Aaron Lewis Says “That Is Not Country Music, I’m Sorry”

January 23, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  56 Comments

aaron-lewisAaron Lewis may know a little something about what country isn’t. He spent the first 16 years of his music career as the emotionally-distraught and misanthropic frontman of the alternative rock band Staind before deciding in 2010 to record a “country” EP. The project was released in 2011, and included the single “Country Boy” that despite the participation of George Jones and Charlie Daniels, still felt like what Aaron Lewis had been doing with his acoustic shows for over a decade, except for trying to brow beat the listener into buying into how country he was.

2012 saw the release of Aaron’s second single, “Endless Summer,” which along with other misdeeds, name dropped Jason Aldean of all people. It was looking like Lewis was falling right in line with the procession of other country music outsiders fleeing to the country genre in the twilight of their careers to find commercial strength. But when his full-length album The Road was released in late 2012, it was actually a pleasant surprise to hear just how country and non-commercial it was.

While talking to The Marion Star in Ohio ahead of an upcoming show, Aaron decided to let his disdain for the direction of country music be known.

“I think there’s enough beer on the beach, partying on the tailgate, driving around in a pickup truck, moonshine songs,” Lewis said. “I think that everything has been pretty well beaten to death. And I’ll opt for my usual … making sure the song has emotion and feeling and means something… I don’t know what it is that country radio is playing these days. I’m really not quite sure. There’s a song out right now that’s a big single for a big act, and at the very end of the song you can hear a banjo come up in the mix for four measures. And you’re like, ‘Oh, there’s the country aspect of it. Now I get it.’ But that is not country music, I’m sorry.”

Lewis also says he doesn’t like to be lumped in with Kenny Chesney when he mentions he plays country.

“It’s funny because people hear Aaron Lewis and country they often think Kenny Chesney when they should have thoughts of Jamey Johnson and David Allen Coe. It’s country like Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Johnny Cash … I almost even like the fact that I’m having all of this success without the machine really embracing me. And I’m not sure that it would have been as valuable to me as an artist to have the very first song I ever delivered to country go straight to the top of the charts and never have to work for it, so I never had to start out in the honky-tonks and where it should start. And man, I’ve sold out every honky-tonk place in the last few years and it’s where it should start. I believe in building a foundation and then building your house on top of that.”

Maybe Aaron is bitter because the country industry didn’t embrace him, or maybe he’s come around to the side of dissent for other reasons. But despite where Aaron Lewis and country music began or where it eventually may be going, at the moment he seems to be making the effort to understand that making country music means embracing more than just the name.

56 Comments to “Aaron Lewis Says “That Is Not Country Music, I’m Sorry””

  • I like his country stuff. I’m not too surprised by his opinion, either. For all the jokes you can lob his way, he’s never been a pretty boy. I think he writes songs that represent how he feels. He was an angry guy for awhile, but it seems like a wife and kids and some aging have really calmed him down and his music is reflecting that now.

    Endless Summer sucked, but I think even that song serves to prove the point that he is a real artist, not just a celebrity. Hope he keeps it coming in the years to come.

  • I have to agree with Aaron on this one. I really enjoyed The Road. Saw him live in the summer and it was a very enjoyable straight up country show. Looking forward to new music from him. I think will be surprised in a good way with what he will come out with.

  • ‘Forever’ is just a Staind song with steel guitar, but it’s a damned good one.

  • Hadn’t heard this one before. Like it. He has a distinctive phrasing that this song seems to fit without sound too staind-ish.

  • I’d like to play devils advocate for a second:

    Does it seem like every single criticism about mainstream country is a criticism of the laundry list.

    To me, the real problem is not so much that they are songs about Trucks and Beer. There are lots of great songs about trucks and beer, and its been cliche for decades. The problem is that the music sucks, and the way they sing about trucks and beer sounds so forced.

    I predict that mainstream country is going to start going into a soft Mumford and Sons mets Kacey Musgraves direction to appease the critics.

    • I think you are late to that part of the game, devil.

      We take Laundry List to mean opportunistic and cliche.

      Guit-jo’s, hand claps, and foot stomps were predicted on SCM already, talking about Music Row being months/years behind the times.

      Watch out for Kacey Musgraves’ career path arcing back towards the pop side, given her announced touring partner. :)

    • The new song by Lady Antebellum has a Mumford sound to it. It’s like an even shittier version of Mumford. Call it the Mumfordization of pop country. Either way it’s still bad.

