WABASH — No one could come up with a better title for a record than what Aaron Lewis gave to his latest country EP.
The aptly-titled “The Road” chronicles exactly that from Lewis, his second foray into the country music world, but a trail that led him through his childhood to the music world he currently is on top of today.
Lewis has certainly grown quite a bit from the country roots of his musical origins, but looking to return to the simple ways of the time.
Making his mark as the frontman for the hard rock outfit, Staind, Lewis is part of the band that has three number one hits, eight top-ten singles and the most played song of the 2000s, “It’s Been Awhile.” Old school Staind fans know Lewis is brutally honest in his approach, from his disposition to his upfront lyrics.
Samples such as “Keep it all down, bottled inside, it breaks me,” from the Staind song “Change” from the “Break The Cycle” record, which also features the mega-hits “It’s Been Awhile” and “Outside”, but also a gripping “Waste” track which deals with a child’s suicide presented to Lewis by the mother of the child.
While Lewis’ direction isn’t nearly as tormenting on “The Road”, he doesn’t shy away from penning the voice he wishes to have heard.
“Literally the opening lines of “State Lines” are about the way this record was written,” Lewis said over the phone last Thursday, sitting outside of a radio station in Long Island. “It talks about going from Texas to Nashville while I was on tour with Staind to record from a Tuesday to a Wednesday, then fly back to wherever Staind was at the next night.
“I recorded the record in 30 hours, writing lyrics in between shows, it all was from scratch,” Lewis continued.
“State Lines” offers that feel Lewis has earmarked as his niche in musical history. Just as he presented in the smash hit, “Country Boy”, off his first EP “Town Line” in 2011, Lewis tells it like it is, politically correct or not.
Even his descriptions of the video making progress for the single, “Endless Summer” offers the unique mindset of a lead singer who isn’t afraid to call it straight.
“That car pissed me off,” quipped Lewis about the 1968 Cutlass 442 the directors offered to use, despite Lewis’ demands to drive a 1967 442, which is penned into the song. “I took one look at it and knew it was a ’68, not a ’67. It’s just supposed to go along with the song, and it’s not right. But what do you do?”
The video, which is shot in Rhode Island, depicts the unfolding of the Lewis’ family trips to the coast and the life the family man has come to enjoy. He even refers to his three daughters – Zoe, Nyla and Indie – singing along to Jason Aldean in the car, and “it’s not a Miley Cyrus song.”
Staind fans, who were mixed in reception to “Town Line” as a whole but were forgiving with “Country Boy”, have continued the mixed reaction to “The Road.” Country music, however, has embraced the singer’s prose very well. “Country Boy” went Gold, earning Country Music Association, Academy of Country Music and Country Music Television music award nominations and the video has streamed over 15 million times. “The Road” has already debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard Country Albums charts, led by the first single, “Forever.”
“This is a trial by fire, that’s for sure,” Lewis said of crossing over genres. “A lot of the Staind fans wish they could hit the rewind button. Some have shown negativity, but a lot of the fans are really enjoying it. You’ve got to expand your musical spectrum.”
When asked how the country shows have carried on in nature, notably against the solo acoustic tours Lewis did in the past few years, the reaction has been expected.
“The obnoxiousness, the yelling, that all became part of the show,” Lewis said of the acoustic shows. “I never had a set list, no real plan going into a show. People would yell out songs, it was awesome. Wherever I went, that was the model. It was the fuel that allowed me to be funny.
“What happens now is there is a setlist, and a backlash, now people think it is OK. I have a setlist and two records-worth of material. I’m not going to play any Staind songs. If you yell out those songs, I am going to call you out and point out that you are making a fool of yourself and you are an idiot. Nowhere on the marquee does it say Staind. I wrote a country record, and that is what I am out here promoting.”
Lewis will be playing the Honeywell Center in Wabash this Thursday night, show starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available, visit honeywellcenter.org for more information.