Shinedown is no stranger to the top of the music charts. Last year, the esteemed rock group released its sixth studio album, Attention, Attention to significant critical acclaim. The album debuted at number one on the Top Rock Albums, Hard Rock Albums, and Alternative Albums charts, adding it to a long list of successes for the band. Since its formation in 2001, Shinedown has sold more than ten million records worldwide and is currently tied with Van Halen for the second most number one singles on the Billboard Rock Charts. So, what’s the secret ingredient? According to frontman Brent Smith: innovation.
“We have a rule and it’s just something we’ve always made sure we keep each other accountable for: we don’t have a ceiling. We’re always trying to outdo what we’ve already done,” Smith says. “We never phoned anything in—from the first album to the latest album.”
That work ethic and focus on growth has kept Shinedown more than relevant in its nearly two-decade run, a span of time that has included member shuffling and a variety of personal and professional challenges for the group. From battles with depression and addiction to Smith’s own health and weight struggles, Shinedown made it a point to keep their music inspired by their own realities—and it’s paid off.
“We only have one boss, it just happens to be everybody in the audience,” Smith said, “So we have to give it back to the audience and the fanbase, whether they’ve been there from the beginning, or they’re just finding out about the band now. I think that there is a difference in what we do because the band’s a little bit of an anomaly. We don’t make the same records over and over again, and we don’t write the same songs over and over again.”
In that vein, the band’s latest work blazes a new creative trail for the band and listeners alike. Attention, Attention, follows an individual’s path from the lowest lows to the highest highs and is arguably their most raw album to date. The 14-track record hits with a welcome force thanks to honest lyrics that seem to say the only way out is through. And the band wants everyone to take that individual journey.
We can relate a lot to the idea of personal journeys here at Aaptiv. So, when Smith stopped by our offices, we asked him all about his journey to create this album, to overcome addiction, and to shed 70 pounds. Keep reading to hear more from front man Brent Smith then watch him speak about all things fitness and music in the videos below.
Attention, Attention is a story album. Can you explain what that means?
Listeners are meant to listen to the album from the beginning to the middle to the finale. The whole album is based inside—it all takes place inside of a room. The album opens with a knock on the door. The door opens and you hear a person walk in. A chair pulls out and that person sits down. They take a deep breath, exhale, and the first song, “Devil” starts. It sets a scene. The entire album takes you on a psychological and also mental and a physical journey. When you listen to the album all the way through from start to finish, that person in the room isn’t a person in the room anymore. It’s me, it’s you, it’s him, it’s her—it’s anyone listening.
We want listeners to find their own personalities inside of the record. It doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are—it’s all irrelevant. We want people to find themselves inside of the album so it actually becomes their album.
What is the journey listeners go on?
It’s a record about not being afraid to fail. It’s a record that showcases empathy and humanity, brilliance at times, and devastation at other times. The album is about addressing and understanding failures. They happen. Yes, you’ll feel discouraged. But you have to learn from that. We believe that people aren’t defined by their failures. They’re going to be defined by the fact that they refused to give up. And the beautiful thing about that is that it’s a story that can belong to everyone. Anyone can find his or herself inside of the album.
So, speaking of failures and growing from and beyond them, you have struggled in the past with both substance abuse and weight troubles—and have come out very much on top. What was the motivation for you to turn it around?
In 2011, I had a special woman in my life—we’re no longer together, but remain friends—and she watched me go through part of my addiction and a lot of my alcoholism. One morning she found me in the kitchen passed out next to a bottle of vodka. She got me up, got me food, and then she said ‘Listen to me, I’m not going anywhere and a lot of people love you and care about you and depend on you. But we all hate this dude because this dude is trying to kill you.’ And then she continued and said ‘You are way more dangerous when you are sober—when you are clear and focused—that’s when you are most dangerous. This is not who you want to be.’
That comment to me was like a lightbulb. At the time I was 5’8” and weighed 222 pounds. The next day she found me a trainer in the area and we went together. He went through the motions with me and now he’s one of my closest friends in the world. He helped me lose 70 pounds.
How did your trainer help you do that? What was your weight loss process like?
He taught me how to exercise, he taught me how to eat right, and he taught me how to listen to my body. And Rich—that’s his name—also helped me find reasons to be okay with who I am, even when I make mistakes. It used to be a big thing with me—I would just beat myself up for days on end. It sounds simple, but it’s not and I think a lot of times weight gain and loss can be a very, very difficult thing for people because they want to instantaneously be in shape or look good.
