Boy the wily media will sit like snakes in the weeds waiting to twist your words into unsavory headlines if you let them. Or in the case of Aaron Lewis, he can do all the twisting, backpedaling, and playing both sides all by himself.
Celebrating the #1 record in country this week with his Big Machine Records debut Sinner responsible for 39,000 copies sold, Aaron Lewis continues to try and walk a difficult line between being a major label country artist, a traditionalist who wants to talk smack on the industry, all while wearing the baggage of being the successful frontman of the rock band Staind.
Lewis made headlines earlier this month when video of a rant on stage went viral.
“Sometimes the things I say get me in trouble, and I don’t really give a fuck. That being said, I want to thank a few people for inspiring me to write this next song,” referring to his single “That Ain’t Country.” “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.”
But when pressed on the issue by Bobby Bones, Aaron Lewis backpeddled, saying “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.”
Now Aaron Lewis has backpeddled even further. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Aaron Lewis says he doesn’t think the songs he’s criticizing are necessarily bad, and even admits they might get stuck in his head.
“I’m not saying they’re not good songs, I’m not saying they’re not catchy,” Lewis explains. “I’m not saying that I’m not stuck just like everybody else singing them all day if I hear them earlier in the day. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m simply questioning the connection between that and the music that defined the genre.”
So wait, Aaron Lewis is now saying those songs from Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, and Cole Swindell are not bad songs? And shouldn’t what the songs are labeled factor into the quality of the material?
With the #1 album in country music right now, it’s hard to say that whatever Aaron Lewis is saying isn’t working for him at least in part. He’s certainly grabbing headlines. But through his own efforts, he has become one of the most polarizing characters in country. Half of listeners (including many Staind fans) see him as a country music savior, while the other half see him as an interloper who folds like wet cardboard when called out on calling out mainstream country.
Ultimately the music should speak for itself, and Aaron Lewis’s Sinner is definitely country. But if he wants to win over country music’s speculative traditional and independent country fans, perhaps he should work harder at letting the music precede his words. Because when Aaron Lewis speaks, he’s not helping himself with either side.