Godsmack In Conversation With Sully Erna
Interview by Dillon Collins
20 years removed from their game-changing self-titled album, Godsmack continue to evolve with their seventh studio album, When Legends Rise. Famed frontman Sully Erna caught up with Metalheads Forever Magazine to talk creative forces, releasing the negative and having fun nearly 25 years into the business.
It’s been four years since you guys released 1000hp. Demand is high for your seventh record, When Legends Rise. How are you guys feeling about getting this thing out there?
Sully: It’s been four years since we released the last record, but people got to remember we toured on it for years and I spent a year touring on my solo record and all last year writing this record. Four years goes by for me in a blink of an eye. It’s time to get it going again, and the band is really amped up to get working. We’re excited and proud of this record. We think it’s the most unique record and something that can really push the boundaries for us and really push us to another level. We’re really hoping for the best.
By all indications you guys are having a blast with this material. The video for “ Bulletproof” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus and Sebastian Bach is so over the top and it just seems like you guys are having the time of your lives.
Sully: We’re definitely having fun with it. We’ve gotten over all of the mountains, the challenges, dug through the trenches and we’ve done everything we can do as a band. We’ve laughed and fought and cried, you name it. We’ve gotten through the toughest of moments, moments that would have broken up most bands, and probably has. We were smart about it and decided not to do the selfish thing and let pride and ego get in the way, but go out get help and kind of regain the brotherhood. Now we’re past all that stuff, way past it. We know where everyone stands now, when to push someone and when to back off. Those are the hardest times, just that learning phase, and sometimes it takes a long time to learn and settle into the marriage. Really, it’s no different than a marriage. I’m married to three other guys for the past 20 years, and you have to kind of learn each other really well and know when to push and when to pull. Now it’s just fun for us. Now we have a career where we can just play some music and put out a record whenever we want, go on tour and have some fun. Not that we don’t try try to aspire to different goals – we certainly have personal goals and band goals that we’re trying to set – but at the same time if it all ended tomorrow, we have nothing to complain about. We have 23 top 10 singles, we’ve toured the world and played in front of a million fans. It’s like, what do we have to be upset about? It’s just about entertaining now. We’re all fun guys and have a big personality and we all constantly joke around with each other, so it’s like why wouldn’t we reflect that in what we do now? Let’s have some fun with what reality is, because reality for us was actually trying to direct our first video and the more we talked about it the more it sounded comical. As you know, they say comedy is just reality exaggerated. We got a funny video out of it.
Obviously you guys are working on nearly 25 years experience as a group at this point. How have you managed to navigate the business to the point where things like touring and pumping out music are still fun for you guys?
Sully: When you’re out grinding as hard as we do with Godsmack, this band is no joke. When we tour, we tour. We’ve been doing that since the late 90s where we go out, and in the past, it’s been seven shows in a row and one day off, nine shows in a row and one day off. You do that for three or four years and you’re pretty burnt out. You become a robot. Over the years we’ve learned how to relax our schedule a little bit. But we’re still here hitting five shows a week. After you do that for an album cycle you want to go home and sleep in your own bed and enjoy your friends and your family, and kind of be a human-being again for a minute. During that break, for me being a musician, I get that itch. I’m dying to get home by the end of the touring cycle, but once I get home within a week I’m chewing my fingernails and writing music again. This time I think things are going to be really different. This band is amped up and ready to work to the point where we may do two records back to back. We may stay out for the next five years, I don’t know, but I know right now it’s feeling like that.
You’ve always been a prolific songwriter, but it certainly seems like you’ve put a lot of yourself into your work in recent years. Do you find the art of creating, and songwriting, to be a cathartic process for you?
Sully: That’s how I learned how to be a songwriter. I learned through trial and error. I learned through experience in life. Before some tragic things happened to my personally in my life and I was trying to write songs, I was just writing about bullshit. I don’t even know what I was writing about, it was just stupid. Then a friend of mine passed away, he took his life and hung himself. It was the first time I sat down and really cried and I wrote some lyrics and it made me realize how powerful music can be when you’re really having music as a vehicle as this kind of outlet to be able to vent through. From that point on I never wrote about bullshit topics again. I always wrote about things that were real in my life and things that affected me on a emotional level, good or bad. Unfortunately, the pen usually comes out when it’s something bad or dramatic, because that’s the stuff that usually hits you a little harder. When something great happens you’re out enjoying it and celebrating, so you never really feel like working. But it’s usually the ones that kind of knock you down that make you want to pull out the pen.
Of course 2018 marks 20 years since your breakout self-titled record. Are there any thoughts about maybe a tour or massive promotion of some kind in celebration of the milestone?
Sully: We thought about it for a minute, and we were going with it. We were going to do it and just do a tour and honour the first record by playing the entire first record for the first 45 minutes of the show. But it changed for us, because this record became such a special album for us and we feel so strongly for the material on it, so we decided we don’t want something like a 20 year anniversary to be masking that. We said we’d just scratch it, celebrate it privately and it’s great that we have that to reflect on and be grateful that people are still around and care about the band. Maybe we’ll revisit that on the 25th anniversary, but right now this is all about When Legends Rise and it’s going to stay that way, for sure.
What do you think When Legends Rise says about Godsmack and where you are right now in your careers?
Sully: That’s a good question. I think where we are is we’re at a point of rebirth, and that’s been a theme that has run through this whole record. We decided to make some serious life choices in the last couple of years and clean out a lot of the negativity, a lot of the wrong people in our lives. I personally made the decision to stop carrying other people’s crosses, and stop trying to fix everyone’s problems. I eliminated important people in one time of my life, people who I thought would be there forever and who were friends of mine for over 25 years. But they were there for the wrong reasons, and I needed to start fresh and grow and continue to evolve. If they’re not, I can’t stick around to help anyone, I have to start living my life and make sure I’m present for this. That’s where I think we’re at right now. This band has come to a place in our lives where we just want to be the best people we can be, have the best career we can have, do our jobs, take on our responsibilities and enjoy ourselves. I think this record is just a reflection of all of that.
when Legends Rise is available April 27th worldwide. For more visit godsmack.com
MHF Magazine/Dillon Collins