Aaron Lines Basks in His “Beautiful” Debut

You can’t hide bountiful.

Life seems to be living up to Aaron Lines ’ best expectations these days. Last week, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter from Fort McMurray, Alberta saw his first album, Living Out Loud, leap straight into the Top 10. His debut single, “You Can’t Hide Beautiful,” likewise dwells in Top 10 territory and is moving up. Sweeter still, he’ll be going back to Canada the first two weeks of February to promote his album and savor the backslapping and good wishes of home folks.

Appearances aside, though, Lines has been slogging through the ranks for a long time to get where he is now. After achieving some musical success in Fort McMurray while he was still in his teens, Lines turned his attention toward the U. S. He and his brother, who was then his manager, bought a music business directory and went to work. “We just kind of, on a whim, sent out a bunch of tapes to the people in the book,” Lines tells CMT.com. “A guy in Los Angeles got hold of one of my tapes. He wasn’t actually the one we sent the tape to. It passed through a few hands before it got to him.”

John Rader, who screened songs for Arista Records, liked what he heard in Lines’ demo tapes and encouraged him to send more. Finally, Rader suggested he come to Los Angeles and write with some of the country songwriters Rader knew. Lines accepted the invitation. That was more than four years ago. While he learned a lot about songwriting and the music business during his L.A. sojourns, Lines says his eyes were always on Nashville.

In the maddeningly roundabout way the music business works, one of Lines’ demos ultimately found its way to producer and songwriter Chris Farren, himself an L. A. transplant to Music City. Farren was sufficiently impressed by the tape to go to bat for lines. He got him a music publishing deal and, when the time was right, brought him and a package of songs to RCA.

“I kind of eased my way into moving to Nashville,” Lines recalls. “I would come for two or three weeks, go home for a couple of weeks and then come back. At that point, it wasn’t financially a good thing to get an apartment. My publishing company called around to people they knew to see if anyone had an extra room to rent by the week. It happened that someone did. I stayed with her for about eight months and got to know her.”

It turned out that his “landlady” was dating a fellow songwriter, Troy Verges, who would later become famous for writing such hits as “Blessed,” “Who I Am” and “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway.” “When it came time to move again,” Lines continues, “I just moved in with Troy. One of the reasons I moved in with him was because he needed the money more than his girlfriend did. I lived with him five or six months before he had his first big hit.” (It should surprise no one that Verges has a cut on Lines’ new album.)

Lines signed with RCA in May 200l and, with Farren as his producer, began recording in December of that year. Farren co-wrote six of the songs that made it onto the album and Lines co-wrote eight. He says he finds it difficult to write songs about anything he hasn’t actually experienced. To overcome this limitation, he paired himself with such veteran writers as Farren and Gary Burr. “Those guys are magicians in coming up with stuff,” he marvels. And they’ve broadened his songwriting perspective. “Lately,” he reports, “there have been a few times where I’ll sit down [to write] with a friend, and he’ll tell me something that’s happened to him. And I’ll start getting into his head a little bit [and thinking], ‘What if this happened to me?’”

Farren recorded part of Living Out Loud in Vancouver. “We thought it would be cool to take a little road trip,” Lines says. “Obviously, with the dollar being as weak as it was in Canada, you got a lot more bang for your buck with U. S. dollars. In Nashville, it’s a little weird. There are time restraints. It’s kind of a 9-to-5 thing with [studio musicians]. We figured if we went to Vancouver, we could record when we felt inspired and not be under the gun of the time clock.”

Lines confronts the prospect of stardom with a lot of show business experience already under his belt. One of his early songs, “Love Changes Everything,” went to No. 6 on the Canadian country radio chart. In 2001, he was nominated for the “rising star” prize at the Canadian Country Music Awards. The following year, he was up for “best new country artist” at the Juno Awards. He has toured Canada as Paul Brandt’s opening act.
Lines also expects to tour this summer but notes that details haven’t been worked out yet.

As to potential follow-up singles to “You Can’t Hide Beautiful,” Lines lists “Love Changes Everything,” “Close,” “Turn It Up” and “Living Out Loud” as “the ones we’re looking at right now.”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.