“MUSIC IS IN MY BLOOD," says Shinedown guitarist Jasin Todd. “It eats
me up entirely. The music flows through me, and whatever happens,
Todd—who started playing at nine years old with a pawnshop guitar bought by his mother—has mixed his Southern rock roots with various modern metal styles to develop an approach that’s simultaneously heavy and melodic. The Southern flavor has certainly helped the Jacksonville, Florida, group break out of the pack of sound-alike acts signed in the post-Creed era of ’00, and its seemingly endless commitment to touring helped nab the band a platinum-record award for its debut album (Leave a Whisper), an opening spot on Van Halen’s 2004 tour, and a number one single on both the modern rock and mainstream rock charts with “Save Me” from the band’s most recent album, Us and Them [Atlantic].
How does songwriting come together for Shinedown?
Believe it or not, we write mostly on acoustics. Usually, we’ll jam and throw a riff back and forth until something emerges. We don’t write when we’re on the road, because there’s too much chaos out there. There’s too much partying, and there’s never anywhere quiet enough to go play guitar. So all the writing is done when we’re back home.
Given Shinedown’s sound, it’s obvious you must have been into Southern bands like Molly Hatchet and .38 Special.
Oh man, that Southern stuff is like gospel down in Florida! Surprisingly though, my only real band in high school was full-on death metal—somewhere between Deicide and Morbid Angel. But Jimmy Page and Gary Rossington were my favorite players growing up, and, not surprisingly, everything I do starts with a Gibson guitar. It has been Gibson ever since I was able to afford one. That should explain things right there.
In other words, your roots definitely lie in the ’70s?
Yeah. My mom is probably responsible for that. She always had Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd tapes lying around the van and in the house. I relate to those guys more—especially their style of playing. On Us and Them, that style really came out of me.
You only had two solos on Leave a Whisper? What caused you to riff more on Us and Them?
We were able to stand up for ourselves! It’s easier when you sell a million records—although it took us more than two years to get there. When we recorded Leave a Whisper in 2003, people were saying, “Solos aren’t cool.” That was due to the nu-metal thing, even though we were never nu-metal. This time, the label let us do what we wanted.
We also went through a natural progression—you have to keep maturing—although so many people wanted us to duplicate our first album. But all of my favorite bands went a different way on each record, so I took a lot of chances on Us and Them. I played a lot of hollowbody guitars, and I used smaller amps. I’ve always known the Fender Twin was a great amp, but I didn’t realize how cool it sounded when you cranked it to 10! When we blended that sound with my Diezel VH4, the tone was unbelievable. You can hear every single note. I can’t say enough about Diezel. I found out Adam Jones and Wes Borland were playing them, and when I finally heard one myself, I went nuts. What comes out of that amp is ridiculous!
Finally, it was good having Tony Battaglia as our producer, because he let us write and play the kinds of songs we wanted. He plays guitar himself, so he helped us arrange some cool stuff and write a few riffs, as well. It was fun jamming with him. We didn’t care who played what. We’re all about the songs.
How did you come up with those interesting bends on “Save Me”?
I think those cool little ideas come from playing live a lot. The emotion you play with is a key factor in what comes out, and, after a while, those moments are almost subconscious. I did the same type of thing on “Burning Bright.” Those types of bends are just one of my little techniques. The more I play live—and the older I get—the more those things appear. I find that you can’t get that kind of vibe happening consistently unless you’re out on the road.
But I should also say that I never go in and put a lead on a song just for the sake of it. I only go there if the song calls for it. It’s not about being flashy or showy, but I think I still managed to come up with a bunch of really cool guitar moments on Us and There.
Such as the solo on “Heroes,” for example?
Oh yeah! That solo was a total stream of consciousness. I just happened to go to the wah, and that’s what came out. I was also using a fuzz pedal from the ’70s and an octave pedal, but, instead of an octave, the effect was this weird fifth harmony. We mixed the harmony way in the background, so just pop on some headphones if you want to hear it. It’s my favorite solo on the record.
What inspires you these days?
My band still inspires me. Standing next to Brent [Smith, Shinedown vocalist] onstage is totally inspiring. To open your mouth and have that tone come out is amazing. I’m also inspired by my little girl, as well as by the fact I have a little boy on the way. [Todd is married to Melody VanZant, daughter of the late Lynyrd Skynyrd vocalist Ronnie VanZant.] Music is all we are. Through good times and bad times, it’s everything.