Here's a quick recipe for musical success: Put out a country album. Even if you aren't known as a country artist. In fact, especially if you aren't.
Does that equation seem just a bit too simple? Well, yes--I am being facetious, of course. However, it certainly seems to be as good a bet as any these days.
According to Yahoo! Music's own Chart Watch, in the past five years, seven artists from non-country backgrounds have landed at No. 1 on the top country albums chart. (The artists? Jewel, Jessica Simpson, Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, and Darius Rucker. And, also, Julianne Hough, who has no prior musical affiliation but came from the world of TV.)
And now that number's jumped to eight. The latest to top the country albums chart this week--as well as land at a very respectable No. 7 on the all-genre albums chart--is yet another artist making a complete brand-new start in the Nashville ranks.
I'm talking about Aaron Lewis, who already has a quite successful career as the frontman for multiplatinum rock act Staind. His first solo effort, Town Line, was released March 1 and is solidly country strong, featuring guest appearances by George Jones, Charlie Daniels, and Chris Young. Lewis's own voice, which works so well in a rock-god iteration, translates surprisingly smoothly over the rootsier, twangier feel of his new chosen genre.
What with the fairly recent crowd of crossover artists who started out in rock or pop and ended up successfully doing country, it comes as no surprise that Lewis has had to fend off some skeptics. "I get country people that are suspect of my rock thing, and I get rock people who are suspect of my country thing," he admitted in a recent interview for Billboard.
However, Lewis feels confident within the country genre. "I grew up on country," he noted, explaining that he was introduced to the music by his grandfather, who favored classic artists such as Hank Williams and Merle Haggard.
Lewis's foray into Nashville hasn't seemed to hurt his popularity with any of his fans--his lead-off solo single "Country Boy" is actually placing on the rock charts as well as country. And he has no intention of abandoning his original post with Staind now that he's gotten a foothold on Nashville. Quite the contrary--after finishing up his solo tour, which began in late February and wraps in May, he'll be entering the studio to record Staind's seventh studio album.
Sounds like he's got it all figured out quite nicely. I for one wish him continued success, and am a fan of his country endeavors.
And hey--if Lewis's latest success hasn't swayed you over to the success-factor of country music, I've got another story for you: There once was an Oscar-winning actress who had absolutely nothing "country" about her. She just reportedly signed a record deal for nearly a million bucks.
In all seriousness, have you heard Aaron's new record? Do you like his foray into country music, or do you prefer him as a rock dude? Here's the video for his first single, "Country Boy," compared with an early and particularly rockin' Staind vid, "Mudshovel," to help you make up your minds.
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