There's a big difference in the Brent Smith of 2011 and the Brent Smith of 2013.
"In 2012 I lost 65 pounds and I stopped drinking completely. I cleared my head and I got healthy. No one wants to see a frontman with his gut hanging over his belt. Once I got my body back in form again and my head cleared up, I was able to look at things in the big picture."
The big picture is the future of Smith's band Shinedown. Founded in 2001, the group has had a string of hard-rock hits. The band's newest album, "Amaryllis," was released in 2012 and debuted at the top of the Billboard Rock, Hard Rock and Independent album charts. It also hit No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
The band first hit the national consciousness with the song "45" and a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man." From that point on, the group's popularity grew. Of the group's original membership only drummer Barry Kerch and Knoxville-born-and-raised vocalist Smith remain.
Although he now lives in California, Smith has always retained close ties to his hometown, where family and friends remain.
"I get back to Knoxville when I can," says Smith in a call from Mankato, Minn., where the band is performing. "I had my little boy up there so he could see his grandparents. But we're starting this year out the same way. We're about to show this event to the whole world, so we're really stoked."
Smith says he enjoys putting on elaborate stage shows.
"It's about the music, but the show is a big deal to me. Growing up in the '90s. the time I was a teenager, seeing all the bands and watching so many show over the years ... those big productions, it was always about getting to that level. And because of the fans we're able to produce that level of show."
It also means not getting comfortable with success and relying on it.
"The minute you start getting comfortable is the minute someone will pull the rug out from under you and then you're flat on your back saying 'What happened?'" says Smith. "I'm 35 years old and I feel better and stronger and look better than when I was 25, but I know that there's always someone out there that's younger than me and would take my place if they could. It's just that I'm not gonna let 'em!"
He says the biggest thing he's learned over his career is to "stay humble."
"You can't walk with a swagger all the time. You have to be humble and realize that you didn't get there alone. People helped you along the way and you don't forget about those people."
There have been some serious stumbles along the way, though. Smith says, hopefully, it is behind him. He says it took a long time to grow up.
"I think it took most of my 20s and I feel lucky that I survived. Anyone who knows me knows that I dealt with a drug addiction and alcoholism for a long time and I'll always deal with that for the rest of my life. Everyone asks me, 'Are you sober?' and I always tell them, 'I'm not sober. I didn't drink today and I don't plan on drinking tomorrow.' But that's my choice. I had to clean up for me. I have a 5-year-old boy and I'm no good to him dead."
Smith says he didn't go through a program to detox, but he didn't do it alone.
"I had the love of my band and my girlfriend, Teresa, and my son, Lyric, and my mom and my dad and my Granny and everybody back in Knoxville who I'm still affiliated with. I have a very loving family and support system out here. I did it with their help."
He says part of the band's continued success is because they try to stay honest in their music and fans recognize it.
"I write the words to the songs because it's cheaper than therapy. And I think a lot of people look at the band as an outlet. We may be expressing things that they've always wanted to say or they've felt for a long time."
And there will be plenty of opportunities for fans to hear the band during 2013.
Shinedown will tour the United States through March, then play selected festivals, and then go on another U.S. tour followed by a tour of the United Kingdom and probably Asia, South America and Australia. Smith expects the group will release a new album in early 2014.
"We actually have two records recorded. We'll have to go back in the studio and look at things."
Smith, though, is most concerned with the new video and single "I Will Follow You" off the group's current album.
"It's the song I've been wanting to release off the record since it came out. It's just a very powerful song that means a lot to the band. And we just finished the video for it and it was the most fun video we've made."
And he's ready to bring the band's show to the faithful.
"Our favorite place to play is where people show up! Where the whole town is there. We're coming to bring you a show. We want it to be a show they remember for the rest of their lives."
With: Three Days Grace, P.O.D.
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10
Where: Civic Coliseum
Tickets: $39.50, $24 ($139 for VIP), available at all Knoxville Tickets outlets, 865-656-4444 and www.knoxvilletickets.com
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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