Q&A: Eric Bass of Shinedown
The members of Shinedown expect be on the road for the next three years supporting their fourth studio album, "Amaryllis." Shinedown multi-instrumentalist Eric Bass agrees that it takes a special sort of person to be away from home for that long.
"You're either built for it or you're not," said Bass, who primarily plays, well, the bass. "Everybody out here is built to do this. Some days are better than others. Some days your attitude's better than other days about it. I have a very patient wife. She's actually out here right now. We hadn't seen each other in a month and a half until the day before yesterday, and she's out for four or five days. I'll get to see her again in North Carolina and when I come home from Europe. It's a mindset. You have to be in a certain headspace to do it. Everybody's healthy out here. Nobody's drinking, which also helps. There's no fog. Everybody's clear-headed and can help each other out. So that's nice to know."
Shinedown, which also includes Brent Smith (vocals), Barry Kerch (drums) and Zach Myers (guitars), is currently riding a wave of success. "Amaryllis" debuted atop Billboard's Rock Albums chart, and entered at No. 4 on The Billboard 200 album chart with more than 105,000 units sold. The collection's first single, "Bully," hit No. 1 on rock radio, marking Shinedown's seventh consecutive chart topper at the format. The second single, "Unity," is streaming on the band's YouTube channel.
Shinedown also recently released "For Your Sake: Inside the making of Shinedown's "Amaryllis,"' an interactive multi-touch book created with Apple's iBooks. Bass calls it a tale that rivals VH1's "Behind the Music."
Bass spoke with SoundSpike about "Amaryllis," the very trying recording process and the Shinedown's evolving fanbase.
SoundSpike: How's the tour going so far?
It's going really well. It's been a lot of fun to start back off in some small rooms. We made a conscious decision to do that to get our legs back underneath us and kind of remember how to do this thing, since we spent so much time writing the record. But it's been really, really great to get out and see the fans again, see a lot of familiar faces and see a lot of faces we've never seen before, which is always nice. We have a moment in the night during the show where Brent asks, "Raise your hands if this is your first time seeing us." Everywhere we go, half the room raises their hands. That's really gratifying to us.
That's great that you're increasing your fanbase.
Oh yeah. The demographic is definitely shifted for the band, too. When I started with the band, it was 18 to 30 year old males. Now it's kids and parents and males and females. It seems to be exploding, which is really great.
Why do you think it has changed?
I guess our approach to songwriting is a little different. We like to write universal songs -- not for any particular purpose. It's what we want to do. We want to reach people. I think, lyrically, the songs are reaching more people, reaching a wider audience. We're growing up. We're getting older. The songs are maturing as well.
The first single, "Bully," is an important track considering the widespread problem of abuse.
I definitely agree. It was when we wrote the song and what is going on now with bullying, it's so unfortunate that these people -- I would say kids but it's not just kids -- they end up taking their own life, taking a drastic measure or overdosing on something to try to numb the pain that they're feeling from their everyday life. It's just really sad. To have a song like "Bully" where we're not necessarily condoning violence, we're talking about survival and standing up to the people who push you around. I think that's an important message that kids and people -- we try not to make it just about kids -- you have the power to stop this. You can stop this. You're more powerful than you think you are.
Tell me about the making of "Amaryllis."
We finished the "Anything and Everything" acoustic tour, which is how we ended "The Sound of Madness" album cycle. We finished that on Dec. 10, 2010. On Jan. 15, 2011, I went out to L.A. to start writing the record with Brent and the rest of the band. Between Jan. 15 and the end of August  is when we started recording the record. We wrote 34 songs. We went through the process of elimination of which songs we were going to actually record for the record and which ones were going to make it onto the record. We narrowed it down to 17 songs that we were going to record. We went over to Rob Cavallo and Doug McKean -- Doug being the engineer. That's the same team that was on the last record; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. It seemed to be a good match up last time and we just got back to it and it took a long time. Once we got all the songs tracked and we knew the 12 that were going to be on the record, we kind of knew which ones had the energy. We had them all mixed. We felt we had a good lineup. ...We remastered it four times to get it right. It was a definite labor of love and a long process. It seems way longer than a year and however many months it was that we worked on it. To finally see it come to fruition, being in the age we're in now with social media you get instant feedback from the fans. It's almost like taking this painting you've worked on that you've been painting for a year. All of a sudden you're displaying it to the world on the Jumbotron in Times Square and everybody gets to have their opinion about it. Sometimes it can be a little rough. The fact that we got such great feedback on the record was unbelievable. It was definitely a great moment.