I didn’t expect to walk into a gym and all of a sudden be able to do a hundred push-ups and slam balls because it’s unrealistic. But Rich told me that the interesting thing was that I was so heavy, but still so agile. He said I had a different kind of determination. I had the drive. And that drive came from me simply accepting that I was not in good shape. I accepted the fact that it can’t be any worse today than it was yesterday. Then, 20 pounds was gone, then 25, then 30. Then, I had gone from 222 to 152 in a year. I went from 30 percent body fat down to 10 percent.
In talking about the drive that you have, which is such an important element of and weight loss and fitness in general, you touched upon the support that you have. What did having that support mean to you and how do you think it’s helped you along the way?
I still wake up every single day and say thank you to both of them and to the universe. Like I said, me and the young lady are still very good friends…me and my boy Rich are still very close to this day. I embraced the word ugly. I do, like when I go to workout I want to get ugly. The uglier I am the better I feel. What I’m saying here is that you want to be okay with being out of breath. It’s okay to look like you jumped in a swimming pool and you’re just drenched in sweat. It’s actually a very beautiful expression of the human spirit.
You may have people around you and you’re just not giving them an opportunity to help you. You’re going to have to figure out when you wake up in the morning and you see yourself, you’re going to have to find steps to be okay with the person in the mirror. That’s the hardest thing in the world because at the end of the day you’re the first person you see in the morning and the last person you’re with when you go to bed and that’s not being vain, that’s being aware of your surroundings and who you want to be and what you’re striving to be.
What would you say then was the absolute hardest thing about getting to where you are now fitness-wise?
The thing with me was 20 years ago I tore my meniscus. I had an awesome orthopedic surgeon in Jacksonville, Florida, at the time. He took care of my knee. I wasn’t ready to get surgery, I’m still not, so I have to brace this one a lot of times if I’m going hard in the paint on a workout and under my wardrobe on stage I wear them. That’s been the only thing that’s been kind of tough with the workouts and stuff like that, but I try to forget about it because eventually I’m going to have to get something done about it, but it’s not hindering me and as long as I’m conscious and I listen to my body and listen to my knee.
My boy Rich in California said ‘this is what we’re going to do, we’re going to strengthen everything around your knees’ and once again taught me how to exercise even more. We were talking earlier about the importance of the stretching. The warmup is one thing but the stretching after the warm-up, the first warmup before you go into the actual work out. Once you’re done with the workout, it’s the stretching, it’s this warm up after that. Everybody just wants to get on with their day, but you have to do it. It took me a minute to realize that it was a real thing, the warmup and the cool down and the two stretches in between, that is imperative for success. It’s also going to keep you from injury.
Stretching, at the end, the second stretch, that’s my favorite part.
Yeah because I feel my mind is all cleared out. I get all of the cobwebs out of my brain because the blood flow—it’s just really, our bodies weren’t meant to sit still. Our bodies were meant to move. So, for me, it allows me to have moments in my day where I embrace those 10, 15, if I’m lucky 20 minutes of clarity that I can have for myself.
So what’s your favorite type of workout?
My favorite type of workout for me is more of an agility workout, like I’m the guy that wants to jump over a building. Agility training and really being able to contort myself really quick and to really get into very hard positions and hold it and be able to also go from a standing position into a ground and pound and have complete form, complete structure. For me the high cardio stuff is stuff what I really love. But, I’m not a fan of being in a gym for two hours and you’ve only burned 400 calories. I am kind of like get in there and get after it.
So, wrapping up, what impact has committing to fitness and wellness had on other aspects of your life?
I think the impact that it’s had on me is all of the stuff that I used to sweat, like no pun intended, but all the little things that don’t really matter all that much, it’s helped me let go. Like you know what it’s all good. There’s bigger things to focus on, there’s better things to put my energy into. And what are those things? Walking into a city and saying well it’s not sold out but it’s 90 percent sold. Things like that. As a musician and as someone who’s on the road a lot, that’s little things. Whereas back in the day I’d be like this is a disaster, it’s not sold out. It’s like you’re fine, it’ll look fine.
It’s going to be amazing anyway.
It’ll be awesome. Another thing that it’s done is given me a drive that I didn’t have before.When my son was born he was a huge part of understanding too, for me, that it was no longer about me anymore. At that time in my life, which was a decade ago when I was in a different headspace, for me, I think one thing that happened the moment that he was born is I realized also that I’m no good to him dead. There are certain things in life that you can’t adjust for. My well-being didn’t happen right out of the gate, it took a while. But it does give me a sense of purpose, it also allows me to not sweat the small stuff. There’s way more to go after. There’s way more to be thankful and grateful for. It’s one of the things that I look forward to—my workout in the morning. Even when I’m tired I look forward to it. You know why? Because I’m going to feel better after I’m done.
Hear more from Brent Smith in our exclusive videos below, then hit the Aaptiv app to rock out with Shinedown in a Intermediate Strength class called “Shine to Strength” set to an all Shinedown playlist.