,’ and you’ve got to play ‘Cut The Cord.’ Other than that, you can kind of maneuver around a bit.
“And honestly, ‘Monsters’ (from the 2018 album “Attention Attention”) is becoming one of those (must-play) songs, maybe one of our biggest singles in the last few years,” Myers said.
That album added four more No. 1 mainstream rock singles to Shinedown’s catalog, with “Get Up,” “Devil” and “Attention Attention” matching chart positions with “Monsters.” So the “Attention Attention” album could still be well represented in the concerts.
And in reality, Shinedown isn’t quite moving on from that album. In September, the band released a film, “Attention Attention,” which collects the videos for all 12 songs on the album and further elaborates on the album’s themes of overcoming negativity and adversity.
“As far as the movie goes, we did our best to visualize what we thought it was,” Myers said. “And we got (director) Bill Yukich to do it, and Bill’s kind of a weirder, darker guy. You can kind of see it in the ‘Devil’ video. You can especially see it in the ‘Monster’ video. And those elements are in the movie, those videos. It’s not really, it’s not a movie per se. It’s a collection of videos. There’s a video for every song. But it tells a story of the start of this, where you start to kind of the end. It starts in the darkest place ever and in the end, it ends on a song like ‘Brilliant,’ which is so overpowering and upbeat.
“I think we did our best to visualize, but we’re not giving too much away,” the guitarist elaborated. “We’re not really a band that likes to tell people necessarily what our songs are about, because I think that ruins it for people. If you have a song that you really love or you really enjoy and you equate it to a breakup or something that happened in your life and I go, ‘This is a song about a ham sandwich,’ I don’t like those things. I think you can pull the curtain back a little bit, but we don’t want to let everybody know exactly how the sausage was made. So you just do your best to feel around on that.”
Getting the “Attention Attention” film finished was one of several projects that helped fill the time for Shinedown during the pandemic.
Singer Brent Smith and Myers were especially busy, reactivating their acoustic-oriented duo Smith & Myers, releasing a pair of acoustic-oriented EPs (“Smith & Myers Vol. 1” and “Vol. 2”) and doing a short tour earlier this year.
The duo debuted in 2014 with “Acoustic Sessions,” which featured a set of acoustic versions of hit songs by other artists. “Vol. 1” and “Vol. 2” expanded on that idea. Those two EPs each contained 10 largely acoustic songs, five of which were originals written by Smith and Myers and five covers.
And the band as a whole (which also features Eric Bass on — what else? — bass and Barry Kerch on drums) wasn’t idle either. Shinedown is in the midst of finishing its seventh studio album. Bass, as he did with “Attention Attention,” is producing the next album. He and Smith have been in the studio building and shaping the basic tracks, guitar parts and other elements into finished recordings.
“All the initial tracking I know of is done,” Myers said. “This is kind of my favorite time of a Shinedown record, because this is when Eric really gets in there and starts doing his thing. We go and put all of the instrumentation down, but when we leave is when the songs turn into what they’re going to turn into for the radio. I’ll tell you a great story about it is a song like ‘Cut the Cord.’ When I left, ‘Cut the Cord,’ none of the (he hums the keyboard tone pattern that opens the song), none of that stuff was in there when I left. The kids singing, none of that was in there. That kind of happens when Eric just kind of gets in there by himself and he begins to really get in there and kind of figure it out. I love that. I think that’s where he shines as a producer.”
While the final track selection and sequence are yet to be determined and Bass’ production work could impact which songs are included, Myers offered a few hints about where the album seems to be heading.
For one thing, it figures to be easily the most topical album in the career of Shinedown, which formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2001.
Smith and Myers had some topical content in their original songs of “Vol. 1” and “Vol. 2,” but Shinedown has, with only rare exceptions, avoided social commentary.
“When we started making this record, we were at a time when it was very uncertain. When we started writing, the world had just shut down,” Myers said. “It was supposed to be 10 days and it ended up being 16 months, and even more now. So when you’re in a place like that, you have all of this other stuff around you. You have people stating opinions that aren’t necessarily political or racial or anything else, and they’re still getting canceled for their opinions. So there was a lot to write about. It may be one of the first records where there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t necessarily specific to one person in the band. There’s a ton of social commentary on this record, which really hasn’t happened with a Shinedown record.”
Musically, the sound of the new record could change, but Myers thinks fans will be able to hear that the four band members are very invested in the new songs.
“I think when people first start the record, if it starts the way I think it’s going to start, they’re going to think this is the heaviest Shinedown record of all time. I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way,” Myers said. “What I think you’re going to take away from it musically is that it’s a very inspired record. Musically it’s some of my favorite (music) we’ve done. I think we pushed ourselves as musicians.”
WHERE: Arizona Federal Theatre, 400 W. Washington Street, Phoenix
WHEN: 8 p.m. Sunday, January 30