Staind's Aaron Lewis on Country Music: "It's Where I Am, Creatively"

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"Years ago, if you had told me I was going to record a country record, I would have laughed at you," says vocalist Aaron Lewis. But record a country album, he did. And it's been a hit so far.

Though he may be a relatively new face to country, Lewis has plenty of experience in the music industry as front man for brooding Massachussetts alt-rock band Staind. Now his work as a country artist has been receiving plenty of attention. Lewis' debut full-length The Road, which was released only two weeks ago, debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Country Charts, alongside heavy hitters such as Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood and Blake Shelton.

"The EP started with even better success," Lewis says of last year's Town Line, which debuted at No. 1. "It's always nice, at the end of a lot of hard work, recording and writing, to have something come out and do well."

The lead single off Town Line, "Country Boy," was actually the first country song Lewis ever wrote. But he grew up listening to his grandfather's country albums, including Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels and George Jones, so the influences were there, just waiting to be tapped. Lewis had the opportunity to work with Daniels and Jones on "Country Boy" as well.

"It was pretty amazing," Lewis says of the experience. "I got to spend some quality time with Charlie, and I'm proud and honored to say that Charlie is a friend of mine now, and we're always very happy to see each other when we run into each other as often as we do now."

If his career so far is any indication, the collaborations will keep on coming. Over the years, Lewis has been featured on quite a few different bands' records and songs, including Cold, Sevendust, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Korn and Jimmy's Chicken Shack.

"If it makes sense, I'm up for doing it," he says. "I've been really inspired to do this [country] stuff. It's where I am, creatively. The last Staind record took six months to do, and this country record only took about 30 hours."

Lewis has promised that Staind will return, but says he is writing music from a much happier place these days. It's a pleasant change for the singer, who is excited about the prospects his newfound musical niche may provide.

"It's nice to be able to write a happy song," he says. "I wouldn't have been able to write a song about taking my daughters to the beach for Staind. You have to go where your inspiration is taking you."

Tonight Lewis will be performing at Nutty Jerry's, alongside a full band. Fans of his country music will get the chance to hear all of his country-inspired material, in its entirety.

"It's an evening of country music," he says. "I touch on a couple songs that I wrote a long time ago, and I play a couple country covers. The rest of it is either Town Line or The Road.

"This is me finally bringing a live version of what I recorded to those people who have those (country) records."

Aaron Lewis performs with Randy Montana, 7 p.m. tonight at Nutty Jerry's, 18291 Englin Rd., Winnie, 877-643-7508 or www.nuttyjerrys.com.

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