See, this is the reason we didn’t need Aaron Lewis twisting off on Sam Hunt and Luke Bryan. It’s funny that when Texas country artist Aaron Watson had the #1 album in all of country music and was standing in the foyer of the Bobby Bones studio while Bobby was one the air, Bones did everything but invite Lewis into the studio for even one quick segment. But what happens when Staind frontman turned traditional country artist Aaron Lewis artist calls Dan + Shay and Cole Swindell ‘motherfuckers’? Well he gets an 8-minute segment with the biggest audience in country radio. That’s the power of Big Machine Records boys and girls.
On the Bobby Bones Show Thursday (9-15) morning (listen at the bottom), Bobby spoke to Aaron Lewis after his recent blowup at pop country artists, and what did he do? Aaron backpeddled and admitted he was playing to the crowd when he said on September 3rd, “I’d like to thank Sam Hunt – oh, I know, he’s so pretty to look at. I’d like to thank Luke Bryan, for most of his stuff – he surprises me every once in a while. I would like to thank Dan + Shay. I’d like to thank Cole Swindell. And every other motherfucker that is just choking all the life out of country music.”
What did Saving Country Music say after the incident?
He’s pandering to the crowd no different than when Florida Georgia Line raps about drinking beer on a dirt road—which is only appropriate seeing how Aaron Lewis is now signed to the same label as Florida Georgia Line, Brantley Gilbert, Thomas Rhett, Taylor Swift, and half a dozen other perpetrators of the erosion of authentic country music in Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine barn.
And that’s pretty much what Aaron Lewis admitted to Bobby Bones during the Thursday interview.
“I’ve actually sat and gotten quite drunk with Dan + Shay,” Lewis says to Bones. “I don’t hate them at all. This was not an attack on their character in any way shape or form. You have to put it into context. This was a motorcycle rally in Colorado where everybody was on their way to Sturgis. This was a bunch of black leather-clad wearing, older folks. I was playing to the crowd. I was just trying to play to the crowd I was playing in front of and make a statement. Maybe I didn’t need to call out anybody’s name … [I wasn’t] trying to piss in anyone’s Corn Flakes.”
But that’s what we need. We need some Corn Flake pissin’, not someone that’s going to flip flop just because he gets on the national airwaves and he wants to play nice, but will serve red meat to a crowd if he thinks it’s what they want to hear. It doesn’t have to get personal, but traditional country fans are looking for someone to draw hard lines and not cross them. Lewis does go on to say, “but I stand by my statement,” but it feels a little bit hollow after all of his other clarifications.
And as was emphasized when Lewis’s comments first came out, they weren’t meant to be published to the masses like WhiskeyRiff and Rolling Stone did, they were meant for that specific crowd, as Aaron Lewis confirmed to Bobby Bones. This should have never been a big deal, and the media is at least partly to blame.
You have to connect the dots of what’s going on behind-the-scenes though. Even more so now that Lewis has appeared on the Bobby Bones Show, and specifically because of the things he said, it is it patently clear now that Aaron Lewis is Big Machine’s answer to all the anti-Nashville sentiment out there in the country music population. Aaron Lewis is Big Machine’s Sturgill Simpson. But unlike Sturgill Simpson, Aaron Lewis didn’t tell Bobby Bones to kiss off when Bones tried to get him on the air. Aaron Lewis went on and made nice.
Bobby Bones finished his segment with Aaron Lewis on Thursday by bringing up Saving Country Music in a strange context.
“Freaking Saving Country whatever that stupid website is that goes after everyone that has more than three teeth,” says Bones, “they can stop bagging on everyone because Aaron Lewis said his point there.”
Not exactly sure where I fit in here, or why the dental hygiene (or lack thereof) of the artists I cover needs to be brought up. Didn’t Bobby Bones just make the point of not getting personal? Yes, I did broach the subject of Aaron Lewis’s comment, but attempted to see the issue both ways. In fact I mostly agreed with Bobby Bones, whose biggest beef with Lewis had to do with Lewis making his attacks too personal instead of focusing on the music. But I didn’t really bag on Aaron Lewis either. I’m glad he’s sticking up for traditional country, especially with his new music. So how was I bagging on “everyone”?
– – – – – – –
Believe it or not, I think Bobby Bones continues to show some signs of maturity, and is beginning to understand the responsibility the bully pulpit he commands calls for. He initially had no business being on the country airwaves at all, and probably still doesn’t, but at least he’s beginning to understand that his audience is so massive, his words have impact.
Like Bobby Bones said in his segment and interview with Aaron Lewis, there is no need to get personal with anyone over music disputes, whether that’s someone attacking pop country, or someone defending it. It’s just music. Yes, we should argue our points and push hard for where we feel country music should go, and hopefully there is still some room for satire. But making it personal only sets us back and creates negative stereotypes about traditional and independent country fans.
Much progress has been made in the effort to save country music in the last 18 months, and believe it or not, Bobby Bones probably deserves a tiny bit of credit for championing some independent and unsigned artists like Chris Stapleton early on, and other artists like Caitlyn Smith. Undoubtedly, Bones is still doing more harm than good, but even he’s coming around to understanding the idiocy of certain elements of the country music format, and the need for substance in country. How can’t you if you’re paying attention?
But whether it’s Bobby Bones or Aaron Lewis, they both come to country music from the outside looking in. And when that’s the case, it’s imperative that they try to understand the culture they’re entering, the responsibility they have to the music, and adapt to the traditions and customs as opposed to hoping everybody bends to their mode of business.
Aaron Lewis’ new album Sinner out Friday (9-16) via Big Machine Records is pretty damn country. It’s the most country record Big Machine has ever released, including Hank Jr.’s latest, and the presence of Aaron Lewis in country is a sum positive for the genre. He just needs to keep it that way by letting his music, not his stage banter or Bobby Bones interviews, do the talking.