Singer Aaron Lewis staying active in community while balancing music career


If you read enough interviews with Staind singer Aaron Lewis, you might get the wrong impression all he does is hunt. But he's a husband and a father of three (ages 9, 6 and 4), so he also watches many, many girly movies.

"I've definitely seen 'The Princess Diaries' 10 or 12 times," he says and laughs. "You gotta be a fun dad. I had girls. There's nothing I can do about it."

Actually, there is something he can do about it. Living in remote Worthington, Mass. (population 1,200), he takes his daughters fishing "all the time." They go golfing with him.

"And I will inevitably take them hunting in the woods -- but you gotta do all the girl stuff, too," such as watching all those kids' movies.

Their rural lives are only occasionally beset with unwelcome visitors. That is, occasionally a snake will make its way too close to their home, so Lewis will pick it up and move it into the woods. He doesn't slay snakes.

"Just because I'm a hunter -- and that's part of me, and I kind of live for it -- that doesn't mean I'm all about killing things senselessly."

Besides, he says, "snakes have always gotten a bad rap."

And in his New England garden, they're all just garter snakes, or smelly milk snakes.

"All they're going to do is stink, (the milk snakes). They have a stink they put out as their defense, because they don't bite."

Since he's a real hunter, he eats everything he kills. His dad taught him that lesson as a kid, forcing him to eat any vermin little Aaron Lewis pegged with a BB gun.

Starting this turkey season, Lewis is working on a TV show called "Hunting With Heroes." He and soldiers trek into the woods together. He's not sure which network will land the show, yet.

The rocker/singer-songwriter also is touring with a new seven-song country EP called "Town Line," leading with the single, "Country Boy," featuring guest musicians Charlie Daniels, George Jones and Chris Young.

"I rarely drink from the bottle, but I'll smoke a little weed," he sings in "Country Boy": "A country boy is all I'll ever be, now it's been 12 years since I've sold my soul to the devil in L.A."

It's much more of an outlaw country song than anything you hear from Nashville.

"I hope I'm not getting in trouble with Nashville for saying this, but the slickification of Nashville is because it's the same group of songwriters that are pretty much writing everybody's songs," Lewis says, "instead of having a piece of themselves in that song."

"Country Boy" is personal-political, cut with the lyric, "I've never needed government to hold my hand."

But unlike many outspoken celebrities, Lewis walks the talk.

He and his wife, Vanessa, are very active in their community. Their school district shut down an elementary school, so (through It Takes A Community) they helped raise the money and movement to reopen it, restaff it and recurriculum it.

Their next project is building a playground at another school.

Often, Lewis performs for troops overseas and domestically.

And he's built a home for a wounded veteran through the organization Homes for Our Troops.

So his message in his music and in interviews is that people can do better than government. (A few years ago in Vegas, he had the words "Don't Tread On Me" tattooed across his neck.) And he tries to live up to the message.

"It's easier to be a spokesperson than it is to go out and do something yourself," he says. "But I've never been afraid of going out and doing it myself. I've never been afraid of a hard day's work."

He's touring now, on the side, as a solo act (Saturday and Sunday at Green Valley Ranch).

On the one hand, he doesn't think he would have survived big-city touring if he didn't have his little town to go home to.

On the other hand, there's a big sacrifice in that: "My wife and three daughters don't get to see me as much as they deserve to."

When he says his town is tiny, he's not kidding.

"There isn't even a Dairy Mart or a 7-Eleven in our town. There's a whole bunch of farms and a bunch of farm animals, and a little over 1,200 people, and that's how I like it.

"I prefer trees, and beautiful old stone walls, and farm animals -- to concrete and smog and plastic people."

He's so out-of-the-way that, he jokes, he'll never have to worry about an apocalypse.

"When the end comes, whenever that might be, all my friends know to come to my house -- and to announce themselves very clearly before they come walking onto my property."

Doug Elfman's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.