The collaboration -- which included the elder Erna sitting in on the song during a July show at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut -- also further cemented a relationship that has had ups and downs over the years. "We didn't have a good relationship growing up. We were very distant from each other," Erna recalls. "He was a completely different guy when I was young and he and my mom split at an early age, and we didn't have a good relationship. But then so many years back we rehabilitated it and it's really strong and now we have a really great relationship.
"He was so honored and you could tell he was almost nervous to do this, but he's a great player and he came in and it sounded great. For me it's just a proud moment to be able to take that with me, 'cause at some point he won't be here and at least I have that, and it's just a blessing."
"Turn It Up!," meanwhile, reflects some of the inspiration that Erna got from his father. "Its a song about giving back to the music," he explains. "That song is just all about music and how it makes you feel and how it makes you want to stand up and tap your feet and move your body and how it passes through you."
As on 2010's Avalon, Erna steers clear of Godsmack's headbanging ways on Hometown Life. It goes even further afield than his solo debut, in fact, embracing a country feel on "Different Kind of Tears," Caribbean motifs on "Your Own Drum," tribal touches for "Father of Time" and string-laden ambience on "Blue Skies," "Forever My Infinity" and "Falling to Black." "I was hoping to keep it new and fresh for people and take them on another left turn," explains Erna, who wrote most of the material on acoustic guitar and collaborated on a pair of songs with Nashville hitmaker Zac Maloy. Avalon for sure took people into a whole new path; I think they kind of expected me to do a solo rock record, and I think when they heard Avalon they were just like, 'Whoa, what is this...?!' But that's what made it work was it was a real departure from Godsmack, so I just started thinking, 'How do I flip this [album] into a little bit different kind of feel again, without it sounding like Avalon."
Erna will be touring to support Hometown Life, first with a stripped-down acoustic duo tour starting Oct. 26 in Atlanta, then hopefully full-band dates in early 2017. Godsmack, meanwhile, is on ice until at least late summer of next year. But the group -- which has switched labels from Universal to BMG -- is planning a follow-up to 2014's "1000hp," probably timed to the 2018 20th anniversary of Godsmack's first album.
"I think the general plan is gonna be to try to get together and start writing and recording by late next year," Erna says. "We could've done something this year and dropped it next year, but we thought it would be cooler to wait until [the 20th anniversary]. We don't know how much longer we're gonna go for; We may do another five, 10 records, or this may be the last one. But if we decided not to do it any more I Think a better way of being remembered is going out and doing a real theme-based show around the first album, play the whole first record front to back and then all the hits and the new stuff and the fun stuff. So that's why we're gonna wait; We'll record late next year and do an early 2018 release and then do a world tour with that."