American singer-songwriter and musician Aaron Lewis first stepped into the spotlight in the early 1990s, fronting the alternative metal group Staind.
Lewis formed the band alongside fellow guitarist Mike Mushok after the two had met at a Christmas party. They recruited drummer Jon Wysocki and bassist Johnny April, completing the band’s lineup in 1995.
Staind started out initially playing covers of bands like Korn, Rage Against the Machine, Tool, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam.
Extensive touring throughout the northeastern US helped them gain a regional following before the release of their debut album Tormented in 1996. The following year, Staind earned a spot on tour with Limp Bizkit, eventually leading to them signing with their first major record label.
In 1999, Staind released their first major-label album Dysfunction. The album achieved slow success, reaching the number one spot on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart almost six months after its release. Lewis earned praise for his vocals on the record, drawing comparisons to the likes of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.
Staind would go on to release several more albums over the years, including Break the Cycle (2001), 14 Shades of Grey (2003), Chapter V (2005), The Illusion of Progress (2008), and Staind (2011). Several of their singles have reached top positions on US rock and all-format charts, including "It's Been Awhile," "Fade," "Price to Play," "So Far Away," and "Right Here."
By the release of their self-titled album, the group’s activity became more sporadic, and Lewis announced plans to pursue a solo career in country music.
In 2011, Lewis made the jump from alternative metal to outlaw country. At the time, he shared that country music had always played a significant role in his life.
“I was raised on country music," Lewis said. "My grandfather listened to Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, Hank Jr., and all of the greats."
Over the years, his attention turned towards hard rock, but time spent touring alongside fellow rock star and occasional country singer Kid Rock rekindled his interest in country.
Lewis made his country music debut later that same year, dropping his EP Town Line, featuring seven tracks including the gold-certified hit single "Country Boy."
The release made it clear that Lewis was not only one of the top acts in rock and roll, but a top country artist as well. His first full solo album, The Road, arrived one year later in 2012.
Lewis released two additional studio albums including 2016's Sinner and 2019's State I'm In, which debuted at number one and number two on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart respectively.
Despite making such a dramatic shift in musical genres, Lewis has held on to his painfully honest ways.
Lewis' outspokenness and vulnerability on stage have continued to resonate with audiences over the years, keeping him at the top of the charts as a solo.
"That's all I've ever done. My songs have always been me wearing my heart on my sleeve, and my emotions on my sleeve, and my misfortunes on my sleeve, my sins on my sleeve," Lewis says.
"I don't feel like it would be genuine nor worthy of this crazy ride I've been on if it wasn't."
Even with his a wildly successful career as a solo country act, Lewis remains part of the band that started it all for him. Despite other members branching out to experiment with various musical projects, Staind remains an active alternative metal band.
In 2016, Lewis reiterated that even though his focus remained on his solo career, Staind had not broken up. He even hinted that the band could possibly be releasing a new album in the near future.
Staind reunited more permanently in 2019, coming together for a string of performances that carried into 2020.
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