What About No. 1?

Lonestar Celebrates Fifth Charttopper with Songwriters

Lonestar’s latest No. 1 hit, “What About Now,” started off as a Chevy jingle, to hear songwriters Aaron Barker, Anthony Smith and Ron Harbin tell it.

“I write a lot for George Strait, and he has a Chevy sponsorship,” said Barker, who wrote “I Can Still Make Cheyenne,” a Top 5 hit for Strait in 1996, and “Love Without End, Amen,” a No. 1 song in 1990. “So I had this verse going for a Chevy commercial that wasn’t working out. I loved the verse, though.”

The verse read “A sign in the window said for sale or trade/On the last remaining dinosaur that Detroit made.” It came in handy a little later when Barker showed up late for a writing session with Smith and Harbin, who already had the title and the melody worked out.

“They had this little groove going on the drum machine, and it just happened that the Chevy commercial verse fit right in the melody,” Barker said.

“Yeah, he really didn’t intend to use it, he just showed up so late and didn’t have anything else,” joked co-writer Harbin.

Barker, Smith and Harbin, who also wrote the 1997 Clay Walker hit “Watch This,” gathered with Lonestar’s Dean Sams, Michael Britt and Keech Rainwater to celebrate the success of “What About Now” with a reception Monday (Nov. 20) at Nashville’s BMI offices. Lonestar frontman Richie McDonald was home with the flu and couldn’t make the event. The song marks the fifth Billboard No. 1 for the band and the third in a row from the multi-platinum album, Lonely Grill. The single’s uptempo pace was a welcome change for the guys after back-to-back ballads, “Amazed” and “Smile.”

“I don’t think we limit ourselves to just ballads,” guitarist Michael Britt told country.com. “‘No News’ put us on the map, so we’re always hopefully going to be able to do these rockin’-type songs. When we heard the demo for ‘What About Now,’ we thought it was the perfect song for us because it kinda bridged the gap between the music we were making and the music we’re making now.”

Lonestar has been taking that music all over the world, having just returned from a nine-day tour of Europe. In September, the group released its first Christmas album, This Christmas Time, a mixture of originals and holiday classics. The quartet is also in the studio working on the follow-up to Lonely Grill.

“We’re doing vocals now, and whenever Richie’s voice is feeling good he’s in the studio doing lead vocals,” Britt said. “Hopefully it’ll be done in the middle of January. The direction is pretty much like Lonely Grill, but we kinda stretched on things a little, so there’s some pretty rockin’ stuff and some beautiful ballads.”

The new project, produced by Lonely Grill producer Dann Huff, includes tunes by former Boy Howdy frontman Jeffrey Steele and songwriter Steve Diamond.

“Steve Diamond’s song is called ‘Not a Day Goes By,’” keyboardist Sams said. “It’s just a monster ballad. It’s probably my favorite song that we’ve recorded for the new album because it’s just so passionate.”

Drummer Rainwater said the success of the last album and the crossover success of “Amazed” have brought an avalanche of good songs to the band this time out.

“I think the really good songwriters are not afraid to take a chance [on us] that they might have been before,” he said. “Now we’re having the problem of having so many good songs and having to let some really good songs go.”

For now, Lonestar has put off doing a Christmas tour until next year, but the band will perform two songs on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. The guys are also up for favorite country band, duo or group for the American Music Awards, to be handed out Jan. 8 on ABC. Lonestar will compete with the Dixie Chicks and Brooks & Dunn.

“Being nominated, it takes it to yet another level for this band,” Sams said. “Of course we’re up against the Dixie Chicks once again. Seems like we’re meeting them at every corner … Either way you look at it we’ll come out winners ’cause we went from somebody they didn’t recognize to being a nominee this year.”