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Shinedown's Smith & Myers at the Crofoot drive-in, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Shinedown's Brent Smith acknowledges, with a laugh, that a name like Smith & Myers -- his side project with guitarist Zach Myers, sounds like a law firm. Or a cough drop brand.

It is, however, a prolific collaboration. Started during 2014, the duo is just now releasing its first albums -- two "Smith & Myers" volumes (one out now, the other coming Oct. 23) each with five original songs and five covers. The latter are broad-ranging, from Neil Young, Peter Gabriel and the Righteous Brothers to Post Malone, Billie Eilish and Mark Ronson & Amy Winehouse.

Shinedown is still fully active -- and is, in fact, working on its seventh album at home in South Carolina. But Smith and Myers are taking their time to, er, shine as well, and are happy to be playing live via drive-in concerts in addition to releasing the albums...

• Smith and Myers first began playing as an acoustic duo back in 2014, which quickly won the favorite of Shinedown fans. "We never thought it was going to be anything more than something we did for the fans," Smith, 42, says by phone. "Then Zach said in the early part of 2017, 'Let's go out and do a couple shows in the last half of the year...as Smith & Myers.' So we did that and I didn't think anybody was gonna show up -- and every show was sold out, which was pretty remarkable. The run included a four-night stint at the Machine Shop in Flint, which Smith said could have been even longer. "After the fourth one it was like, 'We've got to stop, or we'll be here in Flint for three weeks!'"

• Smith announced the "Smith & Myers" album project on stage in New Jersey, during early 2018 -- which came as a surprise to his partner. "I just blurted out, in front of 3,500 people, 'Hey everybody, we’re gonna do a double record! We'll get back to you (on details). Zach slowly stopped playing the guitar and was like, 'Huh?!' I'll just say things sometimes, throw things out in the atmosphere to see what happens and keep myself accountable for it."

• As much as there's some melodic and sonic similarity to their band, Smith and Myers feel their duo is it sown entity. "With the songs, the song structures are different. They're also very exposed -- that's part of why the project is so much different than the band we're in. We had never written any original material for this until now, but we didn't look at it like, 'We can't do this, 'cause it might be a Shinedown song later' or anything like that. We looked at this as, 'This is a Smith & Myers' project,' and whatever we did was what Smith & Myers does."

• Smith says the stripped-down nature of the duo, which requires a crew of four rather than the 35 or so Shinedown would take on the road, makes outdoor drive-in performances a nice fit while traditional concerts are on hold. "For me, man, it's great that people are able to get out of the house and we can give them a sense of normalcy in terms of going out and seeing some live music. The performance dynamic of it isn't that different; You're there to perform, and me and Zach get a tremendous amount of joy together when we're able to be on stage and play for people. It's pretty overwhelming that we're in this state of human existence right now. It's not going to be forever, but for now if this is what we've got to do, it's working."

• Shinedown, meanwhile, is "nine songs into the writing process" for its next album, the follow-up to 2018's "Attention Attention," and plans to resume next week. "Pretty much the rest of October and all of November will be in the studio writing. If I was a betting man I would tell you next year you'll probably have a Shinedown single (in) May, maybe June, with an album to follow possibly around September, October. That's what I'm thinking."

Smith & Myers and J.R. Moore & Zac Mac perform at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, at the Crofoot Festival Grounds, Pike and Saginaw streets, Pontiac. $189-$249 per car, with COVID-19 protocols in place. 248-858-9333 or thecrofoot.com.

Web Site: www.thecrofoot.com

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