May 27, 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of Shinedown’s debut album, Leave A Whisper. The lineup included Brent Smith on vocals, Jasin Todd on guitars with Brad Stewart playing bass and Barry Kerch on drums. This album kicked off an incredible career for the band. They’re one of the most successful rock bands on radio of this millennium, and have more Top 10 hits on the Mainstream Rock Airplay chart than any other band, ever. And, of course, they have been packing in arenas for years.
Brent Smith spoke to us about every song on this album, for our “Track X Track” feature. Here’s what he told us about each song on the album. You can check out the full interview below, or read excerpts below that.
“Fly From The Inside” – “I remember the first day, the beginning of the song where the riff comes in and, ‘It’s the weight of the world on my shoulders it’s the weight of the world on my shoulders’… the yell, y’know where it’s like ‘On my shoulders’ that part on the first day was all just that. It was trying to get that because we didn’t know that that’s what it was going to be. So, we were trying out all these different variations. So, it was like a combination of me trying out just all different kinds of things and like singing and yelling and screaming and doing all these different variations. And because I wasn’t necessarily trained at the time, I blew my voice out, just on that one thing. So, I had to wait like another, like four days for my voice to come back.”
“Left Out” – “’Left Out’ was something that we were just kicking around. It had a good groove to it and (mixing engineer) Tony (Battaglia) did a demo on it and I just remember (producer) Bob (Marlette) being like, ‘It’s not a single, but it’s great. He goes, ‘I don’t want to disrespect it and call it an ‘album track,’ but it’s going to be a great song for you live. It’s going to be like a big energy live.’”
“Lost In The Crowd” – Brent discussed working with music theorist,: Rick Beato: “It’s extraordinary, like I say, extraordinary, amazing, profound on that first record, man. When I think about it, we had a lot of just incredible people that worked on that album. But yeah, Rick Beato wrote the song [with guitarist Jasin Todd]. He has the production on the song. People don’t know about Rick Beato… He is considered an influencer. I just remember the interesting thing about that particular song was Jasin had a lot of influence in that one musically.”
“No More Love” – “It was one of the first things that me and Jasin (Todd) ever wrote together.” He went on to talk about a baritone guitar to create the tone of this song. He also talked about how much fun it was to write and do the vocals for.
“Better Version” – “I mean, my favorite lyric in that song is ‘I Am Not Perfect,’ and I don’t claim to be and if that’s what you wanted, well, then I’m so sorry,’ and I always thought that that was kind of tongue in cheek and a bit clever.”
“Burning Bright” – The song is about Brent’s grandmother’s passing. “Man, this was a really emotional one because, it’s something I don’t talk about a lot, but everybody knows how much I love my Granny and my hometown town and what have you. It’s the first time I experienced death to someone that I was so close to and who was a huge part in raising me and I wrote ‘Burning Bright’ about her.”
“In Memory” – “This is one of the last songs written and recorded for the album. It’s another collaboration with Rick Beato. ‘In Memory’ was also at a point where I was so tired of writing songs.”
“All I Ever Wanted” – “I remember that one, that was by Brad. He’s one of the main writers of that song. I remember we had a lot of fun recording that one.” Brent notes that Rick Beato said this song would “button the record up.”
“Stranger Inside” – “I wrote this song with Rick Beato as well. And so, they had four different studios. Rick had kind of carte blanche at the time to any studio that he wanted, but they had brought in this like… It wasn’t a makeshift vocal booth, but it was like you walked into this one studio, I think it was Studio B, and it was like this white box and almost kind of looked like a pod. It’s still to this day, one of the best vocal performances I’ve done.”
“Lacerated” – He laughed and said “This is what some people in the industry would call ‘filler.'” He talked about the coolest thing he got while recording this album – a gong! This may be one of the craziest stories he told about the making of Leave A Whisper. Too Funny!
“Crying Out” – This song was nearly released as a single. He told me he recorded the vocals for this one very early in the making of the album, right after “Fly From The Inside.” As far as the writing process and working with producer Bob Marlette, he said, “I did a little bit more, loosened up a little bit, had more of a flow, you know, with Bob and what have you.” He said it was a great live song.
“45” – “That is such an emotional song for me. It really, really is. It was to everybody out there… It was the very first song that I wrote with (producer) Tony Battaglia when I first met him. And this song of the twenty years that we’ve been a band, and I look forward to the next twenty and the next twenty and however long we can go, knock on wood.”
“Simple Man” – The connection between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Shinedown is real. “I’m going to say this in the only way that I know how to,” he told me. “What we look at in regards to Shinedown and the song ‘Simple Man’ is that it was an… I don’t want to say that was an accident, but it wasn’t planned.” Listen to the full interview to hear Brent’s story of how this song repaid Judy Van Zant, the widow of Ronnie Van Zant, for helping him out early in his career.
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