Brent Smith, lead singer of the band Shinedown, has no physical home. He’s a 24/7 nomad who lives exclusively in hotels. And he’s fine with that.
“I am a true minimalist ― I literally have two suitcases,” said Smith, who is coming to Lakewood Amphitheatre on Wednesday, Sept. 27, for Shinedown’s first stop in Atlanta in nearly two years since a Fox Theatre appearance in 2021. It’s part of a 26-city fall tour with Spiritbox and Papa Roach. (Tickets on sale at livenation.com.)
Smith’s last home was in Thousand Oaks, California, from 2010 to 2016. But he said he spent maybe six months total there over that six-year span so he sold it.
“I have to be able to move on a dime,” he said. “I own four LLCs. Everything I do is a business expense. Everything I do is a write off.”
Smith does visit his 15-year-old son in Florida as often as he can, even if it’s just for a day or two. “I love the freedom of my existence,” he said.
Credit: (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Credit: (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
That freedom stems from the success of Shinedown over two decades. The group’s anthemic and undeniably melodic songs have been a staple of rock radio, helping the band garner the most No. 1 hits (18) of any act on the Billboard mainstream rock chart, more than the Foo Fighters, Disturbed or Van Halen.
“To this day, I have a hard time wrapping my head around it,” Smith said. “To me, I lead by example for the people around me. I removed the rearview mirror a long time ago. I’m always looking forward. We have a saying in Shinedown: don’t make it about the painter. Make it about the painting. Look at the big picture.”
The band’s songs address serious topics such as bullying, depression, mental illness and resilience. “I’m trying to empower people and give them motivation and understanding about themselves,” Smith said.
And while hard rock has been the band’s primary bailiwick, Smith during the pandemic co-wrote the decidedly pop-sounding song “A Symptom of Being Human” with bandmate and bassist Eric Bass. (Yes, the bassist’s last name is actually Bass.)
“This song represents the dynamic of the human condition,” Smith said. “We are all works in progress.”
Smith also told his record label Atlantic to push the song to adult pop radio, not to rock stations.
“What I was trying to dismantle is this idea that a rock band can’t go into another genre,” he said. “It should be about the song.” Program directors at pop stations gave “Being Human” enough spins to make the top 15 of Billboard’s adult pop chart (dubbed “Hot AC” in the industry) last month.
This isn’t the first time Shinedown has had a pop crossover hit. Back in 2009, “Second Chance” hit No. 1 on the adult pop chart. And Smith is enough of a chart dork to proudly note that ”Second Chance” was the final song legendary radio host Casey Kasem announced on his last countdown show before he retired.
Smith grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, listening to punk and thrash until his father Stephen handed him a cassette of Georgia R&B legend Otis Redding. “It was like eating chocolate cake for the first time,” he said. “It was an epiphany. Otis opened the door to Percy Sledge, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and Al Green, then Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. It influenced my vocal style and who I am as a singer.”
He has performed thousands of times since, but one thing hasn’t changed: before he goes on stage, he feels a genuine sense of terror.
“I have to get to the first chorus of whatever first song is on the set list before I start to focus in and the nerves go away,” Smith said. “I figure those nerves let me know I’m alive. It lets me know I care.”
And at every concert, he does something he learned from church: “After two songs, I tell everybody to look to their left or right to someone they’ve never met before and shake their hand and say it’s nice to meet them. It’s an ice breaker for the audience. We’re all in this together.”
Smith wants to ensure his fans leave the concert sated: “You may have walked into the venue to see Shinedown, but our goal is for you to float out of the venue. We want to get you high ― not from drugs but high from understanding what you can accomplish. I want you to come back and bring 10 friends. That’s how the band has been able to grow: word of mouth.”
And at age 45, he said he has not lost his love for his band. “I tell people all the time that being in Shinedown is like being in third grade forever. You can’t lose that inner kid.”
IF YOU GO
Shinedown with Spiritbox and Papa Roach
6:40 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27. $25-$201.75. Lakewood Amphitheatre, 2002 Lakewood Way SW, Atlanta livenation.com.
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.