      • Same with the new Eric Church song. Expect more of this over the next six months, then Music Row will transition to the next trend to be 18 months behind on.

  • I actually like Aaron Lewis, especially “The Story Never Ends” from his first country EP. I played it a few times during my radio show here in Scotland, and it was received well, even by the folks who followed his rock stuff.

    Alright, he’s no Jones, Haggard or Cash, or to even compare modern mainstream, Corbin or Musgraves: but there is a sincerity in what he does.

  • Regardless of what he says, what he releases or how many legends he compares himself to, he’s still an arrogant hack.

  • David “Allan” not Allen

    • Man, you have no idea how much I see this, though I’ve had people tell me that it’s supposed to be “Allen” and not “Allan”. I use “Allan” because I think it is generally more accepted. I kept “Allen” in Aaron’s quote because that was the way it was spelled in the original article.

      • I figured you were quoting. No biggie. Im a huge DAC fan. I stumbled on your website by accident but I must say I really like it. Though I disagree with some of your articles I like the stance you take against some of this mainstream stuff. My mom and dad are huge Waylon fans. My grandma listens to Merle, Willie, Conway and Loretta, George. etc. so I know what the real country music is. But as an aspiring songwriter trying to make it, its hard. Especially when writers are writing to drum loops! If you cant strip a song down to an acoustic guitar/vocal and not get the emotion it probably aint worth a shit in the first place. “The Way I Am” Merle Haggard captures everything a songwriter should be chasing when he/she sits down to write.

  • I thought The Road was a solid album. I worry about his ability to do the country thing long term. That album is full of songs that don’t sound like they were written in the same style. Not to contradict my earlier post, which I stand behind.

    Jennings, Haggard, etc.. When they wrote a song, you instantly knew who it was. You didn’t even have to hear vocals to know. The sound of the guitar, the timing, whatever their signature was, it was apparent instantly. Aaron did not do that on this last album. Yes, the songs were good and I believe the lyrics were heartfelt. Hell, even the Staind stuff is consistent in terms of that signature sound.

  • I agree with everything he is saying, but I have a little caution with him. Kenny Chesney is an odd name to drop in there on this. I have always thought of Kenny as someone who wanted to have a Jimmy Buffett lifestyle and why he has had some bad ones, he has had a good number of very solid songs also. His style always semed a bit harmless to me, compared to the Aldean and Gilberts in the world. The fact that he name dropped Aldean in a song, I worry that he is aligned with them a little bit, like he thinks those guys are some outlaw movement..

    • I agree, Chesney doesn’t really annoy me, I’d take him over the country rappers. Him name dropping Aldean doesn’t surprise me at all. He had Fred Durst produce one of Staind’s albums. If I remember right, that was when rock went downhill, that whole group of crappy metal rap bands, Korn and Limp Bizcut at the turn of the century. Aldean reminds me of Fred Durst only in a cowboy hat.

      • If the format is due for a grunge/post-grunge phase following the regurgitation of bad 80s rock, Brian McKnight-lite generic hip-hop beats and novelty rap…………I’m horrified imagining what the format will look like in 2022 when it picks up on regurgitated nu-metal! -__- -__- -__-

        I can see it now: Florida-Georgia Line will go through their brokenCYDE phase, scream all of their vocals and wear hair extensions. Blake Shelton and his touring band will wear nothing but body paint and dark Insane Clown Posse-esque makeup while naming his fans “Mudalos”. And Luke Bryan will double his body mass by then and become the “country” equivalent of Axl Rose: having had a synapse collapse fro all the pressures of fame and appeasing the young girl demographic! (shudders) =X =X =X

        Oh, and Tim McGraw will……………keep doing whatever it is Tim McGraw does anymore…………….and LMFAO will cross over and wind up setting a new chart-topping single longevity record! -__-

    • For years Kenny Chesney was the go-to name when you wanted to criticize pop country because he was the one selling out stadiums and winning CMA Entertainer of the Year awards. When Taylor Swift broke Kenny’s reign of three consecutive CMA Entertainer trophies in 2009, he really stopped being a guy that was relevant to criticize in this context. It’s a tell-tale sign when someone’s criticizing Kenny Chesney that they really have no idea what’s going on in country music at the moment. Not to say this about Aaron Lewis because if he’s name dropping Aldean, he must know about something. I guess what I’m trying to say is that for many, Chesney, fair or not, is the default name, so I’m not surprised it was mentioned here.

