Sully Erna of Godsmack Talks "Avalon" Box Set
Thu, 29 Nov 2012 15:21:05
The best way to get to know Godsmack singer Sully Erna is to pick up the Avalon limited edition box set.
There are five DVDs including Avalon Live captured at the legendary Wilbur Theatre in Boston, The Making of Avalon Live, The Journey To Avalon documentary, and an outtakes disc that includes videos from Avalon. Plus, there's the original studio album and a live CD from the Boston gig. Rounding out this box are coffee table book, an updated version of his personal memoir, The Paths We Choose, poster, t-shirt, hat, necklace, backstage pass, guitar pick, and handmade incense picked by the man himself. It's any Erna or Godsmack fan's dream, and it's truly essential.
However, it also opens the doorway even wider into his first solo masterpiece. Joining Erna on this ride proves both invigorating and inspiring as he bleeds like never before across these songs. The musician infuses true grit into this hypnotic collection incorporating tribal swells, transcendent acoustic guitars, and his inimitable delivery. It's as magical as music in the 21st century gets…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Sully Erna opens up about Avalon, talks what's next for Godsmack, and so much more.
Do you feel like the Avalon box set is the best gateway into and overview of your world?
Yeah, I'm really happy with it. We all just stumbled onto this idea. The more I was doing solo activity, the more I was documenting. At first, we didn't even realize we were capturing what we had. We had a couple of friends, myself, and some of the band filming in the studio while we were recording the record. Later on, when we were trying to make something out of nothing, I handed this editor a big box of tapes and said, "Make some kind of cool, making-of thing". I didn't it was going to be for all of this. That's what triggered this whole thing. It went from finding this really cool making-of the album to tying into the whole theme of music for me. When I was going out on my solo shows, it had "an evening with", Storytellers vibe. I fell upon this idea of, "Wow, what a gift music really is". That started triggering all of this stuff. What I started to realize, just from sharing a bottle of wine with somebody, we'd be talking about music and theory and how music is just vibrations. It's just strings vibrating, and yet when they create different frequencies, it creates emotions in people—even without lyrics. You can hear a violin player play something and get teary eyed. I thought, "This is heavy, man. That really is the power of music. It's a miracle". It's a universal language, and it's almost unexplained. From there, we'd film a live show. All of these different things became components for the box set. We kept building off of that. Once we had the idea of putting this together as a package, we started thinking, "What else can we include?" That's when we came up with the "Golden Ticket" concept. We wanted to personalize it so it's "Sully Erna everything". It's a little bit of a history of me and my life, from how I grew up to what my favorite t-shirts and incenses are. Plus, it's the making-of everything.
Does the open the door to the next project?
Of course! I'm building towards branding my name and freeing up myself to do what I want to do without having a ceiling over my head. As much as I love Godsmack and my boys in Godsmack, it really is what it is. Over the years, we've tried to branch out and create songs like "Serenity" and "Shine Down". Even though our audience accepted it and they became successful singles on the radio, they weren't really crossover singles for us. They were kind of saying, "They're cool songs, but when are you guys going to play 'The Enemy' or 'Bad Religion'. Let's get back to the muscle!' [Laughs] Over the years, we've identified Godsmack to be a powerhouse rock band, which it should be, but there's also this other side of me. I can't keep it trapped inside. I have to explore it and release this other kind of music that I love playing. I also love sitting down at the piano with my daughter and creating music and playing acoustically. Avalon helped me branch out and allow more vulnerability and things like that. That creates an opportunity to not have a ceiling over my head whether it gets into acting, TV, film, and different things I'd like to pursue. I think it's going to open up that avenue for me. I heard an interview with Tom Hamilton, and he struck the nail right on the head for me. He said, "I realized music is always something I wanted to do with my life, but it's not everything I wanted to do with my life". I was like, "Boom, there it is right there. That's exactly how I feel. Music is one of those things I wanted to do my whole life, but I also realized that it's not everything I want to do". Even though I think I'll always be a musician and entertain in some way, I may want to tap into some other avenues and continue to brand myself rather than being pigeonholed into a certain genre of music.
Is there something special about the Wilbur Theatre for you? Did that contribute anything to the vibe?
