For a long time, Godsmack frontman Sully Erna was haunted by his demons. A rough-and-tumble childhood in the outskirts of Boston left him feeling tense and defensive, and when he finally made good with his band he found that every time he turned a corner someone was waiting to try to knock him down or rip him off.
"I've had hard relationships and people stealing things from me and just doing sh--ty things as I've tried to better myself in life," he griped. "The last couple of records were a way for me to try to get a lot of that crap off my chest."
Erna's confrontational approach to songwriting worked. His anger fueled his music, and his songs resonated with a defiant attitude that made even the most simple riffs shudder with excitement. But as the singer geared up to write Godsmack's new album, he found he wasn't so angry anymore. He had a solid band, a stable career, a loving wife and a new baby daughter. Suddenly life just didn't seem so sucky.
"I found myself writing and not really knowing what to write about," Erna said. "I did so much of that angry stuff with the 'go away's and the 'stay away's, and now I don't feel like I'm at that point in my life anymore. I found myself being inspired by new things."
Since he's effectively purged his system — at least for the time being — Erna decided to title Godsmack's new album Releasing the Demons, which is tentatively slated for release in April (see "Godsmack's Erna Releases Details On New LP, Drummer").
"The title is very personal to me," he said. "I'm talking about my experience of having all this animosity and hatred and pain built up inside of you and finding a way to open up your insides and let everything out. I think it's something that everybody experiences at one point in their life. They find hope and they kind of start with a clean slate."
In addition to altering his lyrical focus on songs like "Straight Out of Line" and "I Stand Alone," which was used on the soundtrack to The Scorpion King, Erna is approaching Godsmack's music from a slightly different direction.
"In order to expand and move into different places in your life, you have to be willing to work with change and expand," he said. "I don't want to write the same way all the time. The changes we made with 'I Stand Alone' are a pretty good indication of what the new record's going to sound like. It's still tough, it's still Godsmack, but it's expanding a little bit musically and melodically."
Erna wrote one song, "Serenity," after reading Rush drummer Neil Peart's book "Ghost Rider," which chronicles Peart's period of despair and recovery following the deaths of his daughter and wife (see "Rush Drummer Breaks Silence About Family Tragedy In New Book").
"[The deaths] happened over a 10-month period, so he just decided to travel," Erna said. "He jumped on his motorcycle and within 14 months drove 55,000 miles across the world. The book is just so amazing. [It details] his experience about healing himself on the road and it just inspired me to write this song, which is kind of dark and very tribal, kind of like 'Voodoo.' "
In addition to writing and recording the new Godsmack record, Erna is continuing work on his autobiography, which he hopes to release sometime next year. Just don't expect traditional tales of rock star decadence and debauchery.
"The book is basically just my life from the time I was born until Godsmack started," he said. "I wanted to write about the whole experience of trying to get there, and hopefully that will inspire some people that maybe are still in the ghettos or trying to dig their way out of a hole. I mean, we're all human and we weren't born rock stars. So I think there's an interesting story to tell of the pain and struggling. You know, being poor and being raised in crazy neighborhoods. If kids can see that they’ll be able to relate to anything they have a dream for."