"Life is circular. Country just came back to me. It's like the acoustic thing. I did that before the band [Staind]. This is full circle because this was the first music I was ever exposed to as a child." --AARON LEWIS

If you want to get to know AARON LEWIS, just listen to The Road. On his first full-length album, the Grammy Award-nominated, multi-platinum singer, songwriter, and guitarist tells one story after another. Echoing traditional country, some of those tales are hilarious and heartwarming, while others are pensive and personal. Nevertheless, they're all equally powerful, vibrant, and unforgettable. For Lewis, The Road continues to wind and surprise like it always has.
In 2011, the Staind frontman formally arrived in the country world with the release of his debut EP, Town Line. Highlighted by the success of gold-selling single "Country Boy" featuring the legendary George Jones and Charlie Daniels, the seven-song EP reached #1 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart and #7 on the Billboard Top 200 upon release. Critical praise followed: PEOPLE’s Chuck Arnold said, "He proves to be a natural on nostalgic ballads like 'The Story Never Ends,’ (3/14/11)," while the ASSOCIATED PRESS’ Michael McCall wrote, “He injects a flavor of his own into a polished, commercial country sound in a way that could win over country fans who've never heard of Staind (2/28/11).”
Lewis also received two Academy of Country Music nominations for "Vocal Event of the Year" for "Country Boy" (for his work as artist and as co-producer) as well as two CMT nominations--one for "USA Weekend Breakthrough Video of the Year" and another for "Collaborative Video of the Year." Simultaneously, the music video for the single stirred similar fan fervor, surpassing 12 million views on YouTube and 3 million on CMT.com. After a whirlwind year, Lewis began working on what would become The Road in the fall of 2011.
While balancing both a solo run and a tour supporting Staind's self-titled seventh studio album, he carved out intermittent pockets of time to record in Nashville with legendary Grammy-winning producer James Stroud.
"I didn't stop to think about it very much," Lewis smiles. "James lets me run with it. We respect each other and he allows me to really be who I am. I recorded this whole record by bouncing in and out of Nashville on days off. I'd come into town, work for the day, bail out, and play some more shows. Four days later, I'd do the same thing. That's how the album was made, and it's why I called it The Road."
It's a natural progression from Town Line. The album's ten songs unfold with a classic grit and an invigorating energy all directly from Lewis's heart and soul. The first single, "Endless Summer," recalls an idyllic day in the sun with his daughters. A bluesy guitar twang bends into a shimmering refrain about "another day in paradise" that's both infectious and inimitable.
Lewis laughs, "It proves I can write a happy tune. It's a story about me and the family going to our beach cottage on the weekends. It's all true. We drive down there, cook striper on the grill, and dig our own clams."
Then there's "Forever," a true product of The Road itself. It captures the longing and loneliness of life on the tour bus, while reflecting the immortality of true love. It's touching and thought-provoking all at once. "Doubt can set in on the road," he reveals. "Conversations from home aren't always warm and fuzzy. However, things change when you get back. The song goes from questioning to being reassured that everything is all good."
On the other end of the spectrum, his sense of humor shines through on the propulsive highway anthem "State Lines" and swaggering old school good-time of "Party in Hell." Lewis goes on, "Adding humor opens the avenues of exploration a little bit more, and it appeals to more of the senses. Plus, it's just fun to imagine what a party in hell might be like with Rick James."
Lewis personally penned all of the songs on The Road but one. For "Grandaddy's Gun," he teamed up with Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson, and Bobby Pinson, marking the first songwriting collaboration of his career. Annually, Lewis hosts a benefit show for his charity, It Takes a Community, which benefits his daughter's elementary school through community donations. Akins performed "Grandaddy's Gun" at the 2011 show. As soon as Lewis heard the tune, it stayed stuck in his head.
"I was completely blown away by the song," he elaborates. "When the opportunity came up, I decided to record it for The Road. They're three of Nashville's best and I have so much respect for them. It all fit with my life too. I have grandaddy's gun, and he did buy it out of a Sears and Roebuck catalog."
Once again, he collaborated with some heavy hitters in the studio. His musical partner-in-crime Ben Kitterman expanded the overall sound with acoustic guitar, dobro, piano and other instruments. Meanwhile, iconic pedal steel player Paul Franklin makes a return as well as guitarist Brett Mason and Eddie Bayers on drums. Joining the fold in Nashville were Craig Frost [Bob Seger] on keyboards and Keith Horne [Waylon Jennings] on bass.
Lewis enthuses, "It's definitely a star-studded cast. Many of the songs were cut in one take. At the most, they're two. There's definitely genuine chemistry amongst the amazing musicians on this album. I'm so lucky to have them in the studio with me."
In many ways, The Road brings things full circle for Lewis. In Staind, he has made an indelible mark on hard rock. The group has sold 13 million albums worldwide, yielding four consecutive top 3 debuts on the Billboard Top 200 as well as numerous radio hits. Their single "It's Been Awhile" also remains the most-played rock song of the decade. Still, this new chapter proves cyclical for Lewis, actually bringing him back to the first style of music he'd heard: country music.
Now, he's carrying on a tradition of storytelling and songwriting himself. "I'm really hoping the songs speak for themselves," he concludes. "I hope people hear the record and realize that this is all me. There's nothing more to say. I'm just writing songs like I have been for my whole career."
That's all he really has to do. For Aaron Lewis, The Road looks brighter than ever.

