Photo: Jimmy Fontaine
How Shinedown Got Real On 'Attention Attention' | Mental Health Awareness Month
Throughout Mental Health Awareness Month in May, GRAMMY.com has shared quotes and stories from artists who have made the choice to speak publicly about how their mental health has directly affected their lives, and how the healing power of music has helped them on their path toward a more peaceful, present and mindful life.
Multiplatinum rock band Shinedown, who recently released their sixth studio album, Attention Attention, are all too familiar with the struggles that stem from addiction and depression. Frontman Brent Smith is recently sober, while bassist Eric Bass, who produced the album, battles with depression. The group channeled those battles into the conceptual Attention Attention, an album that takes place in one room as one man fights his demons.
The results have clearly resonated with fans with Attention Attention debuting at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 (marking their fourth consecutive Top 10 album) and simultaneously topping on Billboard's Alternative, Top Rock and Hard Rock charts, in addition to landing at No. 1 on iTunes' album chart.
Below, Smith and Bass share their thoughts, in their own words, on their own struggles, the role of music in fighting addiction and depression, and why they are hopeful what they have learned can help others.
Eric Bass: Once we finished ["Get Up"] it became OK to write about everything else we were going through. It almost became a conscious effort to tell the story of what we had gone through. We really knew what we were writing about once we kind of looked at each other and went, "We need to be real about this and we don't need to mask it and hide it in a bunch of metaphor. We just need to say what we need to say." It was the best therapy I've ever had.
Brent Smith: The entire Attention Attention record was born from real situations and real people. And the fact of the matter is Attention Attention is a very necessary record right now. It does have a very urgent message through it all the way through the album. Like Eric said, therapy is a keyword here. I've always said I write songs because it's cheaper than therapy.
Bass: In the metal/hard-rock community for a long time it was about being macho and not spilling any of that stuff. And if you did write about it, it was covered in metaphor and you buried it in the lyrics in a way. I always say a listener can smell bulls*** a mile away. The more honest you are in the music the more accepting your fans are gonna be of what you're offering them.
The fans have latched onto the song "Get Up" in a way we haven't seen on a song in a long time. It's been this overwhelming march towards that song. It's a great thing when your heroes, for lack of a better term, can let you know that they bleed the same way you do, struggle the same way you do. Just because you have the term rock star attached to your name doesn't mean it's not a human being that doesn't always go through the same exact things everyone else does. I think it's been a really great thing for the subject of mental health and addiction to come more into the forefront.
Smith: I don't take it lightly that I survived. You're not promised tomorrow and I carry that with me every day now, more than I ever have. The last album cycle was basically 20 months of a withdrawal, so I don't think I'm immortal. I think that I'm humbled more than anything that I was able to survive those demons. I think me, Eric, Zach [Myers] and Barry [Kerch] are living proof if you just refuse to give in and give up there's nothing you can't accomplish. And the other side of that, too, is if you're staying down a mountain in front of you by yourself you might look at that and go, "There is no way I can scale this." Maybe not, but, for us, as a band and a family if we all four do it together we can climb any mountain. It doesn't matter the size.
Bass: Addiction and depression share a lot of the same attributes. The one main thing that's different is if I could reach into my brain and pick out this thing that makes me feel the way depression makes me feel, and take it away, I would do it in a heartbeat. But it's always going to be there and I just gotta find a way to deal with it, [but] not in a destructive way. That's the biggest challenge. For people who are in bands the road can be a mind-numbingly boring place if you let it become that. That's where a lot of addiction issues start; that's where a lot of depression spirals start, I believe. And I'm not a therapist so what works for me might not work for anybody else.
Each individual is gonna have to find what works for them. For me, I have discovered the way to respect my depression and to not let it get the best of me is to stay as busy as I possibly can. I just know the more things I can concentrate on outside of my depression the better I am. I go to the gym, I go to the studio to work on music when I can. On tour, I try to work on music. The other side of that is I'm extremely blessed to have my bandmates, who don't judge me and don't judge the fact I can be moody. A lot of people who don't have depression don't understand, it's not something you can help. These guys don't ever judge me for that, they accept it. But they're always there to help me and hear me talk if I need to. And when I'm home I have my wife who is caring and just as understanding as my brothers are. So that is something I have the luxury of having.
It really breaks my heart about Chester [Bennington] and Chris [Cornell], and anyone else who doesn't make it out. One of my best friends was my manager for years, a guy named Johnny Diamond, and he took his own life from depression. It's always gonna get better, I know that. I know how it feels to want relief of not having to deal with it anymore and that's what it is — that's what someone who takes their own life is wanting, they're wanting a relief.
I've learned that if I just hang in there there's going to be a brighter day and things are gonna get better. If it's this bad now it can only go up and get better. So that's how I cope with it and make it through. And hopefully, that can help someone else.