How do you follow up a hit? Or, rather, how do you follow up an album that spawned six No. 1 singles and spent 120 consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200? For Shinedown, whose third album, 2008's "The Sound of Madness," achieved that exact success, the best method was to just move forward.
"You go into it with the idea that you're not going to copy what you've already done," Shinedown singer Brent Smith says of the rock band's new effort, "Amaryllis," which arrives March 27 on Atlantic. "It's the next step. You raise the bar higher. And ultimately we're quite a fearless band when it comes to making albums and songwriting."
The band -- Smith, drummer Barry Kerch, guitarist Zach Myers and bassist Eric Bass -- toured for more than two years for "The Sound of Madness," propelled by its continual sales growth and consistent radio play. It has sold 1.3 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and of its six No. 1 singles, "Second Chance" reached the top five on Billboard's Active, Alternative, Rock, Adult Top 40 and Top 40 charts and "If You Only Knew" hit the top 10 on Active, Alternative, Rock and Adult Top 40.
Following the Carnival of Madness outing, for which it toured 10,000-capacity venues, Shinedown went out on an acoustic trek of 3,000-capacity venues called Everything and Anything. Before hitting the road for the final leg of the Carnival tour in 2010, the group penned two songs: "Her Name Is Alice," for the "Almost Alice" compilation of music inspired by the film "Alice in Wonderland," and "Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom)," for the soundtrack to "The Expendables." Then, in February 2011, the band began writing songs for another album, and its time on the road inspired new material fairly quickly.
"It was the first time I brought the guys into the actual lyric writing," Smith says, "because a lot of the subject matter was about the situations we were in during the two years we toured."
During the first half of 2011, the band wrote and demoed 33 songs, with the intention of creating something different from previous work. "I wasn't even thinking about any of the material on 'The Sound of Madness,'" Smith says, "because we'd already toured it, and it's forever-it's out there . . . It was time to write a brand-new record. There were way more things to talk about."
There is a link between the two discs, however. "Amaryllis" was recorded in Los Angeles with producer and Warner Bros. chairman Rob Cavallo, who also helmed "The Sound of Madness." "If it's not broke, don't fix it," Smith says.
The making of "Amaryllis," which was finished in February, has been chronicled in an e-book that'll be released the same day as the album. "For Your Sake: Inside the Making of Shinedown's Amaryllis" comprises nearly 40 interactive pages meant to supplement the album, and for now is only available for the iPad. For the label, the book is an opportunity to jump onboard with a new technology as well as engage fans. "It's going to be a new trend," Atlantic VP of rock marketing and A&R Anthony Delia says. "This is a very important initiative for Atlantic."
First single "Bully" arrived Jan. 2 as part of a "phase-one plan to reinvigorate the core Shinedown fans," according to Delia. It's No. 12 on Alternative. A video for follow-up "Unity" bowed online March 12 on AOL Music/Noisecreep, while the song will go to radio later this spring. On March 26 the group plays "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"
"'The Sound of Madness' set the stage both domestically and internationally for us to really solidify Shinedown as a household name with 'Amaryllis,'" Delia says. "The overall intention with Shinedown is to satiate our core audience while finding ways to get to new potential fans-it's all-inclusive. We did it very successfully with The Sound of Madness and plan to do it again, even bigger."
Part of this expanded plan involves releasing Amaryllis in nearly 30 countries simultaneously. Shinedown, managed by Bill McGathy and Gwyther Bultman of Indegoot Entertainment, recently signed an international deal with Roadrunner Records, which will release the album in territories outside the United States. Even the touring plan for Shinedown (@Shinedown) leans heavily global. The band, currently on a U.S. promotional radio tour, will head overseas after its headlining spring run in North America. Destinations include India, New Zealand, South America, Mexico and Australia, and the trek is expected to carry the band into 2013.
"It's going to be an international year," Smith says. "We spend so long making albums because we want to tour on them for a long time. We take into consideration the live aspect [while recording], and we pull it off live. We know what we're doing."