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Interview:
Success keeps Shinedown glowing
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

Over 11 years and four albums, the sheen on Shinedown has only grown brighter.

The Florida quartet has ridden a blend of hard, anthemic rock styles and inspirational lyricism to the top of the charts -- with considerable frequency -- since it formed during 2001 in Jacksonville. When "Unity," the second single from Shinedown's latest album, "Amaryllis," hit No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart earlier this summer, it gave the group 15 Top 5 hits at the format -- eight of which have ascended to the top spot.

Shinedown has also notched seven Top 10s on the general Rock Songs survey and six on the Alternative Rock list, with "Second Chance" from the 2008 album "The Sound of Madness" hitting No. 1 on all three charts and selling more than two million copies in the U.S.

"You never get used to that," bassist and pianist Eric Bass, who co-wrote "Unity" and Shinedown's current single, "Enemies," says of the success. "It's not a foregone conclusion that just because we're in Shinedown that we're going to have a No. 1 song, you know? Any time you have a Top 10 hit you feel humbled.

"But it's nerve-wracking, man. Every time we've released a song it's like throwing a baby bird out of the next and hoping it's going to fly. We have confidence in what we do, confidence in what we've written -- or we wouldn't have thrown it out there, but, yeah, we're always apprehensive about it.

"You have to write good music and once you're doing it that it's out of your hands, really. It's in the hands of the public and what they're going to think of it and how they're going to react to it, and hopefully they're going to embrace what you've done. And you want it to do well, so you're always out there championing it to the world, wanting them to feel it the same way you do."

Shinedown -- Bass, singer Brent Smith, guitarist Zach Myers and drummer Barry Kerch -- has enjoyed good fortune in that regard. The group's debut album, 2003's "Leave a Whisper," went platinum, as did "The Sound of Madness," and each successive release has debuted higher on the Billboard 200 chart than the other. "Amaryllis" bowed at No. 2 and also topped the Rock Albums chart, and that warm reception was something of a relief for the band coming on the heels of "The Sound of Madness."

"That was such a big album for us," notes Kerch, 36. "It put us in a while different light. We were able to have success in different countries, so it was a lot of fun. But at the same time it put a lot of pressure on us -- not only to live up to ('The Sound of Madness') but to write even better songs and make them sound better."

Kerch says Shinedown's goal for "Amaryllis" (named after the flower species indigenous to South Africa) and widely mispronounced, according to Bass) was "to make (the music) as big and grandiose and wide as you can possibly make it sound. If you put headphones on, we want you to feel like you're in the middle of it all." The group and producer Rob Cavallo, who also helmed "...Madness," incorporated orchestrations and synthesizers, as well as layering guitars to achieve that maximum sonic impact.

"It was an exciting album to make," Kerch says. "It was a lot of fun but at the same time a lot of work. A lot of times we were pulling our hair out, but at the same time it was a lot of fun."

But Bass says that ambition has made it challenging to recreate the "Amaryllis" songs on stage. "It's probably the most musical record we've done, but they're not the easiest songs to play live," he acknowledges. "You're trying to re-create something you spent a year and a half creating in the studio, which is never easy. We realized we dug ourselves a little hole -- but I think the songs are developing a second life live, as a lot of songs do. They're fun to play, but every challenging."

Bass predicts that Shinedown is looking forward to "at least two more years" of touring to support "Amaryllis." After its current run on the Uproar Festival finishes, the group is headed to the U.K. in October, with more European dates planned and a number of other tours, both around the world and back in North America, currently being planned. A film crew has been documenting the band both on and off stage, and there's talk of a live DVD at some point.

And while the group is not yet chomping at the bit yet to make another album, Bass says having more than 20 songs left over from the "Amaryllis" sessions feels like Shinedown has a head start on whatever towards whatever comes next.

"There's some really strong stuff there, so who knows," he says. "Brent and I are talking about doing some writing out here on the road, which we've had some success with before. We'd definitely like to have some weight going into the writing process of the next record, so that's definitely motivating us to use our time wisely out here."

The Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival, with Shinedown, Godsmack, Saind, P.O.D., Adelitas Way and more, starts at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $49.50 and $29.50 pavilion, $19 lawn in advance and $24 lawn day of show. A $60 lawn four-pack is also available. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.





Web Site: www/palacenet.com

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