When Aaron Lewis, known primarily as the voice leading hard-rock rock quartet Staind, decided to give country music a try, he knew that it was going to be an uphill battle.
“Going into this, the odds are kind of stacked against you, as an artist who has established himself in one genre and then tries a different genre. It’s usually a recipe for disaster, but this has gone very well,” Lewis said. “The country traditionalists were all lined up and ready to take their shots at me, but now they have all come around and done a 180.
Lewis said he felt right at home working alongside two of the genres biggest legends — Charlie Daniels and George Jones on “Country Boy” from his 2011 EP “Town Line.”
“When the time came for me to change up what I was doing and re-inspire myself creatively, the only thing that I could really turn to that was still totally part of who I was ... was country. The soundtrack to my childhood is old, outlaw country,” Lewis said. “My grandfather, from the moment that somebody woke up in the house until the moment the last person went to bed, country was on.”
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Country music has transcended its traditional fanbase and latched onto the mainstream’s consciousness, creating a sonic hybrid with intertwining genre roots.
“It could be argued that country music is having such a surge because it’s not frickin’ country music,” Lewis said. “It’s way more pop-derived than it is anything else. Somehow this formula has become pop-chord progressions, and if you add a little pedal steel here or there, then it’s country. Well, I don’t subscribe to that book. I’m too old to think that’s country.”
Staind recorded some punishingly hard music, but the band also has some softer hits that segue into Lewis’ solo country work. Songs like “Outside” and “It’s Been Awhile” highlight Lewis’ vocal talent and shows that the difference between Staind and the material found on either “Town Line” or 2012’s “The Road” isn’t that drastic.
“If you take the songs from Staind over the years that I wrote and then brought to the band and had them season it with everything that I don’t have in my bag, those are all songs that I wrote on my couch with my acoustic guitar and are songs that I could play live acoustically,” Lewis said. “I’m not really reinventing the wheel, I’m just using a different box of crayons to color it in.”
“There are songs that my longtime rock fans will probably appreciate and then there will be songs that are probably a little bit too country for them,” Lewis said, comparing his two fanbases. “Then there’s songs from Staind that the country crowd that I’m playing to can appreciate, and I’m sure that there are songs from Staind that would be too heavy for them. ... I can’t make everybody happy and I’d be a fool to try.”