A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Call Me – Shinedown

This song is a hit, however it was never released as an “official” single. How can that be? The fans have spoken. “Call Me” has racked up 12.83 million streams on Spotify and 11.2 million plays on YouTube. These are the numbers that matter. It is the most played/streamed song from Shinedown.

In a recent interview with the website “artistdirect”, Brent Smith, the vocalist from Shinedown was asked the question if they had played “Through The Ghost” live yet.

“We have not. We’ve actually been asked if we’re going to do that. “Call Me” also gets asked for quite a bit. It wasn’t a single, but it is asked for. There might be a possibility of adding a few songs.”

I can understand the reasons why the band is not playing the song, as it is deemed a ballad and probably not suited for the high energy show that Shinedown puts on, plus they already play a ballad in “Second Chance”. However based on the numbers above, it is a fan favourite.

When I first heard “Call Me”, I immediately thought of Tracy Chapman. The vocal style and the phrasing was the trigger. It is written by Brent Smith and Tony Battaglia.

Tony Battaglia is an interesting choice. He is a frequent colloborator with Shinedown and has also co-written songs for Puddle of Mudd and Submersed (a very underrated band that is sadly no more. Eye Empire has the vocalist and Creed has the original guitarist as its backing guitarist). He also played guitar and composed songs with the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. He was the vocalist in a band called BlackJack that goes back to 1978.

Having the additional song writer can be a double edged sword. The song could be clichéd or it could sound forced or it could lack personality. In this case, it works well. The song is perfect with as a piano/orchestra style song, as the vocal melody is so strong, it doesn’t need anything else.

Wrap me in a bolt of lightning
Send me on my way still smiling
Maybe that’s the way I should go,
Straight into the mouth of the unknown

If you have been addicted to something in your life, you would understand the bolt of lightning reference. You are charged up, electrified.

I left the spare key on the table
Never really thought I’d be able to say
I merely visit on the weekends
I lost my whole life and a dear friend

Coming into this album, Shinedown took 18 months to get it right. Brent Smith wanted “The Sound Of Madness” to be the record that would define him. You know the saying, that an artist gets their whole life to do their first record and then they are given about three months to do their second one.

That is what happened to Shinedown. The first album, “Leave a Whisper” took a lifetime and it achieved platinum status. The follow up “Us and Them” had all the writing, recording and everything else done in six months and it achieved gold status. While all of this “success” is happening, the main creative force behind Shinedown is getting burned. Two band members would leave before “The Sound Of Madness” was even started.

That is what you hear on the album and in the strained voice of Brent Smith. His experiences. This is what Rock Music got right once upon a time. It was about music that defined culture. Then came the dollar signs and that is where Rock Music has remained. Shinedown’s “The Sound of Madness” is a monster of an album on the same playing field as Motley Crue’s “Dr Feelgood” and Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet”.

I’ve said it so many times
I would change my ways
No, nevermind
God knows I’ve tried

When Brent Smith decided he wanted no time limit for this album, he wasn’t looking for anything connected with money. He was looking for that raw and honest connection. The music became the vehicle for it. That is why songs like “If You Only Knew”, “Second Chance” and “Call Me” resonate with people. We have lived it and we have experienced something similar.

Call me a sinner, call me a saint
Tell me it’s over I’ll still love you the same
Call me your favorite, call me the worst
Tell me it’s over I don’t want you to hurt
It’s all that I can say. So, I’ll be on my way

Great music will last forever. Five years since “The Sound of Madness” was released, “Call Me” is still being played/streamed/viewed. “Call Me” wasn’t the hit song from the album, however it is the song from the album that will not be an obscure footnote in history.

I finally put it all together,
But nothing really lasts forever
I had to make a choice that was not mine,
I had to say goodbye for the last time

When you are at rock bottom, you find something to get you through. As much as people talk about support from family and friends, in the end if you don’t want to fix yourself, no one else can make you. Music is always there for you. There is a reason why Motley Crue didn’t give us “Dr Feelgood” as a debut album.

I kept my whole life in a suitcase,
Never really stayed in one place
Maybe that’s the way it should be,
You know I live my life like a gypsy

Are we settled in life? Are we happy with what we have in life? We always want something else, that when we are asked what we want, we answer back that we don’t know, but we know that we want something else.

Brent Smith broke down a lot of walls on “The Sound Of Madness.” It’s personal and as a fan it is an emotional roller coaster ride. It’s evolution through experiences.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The old rock star is dead. Its time to create a new rock star that is a product of the times

Influences/Inspiration

Nobody exists in a vacuum. Inspiration comes from what you read, watch and experience.  Inspiration is the merging of these experiences and influences into something new. When Metallica came on the scene they were inspired and influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. They were influenced by Punk. They were inspired and influenced by Classic Rock. They were excited and this made them nervous. Nerves made them play faster.