  • I forgot to add, Arron Lewis really really really sucks. Talk about pandering so badly in that country boy song. If you call Kacey Musgravea out you gotta call that steaming pile of dung out too.

  • As far as Aaron Lewis’ comments, what else is there to say but that he’s right? Even if his attempts at making country music seem to be a bit hamfisted, I do think he is making an honest effort to stay true to the genre. And that’s a LOT more than can be said for way too many of the genre’s biggest stars these days.

  • I’ll admit I always thought he was just another douche who went country. But all I had heard was that one song with George Jones which I though sucked.

    But the song posted above sounds pretty good.

  • “The Road” has sold pretty strongly, all things considered, so I’m inclined not to believe his venting stems from displeasure with his promotional team.

    I still feel Aaron Lewis has this air of entitlement and narcissist complex to his personality that makes me very difficult to embrace him. However, I would be lying if I said he doesn’t raise some decent points here. I’m pretty sure I know which song he was referring to, also, when he alludes to a track that only features a token banjo for four measures.

    • Which one do you think it is, Noah? I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure it out, to no avail. And I CAN’T be the only one!

    • Arron’s arrogance is what won the day for him in rock, but in country, you have to bring the “aw-shucks” attitude. I think Aaron is trying to learn, and as a critic, all you can ask from an artist is improvement. Arron’s baseline was terrible, but he may be slowly figuring it out. He crashed into country, thinking his established brand and George Jones appearance would give him instant cred, when in truth this stuff held him back.

      I too am interested in what song it could be. I’d rather someone tell me then sift through a Top 40 playlist trying to figure it out myself ;).

      • I too am interested in what song it could be. I’d rather someone tell me then sift through a Top 40 playlist trying to figure it out myself

        PRECISELY. :D

        • Actually, in truth, I’m sure a small handful of “country” singles as of late fit Lewis’s description.

          My first thought was Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some Of That”. You don’t hear a banjo (a token one, at that) appear until the coda.

          You can also make a case for Florida-Georgia Line’s “Round Here” where, in the former half of the final chorus, the electric guitars tone down before being cranked up again in its latter half. You have to strain slightly to hear them, but there’s a token banjo ensconced under the hip-hop beat, production gloss and acoustic guitar.

          Then again, it’s not at the VERY end of the song. I’m sure Lewis would agree that’s another solid example, along with Cassadee Pope’s “Wasting All These Tears” (the token banjo pops up in the intro, but the rest of the track is basically an Avril Lavigne song) and Rascal Flatts’s “Banjo”.

      • Does Lewis have a reputation of being arrogant? I noticed both you and Noah described him as such. I don’t know anything about his reputation and he didn’t really come off as arrogant to me in the above interview. He came off as honest and willing to call out country music for it’s lack of quality, in my opinion.

        The only part I felt could be perceived as arrogant is when he compares himself to Jamey Johnson and the legends but I think he just was trying to say that he shouldn’t be compared to Luke Bryan, FGL and the like. I’m sure if there were other decent, traditional country artists around he would’ve compared himself to them instead. But there aren’t so he had to namedrop the legends.

        Overall, I love it when artists call out country because it brings attention to how desperate the situation is. When Kacey Musgraves says she doesn’t want to make songs about tailgates I think she sounds smart and honest, not arrogant.

        • It’s like Trigger said earlier though.

          When he FIRST emerged onto the scene, he probably thought he could be his usual arrogant self in carving a niche in country music. But when he realized that disposition is frowned upon in the genre in favor of an “aw shucks” attitude, Lewis perhaps, since then, has sort of mollified his demeanor.

          Trust me: I sense the arrogance in earlier interviews that surfaced around the time “Country Boy” was released.

          • “He probably thought he could be his usual arrogant self in carving a niche…”

            “Arron’s arrogance is what won the day for him in rock”

            I don’t understand these quotes. In his music he usually comes off as sad, lonely, depressed and alienated. I never got an arrogant or self-righteous sense from his music with Staind. “Country Boy” was his first single where I feel like there could be some arrogance detected, but country pride anthems are the norm and most artists don’t get painted as arrogant for releasing them.