Well, Wilbur is a historical theatre to begin with. For me, it's a marriage of two things. It's the Wilbur, and it's also my hometown. There's a great vibe that comes with playing your hometown. When you're family and friends are there, that creates a lot of internal gratification. Along with that, you see all of these people are traveling from out of town. It's a little bit more emotional and magical to play a hometown theatre than it would be to play some great historical theatre in Detroit or something like that.
Which song evolves the most on stage? What really sparks live?
There are a couple. I've got to tell you. It's really hard to identify one song in that set, because the whole thing plays like a story to me, and that's how I feel when I'm on stage with it. Even though it's not a conceptual album, it almost plays like one. Instead of a verbal story, it takes you down a visual story. You can put this record on when you're chilling at your house or whatever. If you can lie on the couch, relax, and listen to it, it really paints pictures for you. I didn't realize that was going to happen when we were writing it. We were just writing. I was pulling out information from inside of myself that I didn't even know existed at the time, but there were certain things in there like the song about my daughter or "Avalon" itself, which is about meditation and the pictures you paint when you're meditating. "7 Years" is a journey in and of itself. That takes you down the long road of a relationship and the people we encounter in our lives and how, good or bad, they create memories for you to embrace and learn from. Then, there are songs like "Cast Out", which is just an instrumental, and this demonic possession that Lisa goes through. There are eight drummers playing at the same time. It's full of all different kinds of emotions, textures, and colors. It's hard for me to identify one song. If I had to tell you about a song that touches me the most, I'd probably lean towards "My Light" because it's such a personal song for me. "Broken Road" is the same thing for different reasons. I always feel like "Cast Out" brings a wicked kind of exorcism that pours off the stage. It's like a cleansing or spirit dance [Laughs]. There's so much on this album. It's hard to pinpoint one thing that moves me because they all move me in a different way. That's the beauty of this record. Something magical did happen when we created this.
Is it fun to pick up different instruments on stage when you're performing these songs live?
It's challenging, it's fun, and it's exciting. It's a whole lot of different things for me. I enjoy how every member of this band is multi-faceted when it comes to different instruments. To me, that's what makes thing special. It's inspiring to be around a group of people like this. It makes me really proud and pushes me to become a better musician. I love the opportunity to be able to play the piano, guitar, or percussion. It shows the level of musicianship in the project.
Have you begun writing more solo material?
Yeah, I started writing. I have a handful of things that I finished. I also have a pretty good collection of ideas that are ready to go. I have to just put them together and arrange them with the other members. I'm starting to write. I'm not pressuring myself or giving myself a timeline or deadline. I'm just creating, and I'm going to handpick things that feel magical to me again. That's what this record was about. There were a couple of songs that didn't make it because they weren't lifting us up like most of the stuff that made the record did. We weren't trying to do anything more than create music. When we had enough songs for an album, we went ahead and recorded it. Having that zero pressure vibe helped the songs blossom into feeling more special than anything else we'd ever written. We just write and let it come out naturally If it doesn't, we're on to the next thing.
What's next with Godsmack?
We're going to take some time away now because we just ran for the last two years. It's time for us to take a break and get away from the markets for a little bit so we don't overplay them. We're taking 2013 off. Maybe towards the end of the year or early 2014, we may start getting into the studio and writing. Now, we're going to lay low. We may pop up once in a while to do a radio festival or something. I'm going to take all of 2013 to focus on my solo stuff and see any doors I can open along the way.
Who's on your playlist right now?
I listen to everything. When I'm writing, I try to listen to music as far away from what I write as possible. You'd be surprised at what is on my iPod from time to time. It could be Adele. It could T-Pain. It could be The Beastie Boys. It could be dance music. I don't want to be inspired too much by something and start to sound like that when I'm writing so I put on music that's really different. Honestly, I like music. I don't care if it's hard rock, light jazz, dance music, or rap. It doesn't matter to me. A good song is a good song. There are no categories for me in my life. I don't categorize music. If I like it, I listen to it. If I don't like it, I don't listen to it.
What's your favorite Sully Erna or Godsmack song?
For more info on Sully's Avalon Box Set - visit SullyErnaAvalon.com.