Interview: Shinedown’s Brent Smith & Zach Myers Preview Relevant Tracks From Forthcoming Smith & Myers Duo
In 2014, Brent Smith and Zach Myers, one-half of the chart-topping multiplatinum rock band, Shinedown, got together for an acoustic project where fans chose ten songs for them to cover and post on social media. The concept was met with overwhelming success and the duo’s subsequent intimate, capacity-filled tour, was equally well-received.
Now Smith & Myers have unveiled the first two tracks from their forthcoming album, Smith & Myers Volume 1. The first, a poignant and poetically relevant original, “Not Mad Enough,” written shortly after the tragic death of George Floyd but an appropriate song for a multitude of different circumstances. The second track is the pair’s infectious and haunting take on Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In A Free World.”
Both tracks will be featured on Smith & Myers Volume 1, which will be released on October 9.
In addition to Smith and Myers celebrating the release of this new music, Shinedown’s recent “Atlas Falls” campaign to raise funds in the fight against Covid-19 has generated more than $400,000 for Direct Relief. An organization whose sole mission is to ensure that the scientific community has everything they need in times of crisis to save as many lives as possible. Fans who purchase a t-shirt for the cause are given the previously unreleased song, “Atlas Falls,” as an added bonus. The band’s song recently reached #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. Breaking the record for most #1’s ever in the chart’s 39-year history.
I recently spoke with Brent Smith and Zach Myers about the new songs from Smith & Myers and more in this exclusive new interview.
How did this Smith & Myers album project come about?
Zach Myers: The album idea came about when Brent said in an interview, in front of the world, that we were going to make a double album, with no discussion with the two people in the band [laughs]. He put the idea out into the atmosphere and we knew we had to follow up on the promise.
Brent Smith: What I’ve witnessed in the last twenty years is that if you have an idea you really believe in you have to start talking about it. Otherwise people will think you’re not serious or will forget about it completely. It if means something you have to express it to make it become a reality. I didn’t want the project to fall by the wayside. It was an ambitious move.
The original track, “Not Mad Enough” is very relevant for these uncertain times. How did it come about?
BS: When “Not Mad Enough” was written it was the week that George Floyd lost his life. Like a lot of the world I watched a man lose his life on national television. It was scary, devastating, tragic and beyond sad. The song wrote itself. It’s interesting listening to it now because the principle is that it’s not just about George Floyd. It’s about everything that’s going on in the world right now. It’s about the human spirit and how us, as a society, face multiple subject matters and opinions every day. But the goal is we’re supposed to be working together and not fighting each other. Do I think the song is relevant and important? Yes, I do. But I’m also very vocal because, truthfully, I wish the song had never been written because I wish George Floyd was still alive. In a lot of ways I think me and Zach were a vessel for this song. We stand with the human spirit and all of society and want to figure out a way to have a future and come up with solutions to problems and not just have defiance and disregard for each other. It’s a very important song.
ZM: We’re not a political band who tells people not to preach what they believe. Our understanding is that you’ll never make someone believe what you believe after a single conversation. Politics doesn’t have anything to do with this song. It’s about what’s right and what’s wrong.
Your take on Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” is also a very timely track. How did you determine which cover songs to include on the album?
BS: As Shinedown we’re known for a legendary song that we cover [“Simple Man”] but we’re not a cover band. Back in 2014, when we did the project that came out as Smith & Myers, there was a lot of talk from the fan base asking if we’d ever cover a certain song. We decided to do two EPs; five covers and five originals for each, and let the fans pick the covers. We got a bunch of songs together and narrowed the list down to the highest percentage of what the public submitted. Then we pitted the cover songs against each other for two weeks. Whichever ones had the highest percentage would go on the album. Even though the covers stay true to what the Smith & Myers project was at inception, the main focus is on the originals.
ZM: The first thing we did as a duo was a covers thing. So when it came time to do this project it felt a bit disingenuous to not do covers. But we also wanted to do our own thing. Just the two of us writing music for the first time for something original. It made it very exciting.
What’s next for Shinedown?
ZM: The band has started the writing process and we’ll soon converge to start working on it together. We never put a time limit on anything and take our time to make records the way we want. Our label has been really supportive of us taking our time. Right now though, Brent & I are focused on Smith & Myers.
What excites you the most about the release of the new album?
ZM: I‘m excited for people to hear the creativeness of writing that went into this record and the covers that we chose. I’m very proud of this record. I’m also looking forward to the upcoming Smith & Myers drive-in shows we’ll be doing. It’s something we’ve never done before.
BS: We wanted to put something out that would give people hope and optimism and something to inspire them. There’s a lot of negativity out there but we’re starting to see a shift. People are saying I miss my world and what do we need to do so that we can be together again? There’s a lot of heavy subject matter on this album but there’s also some tongue in cheek moments. You’ve got to laugh in life and can’t be serious all the time. You’ve got to smile.