While Shinedown occupies itself making a new album and film, frontman Brent Smith and guitarist Zach Myers will give fans something to tide them over.
The duo, billed as Smith & Myers, will release “(Acoustic Sessions)” digitally on Jan. 28, featuring acoustic duo covers of songs by the Clash (“London Calling”), Otis Redding (“Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”), Metallica (“Nothing Else Matters”), the Black Crowes (“She Talks to Angels”), Soul Asylum (“Runaway Train”) and Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Blue on Black” featuring Shepherd himself, who was recording in a nearby studio. Smith & Myers are accompanying each of the tracks with videos of the two of them performing the songs. Four more songs will be added to the project later this year — but more on that later.
Smith credits Anthony Delia, senior vice-president of marketing for Roadrunner Records/Atlantic Records, with the covers idea and a subsequent plan to chose the songs via a Facebook poll of the band’s fans. “They could put in any song they could think of that they wanted to hear me and Zach cover,” Smith says. “And, no B.S., I think there was somewhere in the neighborhood of four or 5,000 songs submitted from people all over the world. It pretty much crashed our server every single day.” The duo and producer DAvid Bassett chose the ultimate 10 songs by letting the top choices subsequently do “battle” for fan votes, again on Facebook, and Smith says “London Calling” turned out to be one of the most challenging of the final selections.
|SMITH & MYERS, “(Acoustic Sessions)” EP Tracklist|
1. “London Calling” – (Originally Performed By The Clash)
2. “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay” – (Originally Performed By Otis Redding)
3. “Nothing Else Matters” – (Originally Performed By Metallica)
4. “She Talks To Angels” – (Originally Performed By Black Crowes)
5. “Blue On Black” – (Originally Performed By Kenny Wayne Shepard)
6. “Runaway Train” – (Originally Performed By Soul Asylum)
“I’m gonna be honest with you; I didn’t grow up listening to the Clash,” Smith confesses. “When the Clash got it, I knew the song but I didn’t, like, KNOW the song, and when I got to listen to it, it was like, ‘This is super-complicated on a vocal standpoint.’ I had to kind of study it for a minute and really learn it, and Dave and Zach sat me down and said, ‘Dude, you can’t mess this up. It’s the freakin’ Clash! It’s ‘London Calling;’ it’s one of the most legendary songs of all time.’ And I’m like, ‘What do I need to do?’ and they’re like, ‘You need to do it right!’ So I really had to learn the song, and it probably wound up becoming my favorite one of the whole session. We took every one of them very seriously, but it was one of the first songs we did, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of them.”
“(Acoustic Sessions)” made some news last fall when reports surfaced that Bon Jovi was not allowing Smith & Myers to release their version of “Wanted Dead or Alive.” The issue, according to Smith, was that Bon Jovi and three others — Phil Collins (“In the Air Tonight”), Adele (“Someone Like You”) and Pearl Jam (“Black”) — did not check off on Shinedown’s plan to post the videos online and effectively give the performances away. “Some of the artists were cool with letting us put (the videos up) and some weren’t, and that’s totally their decision,” Smith explains. “The six songs we’re going to be releasing are the ones that have videos with them, then we’re going to go back and re-record the other four songs,” which he says will be made available later this year.
“Eventually we will release all 10 songs, which will be great,” Smith says. “It’s not about money for us. We didn’t write these songs. We did this for the audience and for the fans, and we know it’s something they’re gonna dig.”
Shinedown, meanwhile, is settling down to work in earnest on its fifth album and follow-up to 2012’s Top 5 “Amarylis” — including each member having “homework” assignments to study other bands’ fifth albums. But Smith’s early prediction is that Shinedown will likely strip things back this time around. “I think we really focused a lot on the last couple of records on a ton of production — like a 31-piece orchestra or a 10-piece horn section or 40 guitars and 50 layers of vocals, ’cause we love doing that stuff,” he says. “But this time I think we’re going to look at specifically the idea of drums, bass and guitar and being very specific about the vocal performance and really kind of focus on the song and how we want the sound to evolve. Now, a year from now I may tell you that, ‘Ah, we went in there and there everything at it but the kitchen sink,’ but that’s the beauty of music; there’s no rules to it, and I think at the end of the day the only think we keep in mind is they have to be great songs.”
Also on tap is a film about the band that will be directed by Darren Doane, who helmed the videos for the “(Acoustic)” sessions and also clips for “Sound of Madness,” “Bully,” “Unity,” “Enemies” and “I’ll Follow You.” “It’s not a ‘documentary’ in the usual sense,” Smith explains. “It’s a little bit of a difficult thing to describe ’cause it’s such a unique concept, the way we’re shooting it and the way we’re putting together the life of the band over the past 15 years. We’re doing it in a very impactful way, especially with how we’re going to edit it and how we’re doing to release it.
“So a lot’s going on this year. I don’t see the band touring until probably April or May of 2015, but we’ll have a lot to say when we do.” Fans wanting a fix of live Shinedown, however, can catch a new episode of “The Live Room” featuring the group, which debuts at 9 p.m. Jan. 22 on Palladia.