By Caroline Fontein
STAIND frontman Aaron Lewis returns to his country roots with the release of his new solo single “Country Boy” featuring legends George Jones and Charlie Daniels. Fans in Vegas will get a chance to hear this and other songs off Lewis’s new five-song solo album “Town Line” at his 8 p.m. show on Jan. 28 at Aliante Station. The new album is slated to be released March 1 on the Nashville-based Stroudavarius Records. Tickets start at $29.
Lewis’s country-inspired solo album is a departure from what fans are used to hearing from him as the lead singer and guitarist for STAIND. He may be dabbling in a new genre, but going country for Lewis has a different definition than what you might think. He’s not about to put on a cowboy hat, but elements of his sound have changed from what he does with STAIND.
“When I decided to do this acoustic thing, and I wanted to steer it in a different direction, it seemed like a natural progression for me to add more acoustic instruments to it like the dobro and add some pedal steel, and it just fit,” said Lewis.
For the Massachusetts native, performing acoustic and singing songs about where he grew up and who he is means going country. Listeners get a taste of that in his new single where he sings, “A country boy is all I’ll ever be.”
“I’m not saying a country recording artist is all I’ll ever be. I’m saying that just like the guys in Sevendust, just like the guys in Black Stone Cherry, just like Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains, just like Les Claypool from Primus, we all live in the country, and we’re all country by definition. Are we country artists? Who knows? That will remain to be seen, but I was just following my heart,” said Lewis.
While he’s pursuing a solo career Lewis is also at work recording a new album with his band STAIND. The group formed in Springfield, Mass. in 1995 and released their major label debut “Dysfunction” in 1999. The group’s second album “Break the Cycle” was released in 2001 and featured the hit singles “It’s Been Awhile,” “Fade,” “Outside,” “For You” and “Epiphany.” The album sold more than seven million copies worldwide. The follow-up album “14 Shades of Grey,” released in 2003, debuted at No. 1 on the Bilboard 200 and contained the chart-topping singles “Price to Pay” and “So Far Away.”
The group has recorded six studio albums during the past 15 years and has sold more than 15 million records. During that time Lewis has earned three Grammy nominations for his writing ability.
VEGAS.com had a chance to talk to the multitalented performer about his upcoming show, his new album and STAIND.
Your new album explores more of a country sound than what people are used to hearing from you in STAIND. What inspired you to move in that direction with this solo album?
“Honestly, it stems back to the way I always write. I’ve always written on an acoustic guitar, and when I decided to do this acoustic thing and I wanted to steer it in a different direction, it seemed like a natural progression for me to add more acoustic instruments to it like the dobro and add some pedal steel, and it just fit. It fit for me a lot more than any other options would have, and I really didn’t want to make it a STAIND light record. I felt like if I kept the rock ‘n’ roll quality to it, that it would just be an album full of light STAIND songs, and I didn’t want to do that and you know it fits me. The statement that I make in the song when I say, ‘A country boy is all I’ll ever be,’ I’m not saying a country recording artist is all I’ll ever be I’m saying that just like the guys in Sevendust, just like the guys in Black Stone Cherry, just like Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains, just like Les Claypool from Primus, we all live in the country and we’re all country by definition. Are we country artists? Who knows? That will remain to be seen, but I was just following my heart.”
What other messages do you want people to hear when they listen to this album?
“Just real. Heartfelt. It couldn’t be more real. Someone isn’t writing this stuff for me. I write it all myself. I sit on my couch or I sit on the steps in front of my house, and I write it all myself…This is the most I’ve ever put myself on a personal level, like ‘Country Boy’ is my story. That is completely and totally autobiographical in every last detail. There isn’t an embellishment. There isn’t a bending of the truth. There isn’t anything. It is as true to my life as I could have possibly written the song… It’s not about being a country artist, it’s about coming from the countryside, it’s from growing up in the sticks. It’s from where I choose to live now when I could live anywhere that I wanted to in the entire country I choose to live in this tiny little town where I know everybody. It’s my choice, and I’m going back to my roots.”
What are some of the other songs on the album?
“There’s another song on the album called ‘The Story Never Ends’ and that is kind of the groundhog day that I’m trapped in. It’s about coming home to where I feel home and where it feels right and getting there and before I even know it I have to leave again, and you know that cycle. There’s a song on there called ‘Vicious Circles,’ which is a song about relationships, and it’s a more honest depiction of relationships where you know it’s not all roses and sunshine. Then there’s a song ‘Tangled Up in You,’ which was on the last STAIND record… [The record company] allowed me to re-record it again and change it up again and put it on my solo record. Then the final song on the EP is called ‘Massachusetts’ and I mean that’s pretty self-explanatory, it’s where I’m from.”
Is writing new music something that you’re always doing?
“Honestly, I have to force myself not to because a lot of times I’m not in a situation where I can, you know, put it down and record it and remember it. So a lot of times I just stuff all the ideas back down and hope they come back up again… I can’t even tell you how many songs I’ve lost like that. The whole entire song, lyrics, music and everything was going through my head and all I had to do was get it down, and it’s gone.”
Is there anything different you find with performing for audiences in Vegas versus in other locations?
“Nah, the venues are also relatively the same and they’re nice small venues, and they’re very intimate. You know it’s usually not the bigger more, you know, those bigger casino Vegas types of things isn’t usually where everyone’s the craziest. It’s usually in the smaller cities when they’re more starving for a show, and that seems to be when it gets a little more out of control.”
What can people expect to hear from you at your upcoming show in Vegas?
“Well I’ve got my bus driver coming with me to play along with me. He’s actually in the video. He’s the guy playing the dobro in the entire record, and he drives my tour bus. So he’ll be there to make me sound like I’m better than I am.”
While you’re on tour with your solo album, what’s going on with STAIND during that time?
“Honestly, we’re in the studio right now recording another record. All mixed into me trying to support this solo endeavor and everything else, I’m in the studio recording another record with my band because, you know, I can’t allow myself to have an easy schedule, that would be sacrilege.”
What is the band working on for the next STAIND album?
“Oh it’s heavy. It’s heavy. You know especially now that I’ve kind of picked the path to go down with my solo stuff and not wanting to create a situation where the stuff that was coming out solo and the stuff that might be on a STAIND record were similar. So we are steering clear of any ideas that come out of us that might be of the more poppy or mellow nature, and we’re concentrating on this being a very in-your-face and heavy record.”
What is it like when you are not on tour performing?
“So unbelievably, disappointingly normal. You know that’s why I come home to this small town because nobody cares. Everybody lives here because they want their privacy and because they want space between them and their neighbors. This is a small town. There’s like 1,200 people in this town and this town was established as a town before the Declaration of Independence even happened and it really hasn’t changed that much over the years… There’s a lot of history here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way… I’m about the furthest from a celebrity that you can possibly be when I’m home.”
Is it hard to adjust to normal life when you’re not on tour?
“You kind of get into a pattern of we’re basically gypsies. In the rock world you’re out on tour for 18 months straight and your feet never really even get to hit the ground. To be able to come back to come home to the complete polar opposite it’s nice, but it does take a little adjusting. When I’m out on the road I don’t have to get up in the morning to make the girls breakfast and make them lunch for school and take them off to school. That’s my routine in the morning… I’m pretty boringly normal, but that’s why I don’t live in Los Angeles or in New York City or in any of these big cities where life wouldn’t change quite so much when I got home.”