When it comes to the state of country music, Aaron Lewis doesn’t hold his tongue. The singer for the hard-rock outfit Staind recently set off a firestorm after calling out the pop-country of Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt and others he says are “choking the life out of country music” (he later clarified the remarks on The Bobby Bones Show).
But Lewis, who launched a country career in 2011 with the EP Town Line, also admits that those same pop-country songs are hard to resist. “I’m not saying that they’re not good songs … I’m not saying that I’m not stuck just like everybody else singing them all day,” he tells Rolling Stone Country. “I’m simply questioning the connection between that and the music that defined the genre.”
For Lewis, traditional country music remains centered on sad stories and heavy twang. And many fans seem to agree with him: his new album Sinner just debuted at Number One on Billboard‘s all-genre Top 200 chart. The LP features cameos by Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and Alison Krauss, and an indictment of today’s more fluffy country songs in lead single “That Ain’t Country.”
“I don’t recognize what fills up a lot of the airwaves on country radio as anything that came from the country music that I grew up on,” says Lewis. The New England native – he calls himself a “Northern Redneck” – will perform a string of shows this week in California and Nevada.