Tell me about the iBook. It's such a cool concept.
It's the first time anybody's done that. We were noticing that the iBook was kind of becoming a thing. I remember being a kid and waiting outside the record store to buy vinyl or a tape. They had cassette tapes at the time. It wasn't just about the music. It was about the artwork and holding something physical. That's going away now with digital. This was our way of trying to bring that back, and trying to give the fans an additional thing that they can get that makes them feel more attached to the record the same way that I used to feel attached to a final record or to a tape. It gave you a personal connection with the record and with the band. We really wanted to tell the story of this record -- the things we went through writing it and making it. It was a lot of fun. It's always a lot of fun making a record, but there were some real moments there where you weren't sure what was going to happen. I think I say in the book, I tell how I went into therapy writing the record. The pressure that you're putting on yourself to write a great record [was strong]. Each one of us had our demons that we had to deal with. It gives the fans something, a more personal identification with the record. You're getting a "Behind the Music" immediately with relation to the record. It was a lot of fun. It was something that we did and edited and re-edited and spent a lot of time on, almost the same way we did with the record to be sure it was very representative of the record, very honest, about what happened. There are certain things on there where we're like, "Aw, man. I wish nobody had to know about that." But it's reality, and it's the way it was.
It sounds stressful.
Yeah, it was but I like the fact it's out there. I like the fact that people know what it took to make the record.
What's your favorite song to play on the album?
I'm enjoying playing "Amaryllis," actually, now live. It's kind of a challenge for me. I play guitar, bass and sing and mix it up and do all these different things. It's one of the songs that's always been really natural for me to play. It's not difficult to play. It's a lot of fun. We've rehearsed "I'll Follow You" a couple times and I get to play piano. It's not in the set right now, but it will be at some point. I'm sure I'll enjoy that one a lot, too.
25 - Baltimore, MD - Rams Head Live! (Avalanche Tour)
28 - Tampa, FL - Tampa Bay Times Forum (98 Rockfest)
29 - Jacksonville, FL - Metropolitan Park (Welcome to Rockville)
1 - Bossier City, LA - CenturyLink Center (with Evanescence)
2 - Huntsville, AL - Von Braun Center Concert Hall (with Evanescence)
4 - Virginia Beach, VA - Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach (FM 99 Lunatic Luau)
5 - Rockingham, NC - Rockingham Speedway (Carolina Rebellion)
6 - Alpharetta, GA - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park (with Hellyeah/Project Cinco Party)
8 - Newkirk, OK - First Council Casino
9 - Oklahoma City, OK - Diamond Ballroom
11 - Pacific Junction, IA - Mid America Motorplex (with Incubus)
12 - Kansas City, MO - Liberty Memorial Park (KQRC 98.9 Rockfest)
13 - Boone, IA - Central Iowa Expo (LAZERfest)
15 - St. Paul, MN - Myth
16 - Chicago, IL - House of Blues
18 - Bloomington, IL - U.S. Cellular Coliseum
19 - Columbus, OH - Crew Stadium (Rock on the Range)
20 - Camden, NJ - Susquehanna Bank Center (with Slash)
1 - Nuremberg, Germany - Rock Im Park Festival
2 - Wershofen, Germany - Rock am Ring
5 - Luxembourg, Luxembourg - Rockhal
8 - Nickelsdorf, Austria - Pannonia Fields II
10 - Derby, England - Download Festival
12 - Oshkosh, WI - Ford Festival Park (Rock USA)