Staind frontman Aaron Lewis recently finished recording a country-tinged solo album, and in the coming months he’ll meet with his bandmates to write the group’s next album. But for now he has one main focus: to reopen his daughter’s elementary school in Worthington, Mass., which recently closed due to budget cutbacks.
To help accomplish this, Lewis and his wife, Vanessa, have started the It Takes a Community Foundation (facebook.com/ittakesacommunity), a nonprofit designed to financially assist rural community groups throughout greater New England. For now Lewis is using his own money to reopen the RH Conwell Community Education Center this fall. He estimates it’ll cost up to $300,000 per year to keep it open.
“When I reopen it we’re going to do preschool through sixth grade and we’re not turning anybody away,” Lewis tells Billboard. “This town depends on the school. We have no commerce . . . We have a stoplight with a country store, and that’s literally it. It’s a town of 1,200 people and the only thing we have is the elementary school.”
To help raise awareness of the foundation, Lewis is hosting a benefit concert on Aug. 14 at the Pines Theater at Look Park in Northampton, Mass. In addition to Lewis, the event will feature acoustic performances by Brad Arnold and Chris Henderson of 3 Doors Down, Brendan Kelly and Lo Pro.
Lewis is giving the foundation his earnings from a handful of solo acoustic performances in July. He’s also looking into corporate sponsors to help support the nonprofit. In addition to helping reopen the school, the funds will be given to New England rural areas that don’t have “the tax dollars or the wealth . . . to do things for the community that bring it closer together,” Lewis says.
Meanwhile, Lewis says that Staind is “enjoying the tail-end of our break” from promoting and touring behind its 2008 album, “The Illusion of Progress,” which has sold 379,000 copies in the United States according to Nielsen SoundScan and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. “In November-ish, or something like that, we’ll start meeting up at my barn and writing songs and recording for the next record,” he says.
It’s too early to tell what musical direction Staind will take on its next album, but fans can expect to hear a definite country flavor on Lewis’ forthcoming debut solo album. “It’s acoustic guitar based and I recorded it in Nashville with a bunch of country session musicians,” he says. “So it’s kind of somewhere between country and James Taylor and ‘It’s Been A While.'”
A release date hasn’t been set for the as-yet-untitled album, but Lewis says it will be released by Atlantic Records.
The first single from the solo set is called “Country Boy” and features guest spots by Hank Williams Jr., George Jones and Charlie Daniels, according to Lewis. “I’ve got to say that ‘Country Boy’ is definitely in the stylings of ‘Country Boy Can Survive’ (by hank Williams jr.),” he says. “I’m not going to try and deny that correlation.”
Lewis will tour behind the solo effort this fall, then “after hunting season is over, start working on the (Staind) record,” he says.