Aaron Lewis, familiar to many as lead vocalist in the band Staind, is aiming for country music roots as the genre is increasingly affected by creeping pop. Lewis’ latest album, Sinner, released recently, includes the song ‘That Ain’t Country’, an ode to a style of music that is based on heritage and to some degree, geography in the sense of ties to an agrarian culture, past or present.
Lewis’ criticism of some artists who are taking the country out of country is well-placed.
Recently my husband and I were traveling, and I searched for something on the radio. Both of us like all types of music, but that day, we were in the mood for country.
We tuned in to two different country music stations. Both played songs best described as ‘bro-country’ or pop. Finally, he turned the radio off and I said, “How is that country music?” The songs weren’t even that great. I’ve heard better in bars and coffeehouses in different US cities. Besides all that, we listened to roughly half a dozen songs. One was by a female.
As a matter of fact, right now, there’s a mushrooming indie music movement crossing all genres, urged on by disgruntled fans tired of cookie cutter songs. Some artists just don’t want to be controlled by the establishment—told what to write or sing or think, and how to dress and present.
Lewis performed ‘That Ain’t Country’ on TV on a national morning show, and the lyrics sum up what many of us country music fans feel. Rolling Stone recounted lyrics from the song in an interview with Lewis:
“‘Whatever happened to the country songs / full of truth and consequences, all the things gone wrong,’ he sings in the pre-chorus, ‘someone came and changed it up, made it all a lie.’”
Lewis told Rolling Stone some performers are “choking all the life out of country music.” The magazine quoted a critic of Lewis. The critic is a radio DJ.
There was a big dustup in the industry in 2015 when a music consultant confessed he preferred radio stations play songs by males. The consultant who is reportedly a big influence on country radio said:
“If you want to make ratings in Country radio, take females out.”
Country icon Miranda Lambert had something to say about that on social media:
“This is the biggest bunch of BULLSHIT I have ever heard.”
Aaron Lewis’ new album evokes the Outlaw era in country when musicians like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard did their own thing within a genre experiencing growing pains. Sturgill Simpson has also been outspoken about the direction country music has taken.
“Sometimes the things I say get me in trouble, and I don’t really give a fuck.”
Simpson is equally critical, noting that he’s made his way in the industry without a record label.
The indie model is far more accessible now because of the Internet and technology. Build a database, write good music, deliver a polished performance, and if you attract fans, you can go national without becoming a cog in the machine.
Lewis’ ‘Sinner’ tour kicked off in Glen Allen, Virginia, with Willie Nelson as guest.
Lewis is currently focused on his tour, telling Loudwire in 2015 he wouldn’t be doing anything with Staind “for a while.” Staind had many hits in the rock genre.