Godsmack's Sully Erna Talks Fear of Selling Out, Success of 'Bulletproof'

Godsmack
Troy Smith

Godsmack

Godsmack frontman Sully Erna breathed a small sigh of relief when "Bulletproof," the first single from the group's new album When Legends Rise, hit No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Songs airplay chart.

Prior to the set's April 27 release, Erna told Billboard that he was nervous about some new sonic approaches that he feared longtime Godsmack fans would find "a little too commercial" for us. But the album's No. 8 debut on the Billboard 200, and "Bulletproof's" success -- it's Godsmack's eight No. 1 Mainstream Rock track overall -- bodes well for the still-early When Legends Rise campaign.

"I was expecting it to do well," Erna says. "I wasn't sure how well it would do. It's the most commercial song on the record; It definitely has a very mainstream, melodic feel to it. I think the biggest curve ball was just the question mark of how the fans would embrace it. But if you remove Godsmack's name from the song, I always thought ('Bulletproof') held up really well. All in all, it's a rock song. So I'm just happy to see it performing."

No, for Erna and company, it will be on to the next one -- which will be "Unforgettable," a hard-hitting, anthemic track that Erna predicts will be "the biggest song on the record. It's a very big, fat rock song, and it's got a lot of cool textures and elements I feel is gonna make the song even bigger than 'Bulletproof.'" But, Erna cautions, don't put money on that just yet.

"I can't tell anymore what's going to be," he notes with a laugh. "I write these songs and sometimes I'm like, 'Oh my God, that song is gonna be huge! How can anyone not love this song?!' and then it doesn't perform. And then you just have to do a quickie to get out on a tour and you whip something together like (2009's) 'Whiskey Hangover' and it goes fuckin' No. 1 for seven weeks. I don't know what people want anymore -- that's my answer. I'm just throwing things out there and hoping they stick."

Godsmack has been playing some of the When Legends Rise songs at festival dates it's been performing since the album's release. More will likely creep into the set when its world tour kicks off in earnest with co-headliner Shinedown; It begins July 22 in suburban Detroit, with a North American arena leg in early fall, Europe after that and an full year on the road planned for 2019 to hit other territories around the world. Erna contends the Shinedown trek "has the potential to be the best rock tour of 2018" and promises substantial production from both bands -- though he's loathe to get too specific and spoil the surprise.

Mostly, however, Erna is looking forward to giving the new songs an airing on stage.

"When we're intermingling the news stuff and the old stuff live...there's definitely a contrast, but it's not a bad contrast. It just becomes more visible to me at that point," he says. "It's getting complicated for us to do these co-headlining bills, to be honest with you, because we just have so much material. I think we have 22 or 23 Top 10 (Rock) singles, and we can't even play half of them -- especially with a new record, 'cause you want to play a certain amount of the new stuff and you want to try to stuff in as many songs that did well for us in the past, and time goes by quickly. So we're struggling with our song selection sometimes. It's a good problem to have, but it's a challenge, for sure."

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