Smile Empty Soul

The best part about touring is playing great kick-ass fucking rock shows for kids that appreciate your music, and the worst part is missing people.


Smile Empty Soul formed in 1999 and was eventually signed to Thro-Back Records to begin work on their self-titled debut album. In 2003, the trio from Santa Clarita, California released their debut album and the rest is history. The band has already had one top 10 single (“Bottom of a Bottle”), and with the recent release of “Nowhere Kids,” another could be in the cards. Smile Empty Soul was recently voted as best new band by Fuse TV’s Rockzilla viewers’ poll and their self-titled album is vastly approaching 400,000 sold. Playback St. Louis caught up with vocalist/lyricist Sean Danielsen before Smile Empty Soul’s show at The Pageant on February 10.

When did you first realize you wanted to make music?
The minute I picked up a guitar. I started playing a guitar when I was 10 and once I learned a few chords, the first thing I did was start making up songs.

How did the guys in the band meet?
We were all playing in separate bands back in our hometown of Santa Clarita, which is actually in L.A., and there are a lot of bands that come out of L.A. Basically, just through people getting kicked out of their separate bands or people quitting, we slowly kind of morphed into the band that we are now.

How did you come up with the name of the band?
I made it up. It kind of represents society, as in how people are empty inside but walk around wearing a fake smile on their face.

Did you write all of the songs on the album?
Yeah, I write the basics of the song. Most of our songs come from an acoustic guitar; I’ll just be sitting on the couch, playing the acoustic, writing the guitar part and the lyrics and the melody. The guys write their parts, the drum and bass parts.

What are some of the musical influences of the band?
We’re all influenced by our own shit, but for me, it’s mostly ’90s grunge stuff. It’s what I grew up listening to.

What’s one of your favorite songs on the album?
It always changes; I don’t really listen to the record. The song I’m probably the most proud of is “Every Sunday.”

When and why did you make the song “This Is War?”
That song was written right before we invaded Iraq. I didn’t sit down to actually write a war song or anything, but I was watching a lot of news and that’s what was going on in the world, so the song just kind of came out.

Do you ever get negative feedback from people about that song?
It’s funny, because nobody has ever came up to me and been like, “Fuck that song” or “Fuck you guys for writing that song,” but people have came up thinking that it’s the opposite, thinking that it’s not sarcastic and literally gone, “Yeah, America” or “Yeah, war!” They’ll come up and I’ll be like, “Dude, it’s sarcastic.” You can tell that they’re shocked and then they will just walk away.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in the band?
Dead; I’d kill myself.

How has your life changed since the band got noticed and the first single became a hit?
It’s changed in every way. The minute you step on a tour bus and leave your house, every aspect of your life changes: the way you eat, the food you eat, where you are, how you sleep. There’s not one thing that stays the same, except who you are as a person.

What’s your favorite/least favorite part of touring?
The best part about touring is playing great kick-ass fucking rock shows for kids that appreciate your music, and the worst part is missing people.

What, if any, message do you hope fans get from your music?
I hope that they can relate to the lyrics and understand what the fuck I’m talking about.

On your Web site, your biography has a quote from you saying, “A great song never gets old, no matter what the trends are.” When you write a song, do you just let your feelings flow or do you think it has to be great?
I don’t think there’s any way to say I’m going to write a great song; you just kind of write what you write. But you try to make it the best that it can possibly be. To me, a great song has a huge affect on people, so I just try to do that every time.

Who’s your favorite band that you’ve had a chance to tour with?
Puddle of Mudd, man; those are my boys.

What’s in store for Smile Empty Soul?
We’re going to finish this tour up and then start the Sno-Core tour, which lasts a couple months. We’re going to do our own tour through the summer, take off for about a month, and then go into the studio in early 2005 and start our next record.

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