Known as the bellowing frontman for alternative metal band Staind, Aaron Lewis shocked many when he released the Town Line EP earlier this year. Not only did it feature Lewis singing a collection of country-influenced songs, but the singer was insistent the project was not a one-shot endeavor.
Fans of Staind were appeased in September, when the band released its self-titled seventh effort, which found the group returning to a simpler, more aggressive sound. It proved Lewis still wanted a place on the darker side of the musical spectrum.
Speaking from his home in Massachusetts, in anticipation of Staind's performance Thursday at the House of Blues, Lewis addressed going back and forth between country and rock and his political preference for Texas' own Ron Paul.
What possessed you to make a country album? I don't know. It was just in me. There's more country coming. It's the first music that I was ever exposed to. It was when I was a kid and my grandfather was a huge country music fan and I heard it a lot. My grandfather was a big part of my life. It was "Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glen Campbell when I was four years old. Country music is a part of me. It certainly reflects my lifestyle. I live out in the middle of nowhere in a town of 1,200 people. I've got chickens and a house pig. I deer hunt and I fish. I really don't do many things that require a city.
You have a house pig? Yes.
What's its name? William.
Is he well trained? We're getting there. He's pretty good. He's a lot smarter than a dog, but that means he's a lot more mischievous, too.
Were you worried that fans of Staind would be turned off by a country record? Well, the fans of my heavier stuff still have Staind. That's the beauty of it all. I haven't walked away from Staind in order to have a country career. I've just kind of done something else along with it.
You've released Town Line, an EP's worth of country material. Are you working on a full length? I was actually just in the studio so that, at the beginning of the year, Town Line can be re-released as a full length. I just recorded six more songs. Now that my management is solid, we are going to re-release it. When I first released Town Line, I had let one management company go, hired a manager that didn't work out. It was only three months ago, tops, that I finally acquired a proper manager. Now, things can start rolling the way they need to. Town Line as a full length is going to have all sorts of extra, bonus stuff.
What if the record really takes off commercially? Would that make it harder to go back and make a Staind record? No, not at all. There's still that side of me that has to get out. There's still a need for that outlet, especially from a psychological perspective.
The self-titled seemed a bit heavier than previous efforts. We just went back to where we began. We felt that The Illusion of Progress was the final leap in a direction that wasn't the direction when we started. It made us feel that we had stepped far enough away from where we began. We felt that we should probably come around full circle. We wanted to go back refreshed and reinvigorated. We've been together for almost 18 years. Some time and some water has gone under the bridge, I assure you.
Have you thought about writing a memoir? No, I am not that interesting. I'm pretty normal.
Staind has sold over 15 million albums. What about the band's music has allowed it to connect to a large audience? I don't know. I certainly know that I can connect with the fans at a lyrical level. I think that we're just lucky and blessed. We have an amazing fan base that is extremely loyal. We have some of the most die-hard fans that any band could ever ask for. They have kept us here. It's not the machine. From the time you start a band, the machine is trying to grind you up and spit you out. It's the fans that keep you here. Once you've been introduced into the machine, it's entirely up to the fans to keep you there.
I know that you are a big fan of Pantera. How did the death of Dimebag Darrell impact you? He is a dear friend who is no longer with us. Every show that I can ever remember playing in Dallas, Vinnie and Darrell were there. I have found it strange playing in Dallas and feeling like someone was missing.
How do you respond to criticism of the song "Country Boy" as being too stereotypical of people from the country? Listen, there is a story behind that. "Country Boy" is the first song I ever sat down and thought I was going to write as a country song. It was about me playing acoustic guitar and finding a way to express it as a country song. In my writing process, in a tongue and cheek manner, I did use a lot of the clichéd phrases and stuff. But here is the difference: I wrote the fucking song. It is 100 percent completely accurate to my life. Some fucking guy with a creative mind didn't come up with this song for a guy who could sing well, but who couldn't write a song to save his life. The song is completely about my life in every way, shape and form. All of those clichés actually apply to me.
Many country fans are pretty conservative. Do you think they would like the song's reference to smoking weed? All you have to do is talk with me for about ten minutes and realize that I am quite conservative. When there are people out there who will sit around and drink beer every single night that are criticizing me about smoking weed every now and then, I think you will find that I am more conservative than they are. What I do in the privacy of my home is my business and no one else's.
Who do you support for the Republican nomination for President? I like what Rick Santorum is saying, but there's nobody on the podium right now that stays truer to our Constitution than Ron Paul. Hopefully, he will figure out how to express himself a little bit better to the masses. He is the one guy who adheres to and preaches about the Constitution. That is the document that binds us all. It's the document that created this country. It's the document created by some of the smartest men that this world has ever known. It gave us all the same opportunities and rights. Ron Paul is the only one, with everything he says, that adheres to the Constitution.
Staind performs Thursday, December 15, at the House of Blues.