            I’m not saying he isn’t arrogant, he very well could be, but why does it seem like, from your quotes, Lewis is known for his arrogance?

  • What song do you think it is? I feel like it could be a number of songs but I wonder if anybody knows which one specifically.

    I actually like Staind’s music and I appreciate that they seem to know who they are and stick to it. Yes, they do a ton of slow, grunge-influenced, pain songs, but they do them well and Lewis doesn’t sound like he’s whining when he sings those songs. When some other rock artists try pain songs they sometimes just sound like they’re overreacting or whining. I really like his voice as well.

    His country output has been decent. Nothing excellent, but the worst 2 songs he recorded were used as singles. I also think it’s cool that he wrote all of the songs on “The Road” by himself besides one outside cut. I think it shows commitment to his country career that he doesn’t just get a bunch of co-writers to do all the work for him. Plus, the album actually sounds country.

    I think it would’ve been cool if he would’ve specifically called somebody out in this interview, like Zac Brown did. He seems like he doesn’t care what people think of him and wouldn’t mind upsetting one of today’s fake country singers.

    • Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some Of That”.


      However, Lewis’s point relates to dozens of other recent releases as well. The token banjo will either pop up in the beginning, or the chorus, or in the verse of any given song, only to be relegated beneath the glossy production mix elsewhere throughout the track’s duration.

      To a lesser extent, the same rings true with token pedal steel. You have to REALLY strain to hear it in Florida-Georgia Line’s “Stay”, particularly at the beginning of the first chorus.

      • That ‘Get Me Some Of That’ song is unbelievably bad and the video is laughable just watching this guy act like he’s hot stuff.

        Thomas Rhett (Akins) and his dad Rhett Akins really need to receive more criticism for their roles in the devolution of mainstream country I think. They have their hands in a ridiculous amount of truly awful songs as writers and now the son as a weak ass singer.

        • And the saddest part in all of this, is that Rhett Akins first emerged onto the scene as a more promising fresh face with chops and potential (okay, to be more accurate, after that disastrous debut album! ;) )

          But I’m serious. With his sophomore solo album “Somebody New”, he displayed signs of maturity and promise………..which would continue on through “What Livin’s All About” where he sought a more neo-traditional sound at that point and proved he could write some stirring introspective material much as he did puerile novelty fare.

          Then, when it was clear his solo career wasn’t gaining any traction a decade ago……………..well, he sold out. And he sold out HARD…………….by selling his songwriting soul to the Peach Pickers: beginning with the atrocious arsenic that was “Kiss My Country Ass”.

          And the rest is history! -__-

          • I remember Rhett Akins’ early stuff. Talk about a dude who has completely devolved as an artist. His name is also on this abomination.

            (I wanna see a Trigger rant on that song so badly I can almost freaking TASTE IT.)

  • Yeah he never left much of an impact on me as an artist. I remember ‘That Ain’t My Truck’ and vaguely recall ‘Don’t Get Me Started’ but that’s about it. He just struck me as another nineties mediocre hat act and then he reappeared inexplicably.

    And does anybody really think Thomas Rhett would be a hit artist without family connections. He is shockingly ordinary.

  • His song “Country Boy” didn’t impress me when it was released. His vocals reminded me too much of the rock bands my sister would listen to constantly while growing up in the late 90s. I think she did listen to Staind. But the song here is much much better.

  • Well that was certainly a refreshing change from the drum machine new country rap bullshit. No distorted hack rock guitars, and a psg played the way it was meant to be played, I had my doubts as Stained was a pretty awful band but this is pretty darn good. Will definatley check out some more and see if this cat is legit.

  • That wasn’t bad actually! Brings Hank Jr’s “Old Habits” to mind in the phrasing. Can’t say i’m a fan but its a start. I think he comes off a bit arrogant when talking about his first song (which was a bad song by all standards) going to #1 and how he insists people should think of those other great artists when they hear him but hell, maybe he is right as I said above Hank Jr’s song popped into my mind when hearing it.

    • Me too. Old Habits immediately started playing in my head on parts of the song. ………And now it won’t go away…….

  • I think Aaron Lewis himself is still learning what country is. Maybe at first he thought it meant you unplugged your guitar and slapped some steel guitar over your rock sound. With his last album though you can tell that he’s figuring it out.

