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Twinsburg -- A lifetime of influences and a gang of supporting musicians will join country artist and Staind frontman Aaron Lewis as he headlines the Jagermeister Country Tour at Perici Amphitheater June 28 for the second show of the Rock the Park concert series.
Joining Lewis onstage for the Country Night will be touring artists Post Road, Jared Ashley and Brother Trouble. The music starts at 6:30 p.m. in Glenn Chamberlin Park.
Despite his reputation as the lead singer and guitarist of an acclaimed rock band, country music is near and dear to Lewis' heart. Growing up around his grandfather in Vermont, Lewis was "extremely exposed" to the likes of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and George Jones, whose music influenced him significantly.
"My grandfather was a huge country fan," Lewis said June 21. "The radio went on when he got up and it turned off when he went to bed. All of my childhood memories are intertwined with old country music."
As he moved away from Vermont and country music "disappeared" from his life, Lewis performed solo acoustic songs in the early 1990's and eventually formed the rock band Staind in 1995. Lewis began a solo country career on the side around 2010. Lewis said country was the only direction he could go in after venturing off from his rock band background and returning to his solo/acoustic roots.
"I didn't want to do something that would have been compared to Staind constantly, which would have happened if I had stayed within the same genre," Lewis said. "I really couldn't foresee myself doing a Jason Mraz or John Mayer type of thing. The only thing I could really do that would stay true to myself and not reinventing myself in any way was doing country."
This genre shift was not as much of a leap as one might think, Lewis said, adding that many Staind hits such as "Outside" and "It's Been A While" began as acoustic tracks that Lewis "wrote sitting on [his] couch" and were colored in by the band's rock instrumentation.
"I'm really not trying to reinvent the wheel," Lewis said.
To date, Lewis has released two solo albums: "The Road" and the "Town Line" EP. Fans of Lewis' music may look forward to a third record, which he said is currently in progress.
"I'm working on a new record in the sense that during sound check on this whole tour, I've pretty much written all the music and a lot of melodies and there's some pretty good lyrical ideas there too, just by ad-libbing and jamming on stage during sound check," Lewis said.
As a seasoned veteran musician with years of touring under his belt, Lewis is no stranger to playing in Ohio, a state in which he said he enjoys performing.
"I certainly love playing in Ohio," Lewis said. "I own a huge piece of land in Ohio so I'm kind of half Ohioan. Any place that people gather to see a show is always good."
Parks and Recreation Director Derek Schroeder said the Jagermeister Country Night is shaping up to be the biggest concert of the Rock the Park series.
"This show is going to be big show for us," Schroeder said. "It's the first time we've had four acts on one stage in one night. Having the local Post Road contingent opening the show is going to be great. Everything is good to go on our part. We're excited about country at this level. Aaron Lewis is a huge act for our stage."
While his country roots and experiences with Staind overlap slightly, Lewis said attendees of the Jagermeister Country Night should anticipate a performance from Aaron Lewis the country artist, not Staind.
"Coming to the show, don't expect my past," Lewis said. "This is a country show. When it says Staind on the marquee, expect Staind. When it says Aaron Lewis on the marquee, expect the material that says Aaron Lewis on the cover of the record. Obviously, there's a couple songs that I throw in there from my past in their original stripped down and raw form, but other than that, it's a very country evening."
"I do not like country, but I love Aaron Lewis," Schroeder added. "He's amazing."