Aaron Lewis on Committing to Country Music, Status of Staind & Why He'd 'Certainly Vote For' Donald Trump

Aaron Lewis Staind
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Aaron Lewis of Staind performs at The Pearl concert theater at the Palms Casino Resort on June 7, 2014 in Las Vegas.

Aaron Lewis has his third country release finished and ready to go, and he's confident it will leave no doubt about his commitment to the genre.

"It sounds like country music, which these days is pretty rare, for a 'country artist' to actually put out country music," Lewis tells Billboard about Sinner, which he hopes to release during the summer on Dot Records, part of the Borchetta Music Group. Lewis recorded the 11-song set in a 16-hour session in Nashville with producer Buddy Cannon and musicians including pedal steel virtuoso Paul Franklin, guitarist Brent Mason, bassist Kevin "Swine" Grantt and multi-instrumentalist Jim "Moose" Brown.

"The majority of the record is one take, sometimes two takes," Lewis reported. "The vocals are the scratch vocals. I never redid them; those are the vocals I laid down while they were laying their tracks down, and it's raw and it's real and it's very unproduced and exactly how I wanted it to be. I'm not a fan of what's for the most part coming out of Nashville these days. It's pop music; it's not country music."

Sinner also includes a track sung by Lewis' 13-year-old daughter Zoe, on which he sings harmonies.

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Lewis is previewing all of Sinner's tracks during his live shows. And after two top 10 releases -- including the 2011 EP Town Line, which was No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart -- he is hoping to chill out any of those still skeptical about his devotion to the genre. "I'm still trying to prove that I'm a viable part of the country community and not just a rock guy that's coming in and dipping my toes in the country world," explains Lewis, who's still based in his native Massachusetts, where he launched the hard rock band Staind. "Nashville liked to be able to claim its own, and because I kind of circumvented all of that and just put out a country record and it debuted at No. 1 on the country charts, the establishment still has a problem with me. They still don't give me the time of day. They're just waiting to say, 'See, I told you he wasn't committed to the genre.' But I am." And Lewis suspects Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, whose debut solo album is coming out on the Borchetta Music Group's Big Machine imprint, might have an easier time being accepted.

"Well, y'know, he's a legend, and being a legend goes a long way," Lewis says. "I don't know if it's my kind of country, but I'm sure he'll do just fine."

Lewis' focus, meanwhile, means Staind will stay inactive for the time being. The group finished its recording contract with 2011's self-titled album and has not played live since 2014 -- but still considers itself together. "We still haven't broken up," Lewis says. "We're just waiting for the right opportunity for me to be able to balance both [careers]. I don't think it would be a 50/50 balance, but at least be able to play a few shows per year. Do I think that there's more music there? Sure. Do I want to go down that road? Not particularly at the moment, no. I don't even know that when the time comes for us to go out and do some shows whether that means we're going to record more music. We'll just have to see what happens when we get there."

Lewis, an avowed conservative, is also avidly watching the U.S. presidential primary campaigns. Lewis voted for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz -- "the most constitutionally driven candidate on the docket" -- in the Massachusetts primary, but he'll support whoever gets the nomination from the Republican Party in the general election.

"Listen, I like the fact Donald Trump has come in and shaken things up and said a whole lot of things the establishment doesn't want to hear him say and the people did want to hear him say," Lewis notes. "But at the same time, there's an expectation for somebody being presidential in nature, and he disappoints me with the bickering and the name-calling. It's just not very presidential behavior. But I would certainly vote for him if he becomes the candidate."