Aaron Lewis rose to fame as the front man of Staind. While with this outfit, Lewis poured his furious voice into a hard rock vertigo that quickly drew in the masses. As the first decade of the new millennium came to a close, Staind fans found Lewis touring nationwide as an acoustic solo act. His personal material turned out to be worlds away from the mayhem of Staind, as Lewis shaped his sound in pure country sensibilities.
In 2011, he released an EP called “Town Line,” and it was not long until he released his debut full-length “The Road.” When Lewis takes the BayFest stage, Staind fans who are unfamiliar with his solo work will be surprised by his new sound. However, Lewis is quickly becoming well-known figure in the country world, and judging from his conversation with Lagniappe, it seems as if he will never return to rock.
L: I saw where you just had your second golf tournament to benefit your It Takes a Community organization. I never knew you were an avid golfer.
AL: Yeah, and we won the tournament! That’s not supposed to happen. You’re not supposed to win your own tournament. So, we took our winnings and just donated right back to the charity, which was cool.
L: Tell me a little about It Takes a Community.
Courtesy of Aaron Lewis
AL I’ll try to nutshell it for you. We found ourselves in a situation with the school district that our town falls in. The school district decided that it would be better if they took five rural elementary schools, which were the hubs of their communities, and consolidate them into two. It left a lot of kids, including my own kids, with a bus ride of over an hour in each direction every morning to and from school. I wasn’t having it. I offered the things that I had done for It Takes a Community to the school district, and they didn’t take me seriously. They moved forward and decided to close the schools. Again, I wasn’t having it.
As the community of concerned parents with children who went to school there, we came together. With my financial help, we leased the school building, and we got the keys to the school at the end of July. On September 1, that school reopened. Mind you, the school district completely emptied the school of everything. If the chalkboards weren’t glued to the walls, then they would’ve taken them too. We restocked, refurnished, re-staffed and re-curriculumed that school. It opened without a hitch on September 1. It’s been open for four years. We have also done other projects, and we are branching out. What we would really like to ultimately do with It Takes a Community is to do what we have done for our school for other schools in rural areas that are faced with that plight. It’s not about the education of our kids anymore. It’s about tenure, unions and everything, except what really matters, which is the education of your children.
L: We spoke a few years ago, and you were just starting out doing your solo project. Here we are now, and you’re touring in support of your solo full-length “The Road.” After spending so many years touring and writing material, how does it feel to finally have “The Road” on the shelves?
AL: Well, you know, I had the material for a full album for the last record (“Town Line”). I was handcuffed by the contract that I was already in with my rock band. All I could get them to allow me to do was to put out an EP. Technically, I was still under the contract of Atlantic Records. So, I was lucky that I was able to put out that five-song EP, but I had a full record’s worth of material to record when I did it. It’s nice to have a full-length album — for those who just thought that I was just testing the waters saw that I followed it up with another one. They will also soon see that I’m following up with another one.
L: When you listen to “The Road,” it’s amazing, because you can definitely see that you have put the hard rock to the side. What it is about that pure country sound that you hear on that album that won you over from rock?
AL: It’s the first music that I ever heard in my life. I’m just going full-circle. I’m going back to where I started. My grandfather was a die-hard country music fan. If we were awake, then it was on. He was my babysitter, until we moved from Vermont. I was born in 1972, so the music that I was exposed to was Haggard and Cash and Jones and Hank, Jr. and Hank, Sr., and Charlie Daniels. It was the stuff coming out during that timeframe and earlier. Once I moved away from my grandfather in Vermont, country stayed there, and I stopped paying attention to it completely, until about 10 years ago or so. It started creeping back in, and I found myself wanting to turn to the country station when I was driving, instead of the rock channel. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was burnt out on rock radio. Rock radio was all that I had paid attention to throughout my whole career to that point.
I was burnt out on hearing how much the landscape had changed and how, even though we were still having success and having singles work well on radio, that the landscape had changed so much. It left us asking, “How do we even fit into this?” It just got to the point that I needed to get away from that. Country was the answer. It’s the one thing that I embraced that I felt that I was truly staying true to me. I wasn’t reinventing myself, and I was staying true to myself and not being disingenuous in any way. It was the first music that I ever heard. It’s the first music that I was ever exposed to.
I’m about as country as you can get, as far as a person. I’m so unabashedly and unapologetically all-American and American pride and powered in the Constitution. On top of that, I hunt, and I fish. I go four-wheeling and mudding. I like outdoors stuff. That’s been my whole life. It’s just the right fit. To be honest with you, I fit better in the country genre than in the rock genre. I’m an outspoken Constitutionalist conservative. I guess that I’m Libertarian in a lot of my views, as well. It’s like, “I’m not bothering or hurting you. What I do in my own time is my business.” Some conservatives would be like, “Whoa! Weren’t you on the cover of ‘High Times’ back in 2001.” Yeah, in that sense, I’m not that conservative, but you would be surprised at what views that I have that are conservative.
L: You’re still quite the hunter.
AL: I’ve got my own show! It’s called “On the Road.” It’s on multiple times a week on the Sportsman Channel.
L: Where are you hitting up this season?
AL: Well, I just left the hunting camp. We were in Texas, and it’s not deer season yet. We were at my buddy’s ranch chasing exotics around, which is always fun. I got plans for Ohio, Kansas and Missouri. I’m sure that there will be other stuff stuck in there too.
Band: Aaron Lewis
Date: Sat., Oct. 5 at 9 p.m.
Stage: AT&T/Southern Ford Dealers Stage