Brian Davis

How does a country boy from tiny Bilboa, North Carolina find himself an apprentice to one of the greatest songwriters in country music? Ever heard of Bilboa? Yes, it’s that small. But you’ve heard of Harlan Howard, right? “I Fall to Pieces?” THAT Harlan Howard.

Brian Davis isn’t one to push himself or his music on someone. It just isn’t his style. Fortunately, what is his style is writing great rockers and party anthems full of hot screaming guitar, booming bass and thumping drums. Sometimes.

On the other hand, his style is also writing emotive ballads laden with picturesque lyrics that twist and turn phrases to carry the listener on a musical journey of their own or Brian’s life. Those…those are best interpreted by Brian’s pure masculine baritone and an acoustic guitar.

So, it’s really not a case of having to force himself on anyone. It’s more like, “If you build it, they will come.” If you write great songs, make great music and sing from your heart, they will come. And they have most definitely come. From playing all over his home state of North Carolina, to opening for pal and frequent co-writer Brantley Gilbert on the Hell On Wheels tour—last year and this year, Brian has taken his brand of rockin’ country music from a regional to a national level. His Tarheel fans are sitting back enjoying knowing that they saw the evolution of one of the hottest new artists in the format, while new fans are digging voraciously into his catalog that is already six albums deep.

Almost as if he could forecast the future when he recorded it, his newest album, Under the Influence, is almost a musical biography of Brian – both his life and the evolution of his music. “I’m really proud of it,” he beams. “We managed to put a lot of things that are extremely important to me on this record and tried to kind of balance it out. We’ve got things all the way from ‘Under the Influence,’ which people would assume, based on previous projects, that we were talking about going out and just getting hammered, but it’s not.”

The tune is actually a musical homage to the music that influenced him, and the list is vast and diverse. Early on, his grandfather introduced him to artists like the legendary Gene Autry, while his father exposed him to the contemporaries of his time like Alabama and Hank Williams Junior. Then there was the music of his own youth. “I was a reckless, rebellious redneck, not siding where my mom probably wanted me to a lot of times,” he admits. “I’d find myself listening to your typical AC/DC and Guns & Roses.” The funny thing was, Brian was also discovering and developing a taste for music that was far from mainstream. Artists like Peter Tosh and Bob Marley. “I just love music. I’m just a fan of music.”

