When you’ve just released your forth studio album internationally to a legion of die hard fans, when you’ve performed over four hundred shows within a three year span in support of your last record, when you’ve been around for the past twelve years and are still going strong, rock star doesn’t quite cover it.
Shinedown is more the embodiment of what talent and hard work can accomplish. And that hard work keeps coming and coming. The boys are back on the road once again promoting the follow-up to 2008’s smash hit, Sound of Madness. The latest album, Amaryllis has so far spawned four singles, three of which has already hit number one on Billboard’s Alternative chart.
During Shinedown’s Vancouver concert date opening for KISS, all four boys – Brent Barry, Zach and Eric were divvied-up to a group of eagerly awaiting web and radio journalists. Pop Counter//Culture joined guitarist Zach Myers to discuss the topic of bullying, wrestling fantasies, how he feels about the furthest seat in the house, and why he needed to become a musician.
Being an American rock band, how cool is it that no matter how different the places you go or the people you encounter, you can always connect through your music?
It’s awesome. It’s what we do it for. We’ve never been a band that’s relied on a shtick or writing songs about banging chicks or songs about sex, which seems to be the shtick people use now. They write one song about something dumb and yeah it blows up for a year, but then they’re done. I think we’ve always relied on writing songs about what we know and being true to our fans and being honest with our fans and I think that’s where we connect. That’s the cool part about it for us.
Amaryllis is a great metaphor for the new album of the same name. Where did you guys first encounter or learn about this special flower?
We were probably right in the middle of writing songs for the record. I’m not going to say we were writing about the same things, but we kind of were. We were getting stuck on subjects so we gave ourselves a project. It was like, “Okay, everybody just separate. Go to the beach, get online, go to the library – just go somewhere.” Dave Bassett, who is like the fifth member of the band, he came up with the idea of amaryllis and there in lies the record title.
‘Bully’ is the first single of the new album. Why was it important for you to write and record a song about a topic that is still prevalent in schools, workplaces, the Internet, etc.?
You said “still” and I think that’s the reason why. We were writing for the record and me, Brent and Dave were in Los Angeles and we were seeing all these things online and on CNN and MSNBC – all these news outlets about bullying like it started the day before. Bullying is getting treated like an epidemic. This has been around since man. I was bullied in school and so was Brent. I think all of us were. I got shoved in lockers by football players. It was also a “you don’t have to back down” thing. If someone is mentally or physically abusing you, push back. Outsmart them. Be bigger. You don’t always have to walk away. Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself. Don’t ever give up your self-respect because someone is more ignorant than you.
I don’t know if you had a chance to read the Youtube comments on the ‘I’ll Follow You’ video, but the top comment is this: “My finance doesn’t know yet, I’m walking down the aisle to this song.” How does it feel to know that your music is invited into strangers’ lives everyday?
Cool. That’s why we do it. We knew ‘I’ll Follow You’ would be a special song, but to be part of that part of someone’s life, we didn’t realize that until five months ago that this might be a wedding song. That’s great! Our thing is, a lot of the time people ask us what songs are about and I don’t really want to answer that question because, see I don’t want to know what ‘Hallelujah’ is about, you know? I love Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley, but I don’t want to know what that song is about because I have my own interpretation. I think we’re lucky to have people care, but we want people to make their own judgments about the songs. We want it to be about whatever people want it to be about. That’s the beauty of music.
Truthfully speaking, the ‘Enemies’ music video, was it a ploy to fulfill all your wrestling fantasies?
It was Brent’s idea actually and it was more to be funny and kind of off-the-cuff and satirical. We get along amazingly, but there are times when you want to punch your drummer in the face [laughs]. That video is definitely the most fun we had making a video.
What runs through your mind when you show up at a stadium and do your sound check to thousands of empty seats and then return a few hours later to play your set in front of a full house?
It’s weird. I like seeing empty places, not when we play shows, but the before and after. Sound check to me and after the show to me is when I go back to the fourteen year old me. I like to realize when I was a kid I was out there. I think for me during sound check, it’s a more intimate thing because I’m trying to figure out how to reach the kid up there at the very top. How could you make him feel so involved when he is so far away? And at the end of the night I like to go up there, when the crew is breaking down the set, and realize how lucky I am to be where we are. I remember being the kid who sat up there.
You and Brent play acoustic sets too. Do you feel that when you play a song acoustically, it changes the emotion of the track?
Yeah, I think when you play a song acoustically, you never play the same song the same way twice. There’s something about Brent’s voice and just a guitar that’s just magical. There is a kindness about his voice. You get every aspect of it when it’s just a guitar.
With Shinedown, there is a few years gap between each record release. What happens during this in-between period?
I see those comments all the time because we are so social network-involved. I think people think we make a record, go on tour and we take two years off. It’s not the case. We make a record, we go on tour for three years, we take eight months to make a record, and then we are back out. We toured on Sound of Madness for 447 shows in 34 months. We did take a year to make Amaryllis because Sound of Madness was so important to us. To try to follow that was rough. We took our time to make a record we thought our fans would love.
What was your biggest motivator to become a musician?
I didn’t have one. No one in my family plays music. I’m the first person in my family to play music. I wanted to do something that made people feel something. I wasn’t a great student. When I did my schoolwork I made an A, but most of the time I got an F because it bored me and I didn’t want to do it. I knew I wasn’t going to be a scientist or a doctor. I wanted to do something that changed people’s lives. I got good at it fast. It was maybe the only thing I ever picked up quickly. I can’t draw to save my life. I did it out of necessity for myself, to feel something and to eventually make others feel something and somehow it worked.