When Black Sabbath came on the scene they were originally influenced by the Blues. Just another blues band among the many blues bands doing the rounds at that time. Then they applied their gloomy industrial upbringing and the rest is history.

Experience

Inspiration doesn’t take place in a vacuum. All day long you are experiencing.

Could Nikki Sixx have written Kick Start My Heart if he didn’t experience death and life? Could James Hetfield have written The Unforgiven if he was brought up in a wealthy household that didn’t have Christian Science beliefs? Could Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi have written Wanted Dead Or Alive if they never toured? Could Dee Snider have written We’re Not Gonna Take It, if he was rich?

If you think you can write a hit song with no prior experience, you’re dreaming.  Our whole life is information. Be ready to reference it.  Trust your first initial feeling.

Sign Of The Times

Don’t get caught up in doing things in the old way. Today’s medium is the Internet. No one wants to hear new music from their favourite artist every two years. We surf the net each day, looking for new music and information.  If there is a demand for your music, you should create and distribute constantly.

The days when we used to have very little music are over. The days of saving up to buy an album and the playing the same album over and over again are also gone.  Now, we’ve got the history of recorded music at our fingertips. YouTube has everything that you want, Spotify has almost everything that you could want and if all of that fails cyber lockers and The Pirate Bay fill the void.

Product Of The Times

The old rock star is dead. Its time to create a new rock star that is a product of the times. Keep innovating.  Embrace the new reality that is being born. Stop playing by the rules of the Classic Rock artists.

Look at the band Heartist. When they formed, they decided that they would not play by the old rules of playing as many gigs as possible just to get noticed.  They decided to not play by the old rules of guaranteeing promoters 50 presales for each gig (which more or less meant, the band either had to beg people to come to their show that didn’t want to be there or they basically paid to play).  They decided to write songs.  They decided to keep on writing. They started posting demos on YouTube. They started building a buzz. The songs had quality. People started to spread them, share them, talk about them. They played ONE gig and got signed by Roadrunner and management.

What Does Music and Success Mean These Days?

Music is for the fans. Music is for the people. Music is not for a record executive to make billions so that they can compete with the Forbes 100 Rich List.  If you want to be in the music business, you need to focus on what music means. Be inspired! Create!  You have to practice, be original and wait for your moment, when you have to deliver.

Def Leppard’s Hysteria was out for over a year before it exploded on the back of the Love Bites single. A sleeper hit that no one saw coming. If the song is really damn good it will get people’s attention.

If you want success, you need to get people’s attention. If you want success you need to work hard and don’t plan for it. If you want success, practice and be ready to turn that inspiration into a product.  If you want success, you need to know that you have no control over what spreads and what doesn’t. Don’t judge the success of your project straight away. Success is always ten steps behind. It takes a while for it to happen.  Don’t just the success of your project in dollar terms. Success is about laying a solid foundation and building on it.

Your music has to be accessible. It needs to make an instant impact. Fans do not have the time to spend on letting an album sink into our brain like the old ways. These days there are so many options and people don’t endure that which is not pleasing to them, They move on. Repetition is not an artist’s friend in the current times. The life span of a song is different these days.

Most of the time you get one shot for each new fan. It is that one time when people will hear what you have created. One time where you need to satisfy them, so that they can respond and share.

Today, you need to have that one unbelievable cut, that makes the people need to hear it over and over again. That one cut that makes the people want to go and find out more about you.

Whether it be Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, Dio’s “Holy Diver”, Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train”, Kiss “Lick It Up”, Shinedown’s “Second Chance” or Metallica’s’ “One”. It works in every genre of music.

Connections

Artists can go straight to their audience, there are no restrictions. Artists by now should know that their career depends on building a loyal relationship with as many fans as possible. In order to build relationships, you need to get people’s attention. You need to find a way to be heard over all the noise.

Standing Out – Visuals and Music

You want to be remembered. You want to be talked about. How can you achieve that? Society is a visual culture. That is why we watch TV shows, movies, take pictures and film ourselves.

Why do you think, when you see a preview for a new movie coming out, the studio marketeers have music with it? Why do you think TV shows and movies have soundtracks? They are re-enforcing the visuals with music, as people take more notice when that happens. If people notice they will talk about.

Putting your music with visuals is a big step forward to getting people’s attention. How many times have you walked out of a movie, thinking, what a tough score. I just watched World War Z and I loved the track that Muse did for it.  Man Of Steel had an unbelievable score by Hans Zimmer, that captured the emotion in each scene. It was also inspiring and uplifting. I still remember the preview to the Captain America movie, where they had the music (46&2) from Tool playing and that was almost three years ago.

Standing Out – Opinions

No artist can please everyone. So don’t try. All artists stand for something. If you write a song that is anti-(insert topic here), you will alienate some, and connect more with others. When people get fired up (via positive or negative feelings) they pay attention.

