Aaron Lewis Talks "Town Line," Alice In Chains, Christmas and George Jones
Nashville is a town built on stories.
Legendary country music producer,
founder and session drummer James Stroud
has a million of them. Whether he's sharing a hilarious tale of Mel Tillis
madness or relaying a detailed anecdote about a studio where Johnny Cash
recorded, Stroud exudes a warmth and wisdom that's comforting.
Driving away from his Loud
Recordings studio, he gazes out the window of his black SUV towards Staind
frontman Aaron Lewis
. Stroud sums him up with one simple statement: "Aaron's a music-making son of a gun."
know—having worked with everyone from Hank Williams, Jr.
and Willie Nelson
to Shania Twain
, Reba McEntire
and Toby Keith
. However, Aaron's got a raw and rugged honesty that instantly appealed to Stroud, and they're both about to light a fire under country music's proverbial tail…
That fire fuels
[Due out this February], Aaron's debut solo offering, Town Line
, sees the Staind singer soaring to heights of timeless Americana. Country accompaniment seamlessly strengthens new songs like "Massachusetts" and "Vicious Circles", which brandish a sensitively dark edge that's unique to Aaron. Town Line
comes to life with the same unbridled urgency that made Staind one of the most important hard rock bands of the 21st century, while adding a catchy country twang. It's already the first essential album of 2011 and bound to be remembered as a classic.
For Aaron it's about pushing
himself to the edge constantly. While he's playing a piano in Nashville's Gibson showroom, he looks at Stroud with a devilish grin, "I can make music with anything, bro."
Stroud chuckles, "We don't use 'bro' down here. We use
the Hank Williams Jr. 'Brother'."
Even though Aaron hails from
Massachusetts and Stroud's a true Southern gentlemen, these two are like long lost musical "brothers." Take one listen to Town Line
's first single, "Country Boy" [Available on iTunes December 7]. It's a clever and candid autobiographical number in the tradition of Johnny Cash and Hank Jr. Plus, it's got an extra kick courtesy of George Jones, Charlie Daniels
and Chris Young
Aaron continues a
proud Nashville tradition with Town Line
, and his stories will resound for ages to come. Watching him track a song with Stroud smiling was an unforgettable moment. As Aaron strummed a warm acoustic melody and Stroud nodded, there was something just as magnificent, massive and magical as "It's Been Awhile" or "Outside" happening in that room.
Standing in the studio,
Stroud goes on, "Aaron is real. Let me tell you about real. He's very deep. We could be in the studio, and if his wife or his kids call, everything stops. That's the most important thing to him. His love of the country, love of patriotism, love of our service people and love of the constitution is real. Then there's his love for music. Here's the thing about Aaron. If it's good and emotional, he's going to love it. I've watched him. The one thing he doesn't like is take our art and cheapen it, and I love him for that. That's what I mean by real. He's a friend of mine for life."
While in Nashville finishing up
, Aaron Lewis spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor
author Rick Florino about making the record cohesive, the tale of "It's Been Awhile," hearing Alice in Chains
for the first time and his take on Christmas.At the solo acoustic shows, you tell a story prefacing
"It's Been Awhile" about how no one initially paid attention when you used to play it in bars before Staind started. Now, it's the most played rock song of the decade. Can you describe the journey of that particular song?
It's a true story! Every time I played "It's Been Awhile," it
was like I'd start the song and everybody would be paying attention, waiting and listening. Then, they'd start another conversation, they'd go to the bathroom or they'd leave the bar. It was a little bit disheartening, but I laugh about it now. Did the song basically stay the same over time?
a line might change a bit every time I sang it. I'd just make it up every night. It was pretty much the same song though. It's basically exactly what I play at the solo acoustic shows. That's how the song was written before Staind put all of their magic on top of it. Has the meaning of "It's Been Awhile"
remained constant for you? Do fans often share moments that song has resonated with them?
It's a song of reflection. It's something that I see and
hear a lot. I see 18- to 22-year-old kids with their parents at the show, waiting afterwards and thanking me for reconnecting them with each other. It's pretty cool. I feel like if it was all over tomorrow, I did something in life to make a difference for some people. So, I'm good with it. For you, how
similar are country music and hard rock? Do they come from the same attitude?
Some of it; they're both a little bit rebellious. They have
that kind of dangerous bad image to them.Did the genres appeal to you
on an emotional level in the same way?
At different points of my
life, they did. I don't know that country would've hit me the same way at
18-years-old as it did at 26-years-old. I rediscovered it on the bus with Kid Rock during our very first Staind tour.When did you first hear Alice
It was the Lollapalooza they were on. Rage Against the Machine
played at 11:30 in the morning. Tool played at like two in the afternoon, and Alice In Chains was on at like four or five that day. It's crazy! It was a good show. They were all so young then. I believe it was at Great Woods in Mansfield,
MA [Now the Tweeter Center].What grabbed you about Alice In
It was the vocals and the harmonies. It was Layne's uncaring,
stoic persona up there. He stood there with those big fly glasses on and the black leather jacket holding the microphone and the stand with one hand on each. That was it
for the whole set. Every single song they played was awesome.
There wasn't one that didn't stand out. They fucking killed it.You've had a similar path balancing acoustic and heavy
music.Jar of Flies
and all of that is great.Had
you found Tool around the same time? You break them down acoustically perfectly.
Yeah, I discovered Tool around that same time as well. I've always
been a huge fan from the first time I heard "Sober." "Sober" was my gateway into them. I guess I can break it down [Laughs]. I'm really good at simplifying things—especially music. I'm really good at making it so I can play it.Did you have an entire vision for Town Line from the get-go
or did it all come together in the studio?
The country accompaniment
threaded all of the songs together to make them cohesive. They've all been kicking around long before they came out in a country manner. For a few years down this whole road of discussing putting out a solo record, I was talking about putting out a solo record that was more along the lines of a male Portishead. I'm sure that I'll still do that at some point. Maybe for the next record, there'll be a version that's country, there'll be a version that's male Portishead and there'll be a version that's Ministry—just programmed, filthy and dirty. I don't know [Laughs].Was George Jones always in mind for the
Devil in "Country Boy?"
[Laughs] I felt like George—in his perfect
suits all the time and everything else—was completely the perfect character. It's that satin-y, silky smooth voice. As soon as he opens his mouth and starts
singing, you know it's him. It's amazing.With Christmas coming up,
what's your take on the Holidays?
They're always good…I always eat
too much, and I never get what I want [Laughs]. It's the same story with everybody.
Watch the video for "Country Boy" here
check out our last interview with Aaron here
and a review
of the acoustic show in El Cajon!
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