Brent Smith and Zach Myers planned to record a double album in late 2019 for their band Smith & Myers.
The album features 10 “reimaginings” and 10 originals. They hit the studio hard in February 2020. Seventeen songs into the
record, they started to feel the seriousness of COVID-19 revealing itself.
Myers said it was easy for the news to sound like fear-mongering in the beginning, but as the gravity of the situation fell on
them, they kept their poise. Their unity and music kept them together. He calls the bond they share the best part of their
bands. “We had each other,” Zach Myers, guitarist of Smith & Myers and Shinedown, said in an interview with Rock On
“That’s always been our thing within our bands - We keep each other sane no matter what’s going on.”
Once they saw the shutdown happening, Brent Smith, vocalist of Smith & Myers and Shinedown, said the most important thing was getting Zach back to his family, then he began sheltering in place. “The reality for me was the first day waking up and looking at the ideology of ‘We aren’t asking you to go to war. We are asking you to stay at home with your family and binge watch Netflix ’. ”
Smith said he tried to take that advice. On the first Saturday he was 30 minutes into a binge when he got restless, and instead started to research the virus. He wanted to first solidify the definitions of pandemic, social distancing, coronavirus and COVID-19. “Long story short, that’s how we partnered with Direct Relief,” Smith said. Direct Relief, headquartered in Santa Barbara, California, is a bipartisan non-profit who's stated mission is to "improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergency situations by mobilizing and providing essential medical resources needed for their care." Shinedown wrote “Atlas Falls”, a passionate song Smith said they “pulled out of obscurity.” They released a poignant lyric video on Youtube highlighting the efforts of first responders and medical professionals and created a t-shirt as a fundraiser for Direct Relief. Smith said they have since raised around $520,000 from the “Shinedown nation” for COVID-19 relief. “We did not stick our heads in the sand,” Smith said. “This is not the first time in human history a pandemic has occurred. This is not the first virus in human history. We tried to lead from the front.”
Smith said Direct Relief will always have a presence at Shinedown shows going forward. Despite the pandemic, Smith & Myers were elated to have played 26 shows at drive-ins and a short tour with strict protocol and required approval from the mayor, chief of police, county officials, along with District Board of Health. No matter the hurtles, precautions and changes needed, they needed to perform. Myers says his pre-show pray always ends with “Please let me never take this for granted”.
“It’s not the way you want to do a show, but at least you get to play,” Myers said. “It was a different vibe, but it was fun. Whether some of us admit it or not, I think we needed a break from the ‘Big Machine’. Maybe the world needed a break from us, but we didn’t know it was going to be this.” Smith, Myers and Shinedown’s successes are paramount. Along the road of creating six studio albums, they’ve sold over ten million copies worldwide, and have the most number one singles on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts. One part of that success was a wonderful cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”. Since, Myers has known there is a special power in Smith’s vocals and a single guitar. Smith & Myers is the skeletal version of Shinedown, and it’s powerful in a different way.
Both Smith and Myers are advocates for the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention and stressed the importance of talking about mental health. Smith said he’s forged through hard times, including 2020, by communicating with his fellow band members “We take mental health very seriously,” Smith said. “We [as a band]genuinely love each other and treat it like a marriage. Just like you’re not supposed to go to bed angry, you’re not supposed to go on stage angry.” Smith brought up the Friedrich Nietzsche quote - “Without music life would be a mistake” “A song can be whatever you need it to be,” Smith said. “You have to have a light to go towards.”
Smith is both optimistic about the future and quick to get into action. “It might not be the timeline everybody wants, but we have to work together to survive together,” Smith said. “We only have one boss, it just happens to be everyone in the audience. And what we are doing is fundamentally figuring out how we are going to return to the stage safely for our fans.”
Smith believes “The Media” has a heart and most
outlets actually want to report the truth, but there are many news formats that become performance art and revel in the negativity for viewership. He feels it can be dangerous during a pandemic. “In a pandemic situation like this, how do you return to shows?” Smith posits. “You need your first day with no death in your country. And then your first week. Then your first month. Then you need the contagion rate to go down.”
With the same tenacity he exudes onstage and in-studio, Smith is driven to end this pandemic and his research and passion are apparent. “If the data isn’t there and we can’t do it safely, we won’t do it,” Smith said. “Ultimately it’s going to come down to vaccination.” 2020 was a turbulent year, but Smith and Myers are optimistic about the future. Fans can expect Smith & Myers concerts, Shinedown concerts if the virus is contained, a new Shinedown album, and a film that accompanies their Attention Attention album.