Standing Out – Different = Success

If you look at all of your heroes, they are there for a reason. They are different. When they came on the scene, they were different. Twisted Sister was different to all the other bands in the Eighties in how they dressed and looked. Their style was a combination of AC/DC style rock, mixed with Judas Priest metal, with a dose of punk chucked in. Metallica was different to all the metal and rock bands when they came onto the scene. Motley Crue was different to all the new wave music that was popular at the time. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were all different to the Eighties Glam Rock movement. Black Sabbath was different to all the hippie folk music at the time.

Different also includes doing cover versions of popular songs. Take jazz songs and turn them into rock songs. Take pop songs and make them into rock songs.  The original artist’s fans will be curious to hear these versions.  Led Zeppelin did a lot of covers, Metallica the same. Van Halen had cover songs on their first five albums. Motley Crue did Smokin In The Boys Room and Helter Skelter.

What Does It Mean to be an Artist Today?

You don’t want to be an artist that becomes who others want them to be. You don’t want to be an artist that whores themselves out to make money. You don’t want to be an artist that does what they have to do to keep the status quo.

It’s okay to not be liked by everybody.

Real artists don’t believe in conforming. Real artists stay true to who they are. Real artists play to their fans and allow the fans to talk about them. Do not change for all the new people that could tag along to your success train, that’s death. You need to keep playing to the hard core fan base. A great artist is someone who leads us into the unknown who we can’t help but follow.

Dream Theater is one artist that comes to mind, that did it their way or the hard way. Signed as a progressive band, they released When Dream and Day Unite, which the label ignored and then went on a long search for a vocalist. When Pull Me Under got traction on MTV and Radio, the band was then a commercial prospect for the label. So the label now wants more crossover songs, and this lead to the issues with the label around the Falling Into Infinity project. After that the band stayed true to who they are and they have grown with each album and are more successful now than ever.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music

Brent Smith (Shinedown) – What Do You Mean I Don’t Write Good Lyrics

Another week, another “What Do You Mean I Dont Write Good Lyrics” post.

This week, Brent Smith from Shinedown is under the microscope. For the first two records Leave A Whisper (2003) and Us and Them (2005) he was addicted to cocaine, OxyContin and alcohol. By the time The Sound of Madness (2008) came out, he was drinking a lot of alcohol. For some reason he reminds me of Nikki Sixx.

Burning Bright from Leave A Whisper (2003)

There’s nothing ever wrong but nothing’s ever right
Such a cruel contradiction

Such a cruel contradiction it is. We tell everyone that everything is okay, however it never is. It could be debt problems, work problems, gambling problems or something else.

Adrenaline from Amaryllis (2012)

Which way is up, when your high is low?
It’s time to find it are you ready to go?

How do we know how to go up when we have been down the whole time. When the time comes to go higher, are we ready to go? Do we want to go higher?

Cry For Help from The Sounds Of Madness (2008)

‘Cause when you lie like the devil himself
No angels gonna hear your Cry for help!

I have been friends with quite a few people like that. All they do is lie. With each lie, they dig their hole deeper. Then one day no one is going to give a shit about them anymore. The song Enemies from Amaryllis (2012) also has a similar lyrical theme. “You started something that you just couldn’t stop, You turned the ones that you love into the angriest mob, And their one last wish is that you pay for it, And there’s no way you’re getting out of this.”

Bully from Amaryllis (2012)

Seems I’ve crossed the line again
For being nothing more than who I am

This is how the metal / rock community was treated in the Eighties. Employers bullied us, teachers bullied, the police bullied us.

Atmosphere from Us and Them (2005)

Once I met a leader
Born from genocide
Once I knew a preacher
To his faith, he said goodbye

The lyrics are great in this song. It’s just about how messed up our world has become. A leader born from genocide, what a brilliant line. It brings up so many different meanings.

Second Chance from The Sound of Madness (2008)

Sometimes goodbye is a second chance

I have always seen goodbye as one door closing and a million other doors opening.

Sound of Madness from The Sound of Madness (2008)

Somehow I’m still here, to explain,
That the darkest hour never comes in the night

The darkest hour comes when you least expect it and it is never at night.

Call Me from The Sound of Madness (2008)

I kept my whole life in suitcase,
Never really stayed in one place
Maybe that’s the way it should be,
You know I live my life like a gypsy

When I first heard this song, I immediately thought of Tracy Chapman, as the vocal delivery is very similar. Are we ever settled in life? We always want something more, something different, something else.

Heroes from Us and Them (2005)

All my heroes have now become ghosts
Sold their sorrow to the ones who paid the most

We all die in the end. What legacy will we leave behind?

My Name (Wearing Me Out) from Amaryllis (2012)

My name is revenge and I’m here to save my name

Enough said.

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Music

Sales Numbers for the U.S.

