Lynyrd Skynyrd considers its new album, "God & Guns" -- due out Sept. 29 on Loud & Proud/Roadrunner Records -- to be "a tribute to the past and to the future of this band, too," according to frontman Johnny Van Zant.
"The old saying is if it ain't broke, don't fix it, so we didn't step out too far," Van Zant tells Billboard.com about Skynyrd's first studio album since 2003's "Vicious Cycle." "We're doing what we do and singing what we know about. I can tell you it's great and there's a lot of good stuff on there, but the fans will tell us if we did the job right. Some time in October we'll know whether we did the record that we should've done."
"God & Guns" was recorded in Nashville with producer Bob Marlette (Shinedown, Ozzy Osbourne) and includes performances by late Skynyrd members Billy Powell, Hughie Thomasson and Ean Evans. The album also features backing vocals by Rob Zombie on one song, "Floyd," while Zombie's guitarist, John5, helped Skynyrd write songs and Jerry Douglas plays pedal steel on a couple of tracks.
Skynyrd, which is currently on the road with Kid Rock, plans to release the 13-track album's first single, "Still Unbroken," to radio later this month. The group is also performing the new song "Skynyrd Nation" during its concerts. "I was on the computer right after Billy passed away," Van Zant recalls, "and was just seeing the messages that people were posting. Somebody said, 'Will the Skynyrd nation go on?' I thought, 'Wow, I never thought of it as being a nation, but it really is.'
"So I called up Gary (Rossington) and Rickey (Medlocke) and I said, 'Man, we've got to write a song called 'Skynyrd Nation,' and we did. It's a party kind of song, just an upbeat kind of thing."
The album also includes a tribute to Powell called "Gifted Hands."
"God & Guns" is also Skynyrd's first with the Roadrunner family, which Skynyrd signed with after talking with several other labels. "We just hadn't found the right one yet," Van Zant says. "We took a meeting with (Loud & Proud), and first of all we got the building and it was...kind of in a warehouse, so we were like, 'Yeah, OK, that's more like us.' And we met with everyone there and felt like, 'Yeah, these are our people,' so we signed with them.
"And they're a heavier record label, too, with Nickelback and Slipknot and Black Stone Cherry. They got a lot of heavy stuff on there, and we don't mind that at all. We finally found us a home that we thought would fit us."