But it was more than just loving a great song. For Brian, it also became about creating great music. So, he began to study it and study the process, which was a relatively simple task. “My grandpa played all the honky-tonks where I’m from and my dad did, too,” he says with a smile. “I can remember from the time I was six and seven-years-old I was in honky-tonks.” By the time he was eight, his dad was taking him to gigs and Brian was tuning their guitars. “I was on top of the world,” he says, “because I was tuning guitars for a hero of mine. All I ever wanted to do was be like them because they had that thing. They could walk into a room and pick up a guitar and people would just stop and listen. So, in my head, I was doing something really important.” And although Brian’s mother wasn’t thrilled with her middle child hanging out in honky-tonks, to her credit, she didn’t discourage his pursuit of his passion. While Brian’s dad never chased a national music career, instead choosing to stay close to family, he did write his own music and his son was a sponge observing the process and began writing when he was very young. “The early stuff was terrible,” he laughs. “It was worse than terrible And then it got progressively better. And then when I met Harlan Howard, it got a ton better because I started figuring out how to do it the right way.” Yes, Harlan Howard.

“Harlan Howard was the first person to offer me a publishing deal in town,” he smiles modestly. The story of how it happened is a sweet one:

“I was cleaning horse stalls in Brentwood and Melanie Howard set up a meeting.” Brian showed up with his guitar, but still covered in horse manure, expecting to meet with Melanie. To his surprise, Harlan strolled into the meeting as well. “I was supposed to be with just her and he comes in and she says, ‘If you don’t mind, he’s going to sit in on the meeting.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, F….’ I sit down and he says, ‘What have you got son?’ So I play him the one song. THE song. All of us have THE song. And he smiled and said, ‘What else you got son?’ And I played him a second one. We went four songs deep and after the fourth one he said, ‘Do you want a record deal here, son?’ And I said, ‘Yes I do.’”

The only snag came when Harlan asked him how much money he needed. Brian had never even considered being paid for his doing what came so naturally. When Howard offered him $375 a week, Brian balked saying, “Can I think about that? I don’t know if I need that much?” His humble upbringing and limited knowledge of how the business operated had him thinking that he would have to pay the money back, so he didn’t want to take more than he needed.

Harlan became one of Brian’s greatest mentors in the business, but others followed and Davis learned all that he could from each. “The only thing I’ve been really smart enough to do in my life is listen to people that have been where I’m going,” he says.

Influences.

Influences that are heard on songs like the raucous “Bang, Bang,” which touts the simple country boy pleasure of shots, whether from a gun or a glass, or in the dark “Another Man’s Woman,” which addresses the dismal destiny of a cheater, or in the simply acoustic love song “Against the World.” And influences that are heard in the crowd-favorite “Lights Of My Hometown.” “You see people’s reaction in the crowd and I think everybody, in their mind, goes to someone that they lost,” he says. “It just has so much power. It’s been amazing and the stories we’ve heard are awesome.”

You see, for all of the in-your-face rockers or rebellious party anthems, Brian is one of the sweetest souls on Music Row. He laughs, “I love the excitement when people come up and, it’s not like I’m some amazing person, but they say, ‘Man, I can’t believe it’s you!’ And I say, ‘Well, I can’t believe it’s you!’ I always ask them their name and hug them because they they could have spent their time and money on anything. And the fact that they chose me is massive in my book…We do this to connect and when you have those kind of moments with people, it makes everything make sense.

Rick Monroe

Rick Monroe is back on the Jagermeister Country Circuit for 2011. But that's certainly not his only claim to fame. Rick's a Country Music road warrior who isn't opposed to taking his music directly to the folks. Rick says, "You know all those reality shows on TV, my life IS a reality show."

His new single, GET UR COUNTRY ON (get it at rickmonroe.com or on itunes) has audiences, both live and on the radio joining in the call... And in his hugely popular single and video, "Honky-Tonk Road Trip" (co-written with songwriter and celebrated journalist, Larry Holden) the country music sensation (http://www.cmt.com/videos/rick-monroe/335797/honky-tonk-roadtrip.jhtml) paints a vivid portrait of life on the road. The song has even spawned a reality based television show currently in development.

On virtually every song written and recorded, through his artistry Monroe intentionally creates an amazing picture of a musician's life. Be it one who hits the road, performing at every honky-tonk he can find to wash away the pain of a broken heart -- only to find there was perfection waiting for him right around the corner... or something even more "every day grind" inspired.

$25.00 - $28.00

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The Cotillion Ballroom

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Aaron Lewis with Brian Davis, Rick Monroe

Thursday, June 20 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at The Cotillion Ballroom