Aaron Lewis, lead singer of the rock band Staind, has sold more than 15 million albums, been nominated for three Grammys and has fans the world over. That might be reason enough for him develop an ego. However, Lewis' humility is certainly refreshing when he admits he's "blown away" by the success of his first country single, "Country Boy."
Following its arrival in December, it has consistently ranked as one of CMT.com's most popular videos. Also, a debut solo country EP, Town Line, is set for a March 1 release on Stroudavarious Records, a Nashville label founded by Nashville producer James Stroud.
"The country side of things traditionally is quite difficult to break into," the gritty singer-songwriter explains during a recent phone interview with CMT.com. "I'm very lucky and very blessed it's going the way that it is."
From his upbringing in rural Vermont to spending time with his World War II veteran grandfather, country music has long been a fixture in the entertainer's life.
"My entire childhood pretty much has a country music soundtrack to it," he says. "My grandfather ... that's all he ever listened to, and I used to spend the summers with him. Any of my fond memories of my grandfather or childhood, there's country music in the background."
Lewis explains his transition into country music isn't far off the beaten path with Staind's collection of hits, which include "Outside," "So Far Away," "It's Been Awhile" and "Everything Changes."
"I'm not really inventing the wheel with the music that I've written over the years. I'm just accompanying it differently," he says.
"All the songs over the years for Staind that were written on an acoustic guitar ... instead of having Staind put their accompaniment around the songs, if I'd have had a bunch of country guys put their music around the songs, they would've come out probably around the same way that the songs on Town Line came out."
While he says he's not certain of a connection between fans of Staind and country music, he's confident in one thing.
"I'm one of the luckiest guys in the world to have such die-hard and dedicated and very protective fans," he says. "And I would have to think that [Staind fans] would certainly have something to do with the video's [success]."
Describing "Country Boy" as "probably the most straight-forward story-of-my-life song that I've ever written," Lewis says his honest lyrics come naturally.
"It's always the way I've approached lyric writing," he explains. "And that hasn't changed at all with this song."
He lays it all on the line while describing his life as a "Country Boy." In one lyric, he writes, "The biggest things in life are my friends and family/And I like my jeans and my old T-shirts and a couple extra pounds never really hurt/'Cause a country boy is all I'll ever be 'cause Hank taught me just how to stay alive."
The assertive track features country legends George Jones and Charlie Daniels, along with backing vocals from Grammy-nominated country artist Chris Young.
"I got really lucky to be asked to be in that," Young says. "I just went in there and sang some harmonies on it, but really getting to know him and seeing what he did with that project is so cool because that is very true to who he is. What he says in that song is very much who he is as a person. Obviously, it's not like he went out of his way to change his style. I mean, you're not going to mask his voice. It's so raw, and it is what it is. I love what he and James [Stroud] were able to do with this song."
Regarding the collaborative aspect, Lewis modestly says, "I was lucky enough to get them. I guess when they heard it, they felt it was a good song, too."
Other tracks on Town Line revolve around love on multiple levels. In "Vicious Circle," Lewis sings of holding on to a relationship even when it feels as if it's slipping away. In "Tangled Up in You," he beautifully professes unwavering devotion. (The track was previously released on Staind's sixth album, The Illusion of Progress.) Additionally, "Massachusetts" and "The Story Never Ends" serve as heartfelt tributes to Lewis' home state and further evidence of the star's genuine nature.
"Ten years ago, I could've moved anywhere," he says. "I could live anywhere in this country. And I live here in a town of 1,200 people up in the mountains of Massachusetts. That's where I want to be."
Fans of his solo work, along with that of Staind, will be pleased to know they have multiple chances to catch the star live. His solo acoustic tour has dates scheduled through April. And he's currently in the studio with Staind. The band is working on a new album, with plans to tour and according to Lewis, "continue the vicious circle."