When you hear the name Sully Erna, it's not a surprise if you picture the Godsmack frontman jumping on bars, acting like a maniac and living up to the image of a heavy metal rocker. Erna himself admits that in the early days of the band, that's what his life was.
But now 42 and raising a daughter, the prolific songwriter wanted to try something new and reflect more of who he is today.
"It was important for me to show who I am now. When I am home, I'm not a guy who is banging shots and drinking beers all night and standing on the bar and being a maniac," Erna said. "I have those moments, but I also have moments where I want to lie on the couch with a comforter and eat chicken soup and watch movies and just be in my sweat pants all day and be mellow. I wanted to reflect that in my music."
With that in mind, Erna created an eclectic composition called "Avalon" that combines hypnotic sounds of tribal rhythms, melodic instruments and haunting vocals. Erna describes his new sound as earthly and eclectic, where you can go sit down, have a glass of wine and be moved through the music.
"The goal is to try and touch people on an emotional level," he said. "It's built off seven other world-class musicians. I have a classically trained cello player from Bulgaria, one of the original guys from Dead Can Dance, who came over from Ireland; and Lisa Guyer, who has a four-octave bluesy background voice. It's very cool and different."
Godsmack is known for being a big powerful rock band, but his new venture offers almost an entire 180-degree pivot.
"I was a very young, angry boy at the time as I was writing a lot of that stuff but I've grown so much over the last 15 years," Erna said. "This big machine like Godsmack really built my career, but through that birthed this beautiful side of me that I knew was always there but I just had to tap into at some point."
Although he won't go as far as comparing "Avalon" to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of The Moon," Erna does want to convey the same gift of music.
"Back in the day, when Pink Floyd did 'Dark Side of the Moon' and those sort of records, it was an experience," he said. "You put the record on, and you would never put the needle in the middle of the album. You would start at the beginning and play the whole record. That's what I feel like 'Avalon' is -- a musical journey down the rabbit hole and it really touches you on an emotional level."
Those wanting to see Erna's new musical journey can go to the Klein Memorial Auditorium on May 18. But don't go expecting his Godsmack alter-ego to be present.
"It's going to be a very distinct departure from Godsmack," Erna said. "This is not about pyro and all the bells and whistles and who can jump higher off the drum rise and things like that. This is a very kind of seductive, beautiful, scenic, cinematic kind of show."
Not that fans of his band won't appreciate this music. Erna has already seen a great deal of Godsmack followers embrace the album.
"Of course there will always be the knuckleheads who can't accept any type of music but metal. ... but for sure, it's drawing a different demographic of people, but also the fan base I had," he said. "If history has taught up anything, it's that sometimes very beautiful things come out of something very dark."
Erna knows a thing or two about being dark. In 2007, the singer released the memoir "The Paths We Choose," which chronicled his troublemaking ways up until he started with Godsmack 15 years ago.
"Avalon" took more than a year to record and spent another year on the shelves as Erna tried to find the right time to put it out.
"It kind of piggybacked on the back of Godsmack's latest record and that's really what I didn't want because it's very different and I don't want people to misunderstand that this isn't me doing a rock record on the side," he said. "So, I'm not really sure if, strategically, we did this right."
Godsmack's "The Oracle" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, becoming the band's third straight album to do so. The band has been very supportive of Erna's solo effort.
"They all wished me luck and we have gotten through a lot of difficult times with much difficult problems through the years," Erna said. "They may wonder if this thing goes, will Godsmack be done, but I have reassured them that I have no reason to kill Godsmack. That would be stupid for me to do. It's not only my bread and butter, but it's the other side that I need. I would only be half a man if I didn't have both." By KEITH LORIA/Stamford Times
Tickets for Sully Erna at the Calvin Theatre, Northampton on Saturday, June 11th at 8PM are available at Northampton Box Office, 413-586-8686 and online at IHEG.com.