Metal Insider

I was looking at the sales figures in the above link.  A lot of people focus on the sales aspect of everything, so if something is sold a lot of times, they class it as being successful.

So if you look at the sales, you will see a lot of hard rock and metal bands doing low numbers for the week.  One can easily jump to conclusions.  The album is bad, it bombed or the industry favourite, piracy.

However, to me the sale numbers mean nothing.  What is important here, is the length of time the music has been out.

Let’s start with Volbeat.  They have two albums that are selling.  Yippee, you say.  Here’s the thing, Beyond Heaven/Above Hell was released in September 2010.  Yes, 2010.  It has been around for over 2 and a half years.  What does this tell you?  They did it without the mainstream sledgehammer across the head marketing like Bon Jovi and Justin Timberlake.  They did it by creating great music and letting the people spread the word.  The funny thing is, the song that made them popular in the U.S, Still Counting is not even on this album (it is from an earlier album from 2007 called Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood) and was added as a bonus track later on.  Talk about great music waiting to be found.  It was released in 2007 and it wasn’t until 2012, that people really heard Still Counting, appreciated it and starting buying it.

You need to remember, there is so much music released each days, (I checked the new release schedule and i counted over 400 releases on one day).  Multiply that by 52 weeks, and you have a lifetimes worth of music to go through.  We need a filter and what better filter than people spreading the word.  Not by the hundreds, but the by the thousands and in PSY’s case, by the millions.

Volbeat’s new album Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies entered the charts in the top 10.  They had the usual big first week sales and second week drop, however this time around, the audience was waiting for a new release.  Time will tell if this album will have the same longevity.

From hearing it, it’s a good album, but it doesn’t have the defining song, and that is what fans want.  Bon Jovi had Wanted Dead Or Alive on Slippery When Wet, Motley Crue had Kick Start My Heart on Dr Feelgood, Metallica had Enter Sandman on the Black album, Poison had Nothing But A Good Time on Open Up and Say Ahh.. and so on.

In This Moment has been doing business since August 2012.  34 weeks.  Bon Jovi’s What About Now, has more or less stalled.  Justin Timberlake’s is slowly declining as well.  Will they still be selling in 34 weeks time.  For Bon Jovi, i am sure they will not.

Otherwise, is a band that i have been following for over a year now.  Each week, you see them move between 400 and 700 units.  They are touring their arses off, picking up new fans along the way.  The album came out in May 2012.  It will make a year, where it has been selling low numbers.  To me this is a success story.  If they stay at the rate they are, they will be passing 40,000.  What’s 40,000, I hear people saying?  That is a year’s worth of touring.  The music is the entry-level to all the other things in the business.  You don’t make money from selling music.  You make money from the doors that music opens.

Stone Sour have two albums that are selling, House of Gold and Bones Pt 1 and Pt 2.  The concept story is the entry for the multimedia projects to come, like the graphic novels, the motion picture movie and the tour.  It’s not all about sales, it’s about different income streams.

Coheed and Cambria has already walked the path that Stone Sour is walking right now.  They have had their concept albums put into comic form, graphic novel and companion books.  Claudio Sanchez has also signed a deal to develop the Armory Wars story into a motion picture film.

Black Veil Brides is another band, involved in the multimedia aspect, with their concept album, Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones.  

Shinedown is one of the best hard rock bands doing the scene right now.  Amaryllis has been out for over a year now and the band is still moving units.  Why, because people are spreading the word, they are hearing the songs live and are liking them.

For the critics that have called this album a failure, just because it didn’t move the same units as The Sound of Madness is a shallow viewpoint to have without any analysis.  A song like Second Chance comes around once in a decade.  That song alone moved over 2 million mp3’s.  The Shinedown tour is doing decent business at the box office.

The key here is longevity.  You don’t want to be here today and gone tomorrow.  You want the music, the band, to remain public, to be in people’s’ minds.  So many have released albums and have been forgotten.  Does anyone remember that Joe Walsh released a new album last year, or that David Bowie and Bon Jovi released an album in the same week.  They have been forgotten.  The hardcore fans will say otherwise and that is okay they are entitled to their opinions.

Life today is all about information.  We have a tonne of it.  We are connected 24/7.  There is always something coming out that takes the flavor of the minute.  Black Sabbath released God Is Dead, and it was tanking, regardless of what the artists and Loudwire said about it.

Ozzy then releases a statement about his fall back into addiction, trying to drum up press and then Sharon chimes in.  It ain’t working, the song is a dud at nine minutes long.  It’s a four-minute song on a 12 inch extended remix.

I am seeing them in two days at the Allphones Arena in Sydney.  I might eat my words after hearing it live.  No one is talking about them.  The 13 album is already in the rear view mirror and it hasn’t even been officially released.  They are touring Australia and there is no buzz.   

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