Brent Smith & Zach Myers, one-half of Multi-Platinum band Shinedown, recently released their full-length double-album project, Smith & Myers Volume 1 and 2. The new albums are an acoustic-flavored combination of original and covers that showcase the duo’s barebones approach to tasty guitar riffs, hook-laden melodies and intriguing vocals.
Included with the cover material is a re-imagined and poignant version of Neil Young’s Rockin' In The Free World, a grungy spin on Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, and a darkened take of REM’s Losing My Religion.
The original material is equally as powerful and includes the catchy alt-rocker, One More Time, as well as explores such topics as racial injustice [Not Mad Enough] and romance difficulties [Bad At Love].
Guitar World recently spoke with Zach Myers about the new project and more in this new interview.
How did the Smith & Myers project come about?
“Smith & Myers started with a radio/label contest where they asked us to do a few covers that fans had picked. We didn’t want to do that as Shinedown, as we already have a cover attached to our name [Simple Man], so Brent and I decided to do the songs together acoustically the way they were recorded.
“As far as this project goes, it started when Brent and I did a few shows together as Smith & Myers. I always vamped in between songs while Brent was talking to the audience and one night, he went on stage and said: “You know, a lot of people keep asking when we’re going to do a record. So, I wanted you guys to know that we’re going in and making a double album.”
“It was the first time I’d ever heard about it, in front of 2,500 people, live on stage [laughs]. Brent likes to put things out in the atmosphere to hold himself accountable and follow through, so we did it! We started tracking on February 20, right before the world came to a halt, and finished the last three songs separated from each other remotely.”
What was the criteria for choosing which songs to cover?
“We listened to a few suggestions from fans but most of the songs were ones we just enjoyed listening to. We didn’t want to do them as they were originally written, because if you listen to a song like Rockin’ In The Free World; those are some of the best lyrics ever written.
“Especially when you consider that it’s a thirty-year-old song that’s just as relevant today as when it was originally written. I remember when we had our first meeting and I went in with my own mission statement.
“I said let’s pretend the songs we do had never been written and were brand new. Suppose I handed you lyrics that had never been sung before. How would we play these songs if we wrote them? That was the approach. The cover that really started it all though was Losing My Religion.”
What can you tell me about that one?
“R.E.M. is one of my favorite bands and I always thought that song was amazing. One night when we were on tour I was playing it in the dressing room with the capo up high and Brent started singing. We broke it down and made it darker than the original. Brent really added a lot of emotion to it. That started the ball rolling.”
How did you approach original material as far as the writing process goes?
“Originally we thought about just writing five new songs and then going into the Shinedown vault and picking out five that no one had ever heard before and record them acoustically. Then on the first day we wound up writing Bad At Love.
“That’s when we said all right, let’s not go back to the vault and just keep writing. From then on, we recorded a song a day. We’d come in around eleven in the morning with an empty page and walked out of there with a song that was almost fully tracked.
“The writing process wasn’t particularly different from what we do for Shinedown. But because it was new, this project was a little more freeing. It didn’t have to be a certain way, so we could make it sound like anything we wanted. I really enjoyed the freedom of having no boundaries.”
What’s was your setup like?
“On the record I used two 1959 [Gibson] 345’s and a ’65 Jazz. Acoustically, it was an old ’59 Martin D-28, a Martin Golden Era D-18 and a 25th anniversary Emma. For live, I use PRS 594 Private Stock and a Fender Deluxe Reverb. I’m also running old-school effects: an [Ibanez] TS808 Tube Screamer and a Boss Dimension C chorus.”
Speaking of live, how has the Smith & Myers drive-in shows been going?
“Obviously, it’s not the way we want to be playing shows, but it’s a different environment and a lot of fun. With Smith & Myers there’s no drums or bass. It’s so wide open and raw that the crowd often sings louder than Brent. It’s got a cool MTV Unplugged vibe.”
What’s next for Shinedown?
“We’re about nine songs into writing with five that can easily be on a record. In a realistic world we’ll probably start tracking in January with maybe a single in late spring. We’ll see what happens. As far as touring goes, no one can really say anything about when that’s going to happen. Right now, everything is still up in the air.”