Music News & Reviews

Aaron Lewis stays true to traditional country roots

Aaron Lewis will perform at the Cotillion at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Aaron Lewis will perform at the Cotillion at 8 p.m. Thursday. Courtesy photo

It’s been more than two years since Aaron Lewis released his current country album, “The Road.” But don’t expect a new album from him this year.

“I kind of missed my window of opportunity to get it out this year,” Lewis said in a mid-February phone interview. “The last thing in the world I want to do is put out a record in the fourth quarter.”

The fourth quarter would be fall, and that’s the time when many of the biggest-selling artists release albums so they’ll have new music available in time for Christmas shoppers. Unless you’re a household name, a fall release is a good way to have a new album get lost in the shuffle.

So Lewis is aiming for the first half of 2016 to release the album, even though he could go into the studio tomorrow if necessary.

“It’s all written, and it’s ready to go,” he said. “I’ve just got to go into the studio and actually fully record it.”

In fact, Lewis said he probably will perform songs that are earmarked for the new album on his full-band tour this winter and spring.

“I have a tendency to throw in songs that are written that haven’t been recorded yet, so I’m sure there will be quite a few songs in there that are going to be on the next record,” Lewis said.

Whenever the new album arrives, it will be in the same stylistic vein as Lewis’ debut EP, 2011’s “Town Line,” and the full-length “The Road.”

“It’s more good, old-fashioned traditional country – something that I feel like the country genre needs desperately,” Lewis said. “There ain’t much country in it at the moment.”

Indeed, Lewis is one of only a handful of contemporary artists in today’s rocked-up, low-twang era for mainstream country whose music sounds at all rooted in the classic country of Merle Haggard, George Jones or other artists of the 1960s and ’70s. That situation is rather ironic considering that Lewis has more rock credentials – and rock credibility – than virtually any of today’s stars who are amping up country with a big dose of rock.

He is the lead singer and one of the songwriters in Staind, one of the more popular hard rock/metal bands of the past dozen years.

Beginning with its third album, 2001’s “Break the Cycle,” Staind had three straight albums top the “Billboard” magazine album chart (2003’s “14 Shades of Grey” and 2005’s “Chapter V” were the others). The two albums that followed, “The Illusion of Progress” (2008) and “Staind” (2011), were also significant successes.

With his background, Lewis would seem more than capable of writing songs that would fit on mainstream country music. Lewis, though, is emphatic about staying true to his traditional country roots.

His terse response to whether he thinks about writing radio-suitable songs when he makes an album said it all: “(Expletive) no. I’m not going to let radio destroy my music.”

Instead, Lewis is proud to be seen as one of the most traditional of today’s country artists. And even in a genre where careers are usually built around having hit singles, he is finding he can have a viable solo career even though his highest charting single has been “Endless Summer.” That song (from “The Road” album) peaked at No. 39 on the country singles chart.

“I’ll tell you, all of those artists that are desperately depending on country radio playing their songs don’t sell any more tickets than I do – until you get into like the top ones that sell out arenas and things of that size,” Lewis said.

Lewis came to his country music sound honestly. Growing up in Massachusetts, he was immersed in traditional country.

“Traditional country music was what my childhood soundtrack was,” he said. “My grandfather was a huge country music fan, and the radio, the music was on all the time, always, always, always, from the time that people woke up in the morning to the time that the last light got shut out. It was literally like the radio got shut off and the last light went out and everybody was in bed.”

Lewis figures to keep plugging away with his country career by touring extensively in 2015.

Although Staind toured last summer, the group is currently on hold. Lewis said Staind guitarist Mike Mushok has joined a new band fronted by former Three Days Grace singer Adam Gontier and will concentrate on that venture for now.

“We haven’t broken up. It’s not disbanded,” Lewis said of Staind. “He (Mushok) is just off doing what he’s doing and I’m doing what I’m doing.”

If you go

Aaron Lewis

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: The Cotillion, 11120 W. Kellogg

Tickets: $25-$28, and 316-722-4201