Metal singer Aaron Lewis finds second home in country music

Vernell Hackett
Reuters Middle East

* Staind singer Lewis releases country album, "The Road"

* Some Staind fans left scratching their heads

* Process the same for making country or metal music: Lewis

NASHVILLE, Tennessee, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Aaron Lewis stands

as one of the more unusual crossovers into country music, but

the singer of the metal band Staind believes it was a fit made

in the cradle.

"It's been quite the pleasant eclectic mix of tattoos and

black eyeliner, and Stetsons, cowboy boots and big shiny

buckles," Lewis said in an interview after the release of his

first full-length country studio album, "The Road," this week.

Lewis, 40, was raised on what he terms his grandfather's

country music: Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Charlie Daniels and

George Jones. He collaborated with Daniels and Jones on his

country EP, "Town Line," released last year.

This made the transition from the angst-ridden world of

metal to the laid-back country scene an easy step for him, but

perhaps not so much for his head-banging fans.

"A few fans are really having a hard time with it," Lewis

said. "I can't make everyone happy. Music is about making me

happy first. For those who wish I would stick with Staind,

they'll get what they want, too."

Lewis, who sold seven studio albums over a 17-year career

with Staind, says he has two musical careers because he is

"creatively bipolar" and suffers from attention deficit


"I need to switch it up a little bit," he said. "It's kind

of nice to write a song about taking my daughters to the beach

instead (of) about something that's tearing me apart from the


For Lewis, each song on "The Road" is the opportunity to

explore his creativity in music, while winding down a road

filled with new country listeners and taking Staind fans along

for the ride.

"The Road" includes "Forever," a thoughtful song of life on

the road, and "Endless Summer," a simple track about digging up

clams and casting for striped bass with his daughters.

"If we catch a keeper we throw it on the grill," he says.

"The beauty of the adventure that I'm on now is I can write

songs about stuff like that. I could never bring a song like

that to the table for Staind."

He describes writing "Endless Summer" as a "refreshing and a

nice change" from his metal past.

"I remember having a big smile on my face the whole time I

was writing it," he said. "In the past, what's usually coming up

for lyrics is not smiley material. The song wrote itself in 10


In contrast, "Party in Hell," which has fans up and dancing,

was the last song Lewis wrote for the album and was inspired by

a stint in Las Vegas.

"Las Vegas really is, in a metaphorical sense, a party in

hell; you can get into anything you want to," he said. "It was

like well, 'OK, I'm going to hell, who else is going to be

there? We might as well have a party with it.'"


His previous country EP, "Town Line," featured the

gold-selling single "Country Boy," a collaboration with Daniels

and Jones that hit the top of the "Billboard" album charts and

topped off at No. 7 on the Top 200.

"That's crazy, right?" Lewis asks, shaking his head. "It was

pretty amazing for me, pretty surreal. I was actually in the

studio with Charlie, which was a lot of fun. We have become good


The writing process for country or rock is the same,

according to Lewis.

"The music is always first, then the melody, and the lyrics

third," he said. "I need the music to know what the landscape is

that I'm singing over, and I need the melody to fit the words

in, and then the words come last."

But the lyrics do not come while he is writing on a piece of

paper. "They come with me standing in front of a microphone with

the song playing in the background and singing," he said. "It's

total improv, right off the cuff."

As with recording, Lewis does not approach a rock

performance differently from a country performance.

"I go out on stage and perform those songs I recorded to the

best of my ability to sound just like the recording," he said.

"I have always tried to approach every show like it's the only

show that I have. That's kind of how I've gone about this crazy

career I've had now coming up on 15 years."

(Reporting by Vernell Hackett; Editing by Christine Kearney and

Lisa Von Ahn)

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