Drummer Barry Kerch talks about success in a changing music industry
By Jim Hagerty
It’s often said that once a rock band attains national and international fame, not much changes other than the size of its venues and bank account. On the other hand, even the most successful realize their places on the A-list are not permanent, regardless of what happens out of the gate. As with any business, growth requires additional work.
For Shinedown, the story is no different. From the early days when lead singer Brent Smith impressed Atlantic Records but had to assemble a new band, which became Shinedown, to charting four No. 1 singles (U.S. Mainstream Rock chart), the band is steaming forward with more than enough of the elbow grease required to keep its rock and roll machine in working order. Shinedown plays the MetroCentre Tuesday, Dec. 15, with opening band Papa Roach.
After a big debut (Leave a Whisper, 2003, Atlantic) which spawned four singles, including a vocally-charged cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man,” Shinedown keeps delivering hits and selling out shows. Today, its third album, The Sound of Madness (2008), is proof the quartet isn’t going to fade anytime soon.
While topping the charts often produces sizable financial rewards, a band is, any way one chooses to look at it, a business. According to drummer Barry Kerch, strong material is essential, but only part of the equation.
“We work harder now,” Kerch said, speaking of how things have changed since the members of Shinedown were just a group of aspiring Florida musicians. “I guess when we started, we expected to have things handed to us, but we know it’s a business. We work hard to keep the brand, which is Shinedown, going.”
Succeeding in any industry, let alone the music business, in 2009 is a significant accomplishment. For a band to have a major label deal today is equally as noteworthy. Still on Atlantic, Shinedown is certainly keeping its brand alive.
The band’s live show is more than just four guys walking on stage, playing and unplugging 90 minutes later with little in between. Live, an evening with Shinedown is as interactive as it gets.
“It’s high energy,” Kerch said. “People want that. We’ll come out and jump around and act like idiots. And we like to include the crowds in that. We make people feel something—something they can be part of.”
Anyone who knows rock understands what Kerch calls “idiocy” can be correctly defined as passionate release. Judging the group’s passion is evident in the studio and onstage, especially for the millions of fans the group has played for inside of eight years. Truth be known, some acts rarely get the opportunity to crack the charts or play for more than a few hundred thousand before they fade away for one reason or another. Lineup changes and ripples in the industry often see some bands slip from the collective radar before they even make a blip.
Even after a roster change or two, Shinedown hasn’t faltered, marking what could bring the same staying power its predecessors like Aerosmith, Cheap Trick and Kiss have enjoyed. After all, it’s far from a secret rock bands are not known for extensive longevity.
“If you look at the number of rock bands still really out there,” Kerch said, “and you can count them on two hands, it tells you it’s not easy.”
That truth, the Jacksonville, Fla., native says, doesn’t bother him. In fact, even in a new world where record labels claw to stay alive, and CD sales are thwarted by free music downloads, there is hope and opportunity.
“Internet killed the video star,” Kerch said. “It’s not only a different ball game; it’s a different ballpark now. We look up to bands like U2 and Aerosmith and hope we can enjoy the same long success.”
To date, Shinedown has sold more than 6 million albums worldwide. With a large YouTube following and solid iTunes sales, the new confines is anything but a hindrance. Coming off a short European tour, it closes out the year Dec. 16 before hitting the road again playing with Papa Roach, Nickelback, Puddle of Mudd and Breaking Benjamin. The band will also be part of the Australian Soundwave Music in February next year.
As of press time, The Sound of Madness reached No. 8 on Billboard’s U.S. chart. The single, “If You Only Knew,” followed three No. 1s, (“Devour,” “Second Chance” and “Sound of Madness”) to the fourth spot on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart.
Tickets for Shinedown and Papa Roach can be purchased by calling the MetroCentre box office at (815) 968-5222 or by visiting www.metrocentre.com. Sample and purchase the band’s music at www.shinedown.com or www.myspace.com/shinedown.
From the Dec. 9-15, 2009 issue