    It doesn’t take a country music savant though, to realize that what we’re hearing on the radio isn’t country music. The saddest part of it all imo is that there IS great country music being made, and some of it’s even mainstream and well known, but I still never hear it on the radio.

    • I agree. I think up until a few years ago, Aaron’s perspective on country music didn’t go much farther than Hank Jr. Greatest Hits. I think he still comes to country from the outside looking in and needs to learn how to be more humble. But if someone is improving and trying to improve, they deserve the benefit of the doubt. That’s much better than someone like Brantely Gilbert that’s getting worse by embracing being a douche bag.

  • I’m not going to pretend that I know anything or even care to now anything about Staind or Aaron Lewis, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that he would be singing a different tune if his music was popular on the radio. Since it’s not, however, he sees fit to recognize his position on the fringes of country music and try to play up a pseudo-outlaw image, here. Of course, that’s just MY opinion and anyone that could enlighten me further is welcome to.

  • Hey, if the guys is genuine that is all we can ask.

    I still don’t like his voice or delivery of a song and “Country Boy” was awful.

    He sure is arrogant though, he didn’t forget to mention how every honky tonk he plays is sold out. Thanks Aaron, keep reminding everyone how cool you are.

  • I like his album though. I’ve seen bad reviews but we all have different tastes and i respect everyone’s taste.

  • I know Aaron’s country album is not bad, not bad at all, but I am still turned off by his arrogance.

    I’m leery of all these rock or pop/rock artists migrating into country. Darius Rucker. Aaron Lewis. Kelly Clarkson. Sheryl Crow. That winner from The Voice (not the teenager one, the other winner who was the vocalist from a pop/rock indie band). Clarkson is like the female version of Kid Rock, in that she suddenly seems to be in every event related to country music.

  • I really, really like this guy and his music.

    After seeing him assailed in some prior posts (that Trig linked to above), I bought a Staind CD and loved it so much I went back and bought all the rest of tStaind’s CDs.

    All because I learned of his prior life as a hard core rock artists.

    I don’t bother following the careers of country pop artists who ocasionally get a song which sounds like something an authentic country musician, so I don’t feel betrayed that Casey Musgraves or Mumford and Sons (or whoever else) may follow the big money and eschew true country music, I don’t listen to modern country radio stations (or any radio for that matter), and I won’t be watching the Grammy’s.

    But I do like crossover efforts by some rock and rollers (my other favorite genre), such as DAC’s collaberation with Dimebag Darrell, by Hank III’s Assjack punk rock sets, and by Jason Isbell’s transition from Southern rock to his current singer-songwriter career path.

    Aaron reminds me of DAC, who is my favorite country artist/songwriter, quite a bit.

  • Just listened to the road album and I have to say its pretty damn good and sounds more country than most country music that is currently out now. God that new luke bryan song is horrible! I don’t get why people are making such a big deal about him name dropping aldean in endless summer. I mean he’s singing about current times and his daughters singing along to Jason aldean on the radio. I mean you turn on the radio tune to a country station and your gonna hear a Jason aldean song. I don’t get why everyone’s making a big deal out of it. I don’t like the fact that he dissed Tyler farr for no reason but if he keeps making good country music I’m gonna listen. And who cares about his past I agree with a lot of people that the way he tried to come into country music was the wrong way. But you can hear a change when you listen to the road album. I don’t know but if its good music I’ll listen to it.

  • Oh and why the hell hasn’t anyone mentioned the king of country George Strait!????!!!!!

  • I just found out Aaron Lewis is doing country now and was quite surprised. The guy is super talented and a real musician his acoustic shows are great. I am a rocker but I grew up in the south and appreciate real country, not the american idol pop garbage you hear today.

    Ive enjoyed the stuff ive listened to so far, but then again i would say im more rock than country but I for one would appreciate a modern Lynyrd Skynyrd style act and I think Lewis can pull it off

  • His country is just alright. Agree with what was said about it above.

    I hope people who only listen to only country though, to give his band ‘Staind’, and his solo albums a chance. I personally think he works much better as a rock artist that could still be relevant. I think he was pushed in to this country thing. It worked, but I guarantee a new Staind album would sell as well as an album can sell nowdays.

    Just my two cents.

  • “I think there’s enough beer on the beach, partying on the tailgate, driving around in a pickup truck, moonshine songs,”

    Exactly what he did with Country Boy, lol.

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