Shinedown bassist Eric Bass may look like a tattooed skate punk, but he speaks with the cool confidence of a rock 'n' roll sage. Chatting with City Paper on the eve of a trip to L.A. and a week's worth of rehearsals in Nashville to prepare for this month's tour, the Charleston-based musician couldn't have been more cool, collected, and optimistic.
Things have gone very well for Shinedown in the last few years. As one of the more successful alt-rock acts in the Southeast, they've sold thousands of albums and headlined numerous tours. Artistically, everyone is on the right track.
"We all really get along," Bass says. "We see each other all the time, but we all genuinely care about each other. I think I can count three arguments in the last three years. Also, everybody's clean in the band, so there are no drug problems. I'm proud that we all keep our heads screwed on straight."
Shinedown's latest, The Sound of Madness, debuted in the Top 10 upon its 2008 release. Following 2003's Leave a Whisper and 2005's Us and Them, The Sound of Madness is a well polished production, thanks in large part to studio wiz producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls). Dynamic, energetic, and emotive, Madness is their strongest effort to date.
Frontman Brent Smith formed Shinedown with drummer Barry Kerch in 2001 in Jacksonville, Fla. Bass and guitarist Zach Myers came aboard as permanent fixtures after the release of The Sound of Madness.
"In our eyes, it's still a grass-roots operation," says Bass. "We go out, shake people's hands, and sign autographs after the shows. We connect like that because we want to."
Charleston is Bass' hometown. He grew up playing in school bands and jamming on guitar in the garage. After gigging with local acts in the early 2000s, Bass started recording groups professionally, manning the mixing boards at various studio facilities. In 2007, he opened his own studio, Ocean Industries. Located on James Island, the facility has stayed busy tracking local and national bands.
Ocean Industries played a role in Bass hooking up with Shinedown. "In the summer of 2007, I got the chance to write and demo some songs with them," he remembers. "I got to know Brent and Barry pretty well in a short amount of time.
"At fist I wasn't really interested," he admits. "I was caught up in the studio, and I'd given up on the live music thing. The opportunity came up to audition, so I figured, 'Let's see what can happen.' We jammed on three or four songs, and it really clicked. That was it."
Bass hit the road with Shinedown after only two weeks of rehearsals. He's been a full-time member ever since.
This month, Shinedown kicked off a tour they titled Anything & Everything: An Acoustic Evening with Shinedown.
"We actually write most of our songs on acoustic guitars," says Bass. "That's how we wrote all of the new songs we're working on now. You start with that, then you imagine what the enormous, full-band sound will be."
This week's show is only partially unplugged, though. While the acoustic guitars will be the focal point, the rhythm section will be in usual form.
"I'm probably going to play electric bass on this run for sound purposes," Bass admits. "I have an acoustic four-string, but the sound is inconsistent. Barry will be playing with sticks, full-on. It's going to be a rock show for sure."