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Staind Master 

Singer Aaron Lewis discusses success, selling out, and the need for entertainment in these trying times

Singer Aaron Lewis of the band Staind has been able to connect with millions of rock fans with his dark, personal lyrics about failed relationships and his struggles through a confused and unhappy adolescence. But the same man who boldly exposes his emotions in song truly has a difficult time expressing himself in conversation. After long pauses, Lewis slowly answers questions, almost as if he's unsure of his own thoughts. Well into his comments, he'll begin to discover a hint of confidence that in turn may allow him to expound upon his initial thoughts for a brief moment. So, how does a fellow who seems so shy and reserved, but who also fronts one of the most popular new rock acts of today, face thousands of strangers night after night?

"I'm so lost in what's in my own world when I'm onstage, that I don't really think about it," he says... finally.

Lewis' emotional confessions can certainly be heard throughout the band's latest release, Break the Cycle. In the song "Waste," he writes, "I've tasted the cold steel of my life crashing down before me, but these words they can't replace, the life you waste." The song was written after the mother of a fan who had committed suicide approached him. And Lewis himself has publicly admitted to contemplating suicide as well, but with the tremendous success the band is currently experiencing, the fact is, it can become difficult for the singer to relive all of these personal experiences over and over again.

"The songs on this record are a little bit better than the ones from the last one. It's a little bit more difficult to sing the older songs now, but the new record is quite a bit more uplifting," he explains.

In the weeks prior to the release of Cycle, the band had not one but two songs in the Top 40. A live, acoustic version of "Outside" that features Lewis accompanied by Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit was released from the Family Values Tour 1999 album, and the track received constant radio airplay. And a new single from the album, "It's Been Awhile," was also released. With the help of the two singles, the album went platinum within two weeks of being released.

Although some people would state that the success of "Outside," along with the band's association with Durst (the Limp Bizkit frontman signed the band to his label, Flip Records in 1998) were the breaking points for the band commercially, Lewis' opinion differs considerably.

"We're not an overnight success story at all," he affirms. "We were on tour for 18 months straight before that song came out. We had four singles on the radio before 'Outside.' But I think we definitely hit a broader spectrum of people with the song that probably hadn't heard us before."

And now with the tremendous response to "It's Been Awhile," it appears the rockers have found themselves in yet another new environment -- VH1. The video for the slow-burning ballad, which was directed by Durst, has been in the top 10 on the channel's weekly countdown for a number of weeks now. "Yeah, that's kind of crazy, isn't it? I don't even try to figure things like that out," he laughs.

But Lewis doesn't mind being a rocker known for his ballads. "It's our songs and it doesn't really matter if it's the more melodic, deep ones or the heavy ones that people remember. It's just good to be known for writing songs that actually mean something rather than just throwing a bunch of words together that might rhyme and what not."

The single has also been used for the trailer for the NBC drama UC: Undercover. Despite his often angst-riddled attitude, Lewis surprisingly isn't concerned with the band's material being used for television.

"I have a hard time with that whole 'sell-out' thing. What is selling out? Having success at what you've been striving to have success to do? We're not MTV poster boys and we don't go out of our way to get on TV or anything like that. I don't really concern myself with it. There have definitely been things I've been approached on that I felt were inappropriate for me to do. We just do what we do and try not to put any gimmicks behind it."

Lewis, who admits to not owning a computer, says he also tries to avoid getting caught up in the glitz of being in the entertainment world. "I really don't get involved or pay much attention to what's going on in the industry. I just continue doing my thing and remaining true to who I am."

For a band whose earlier gigs included playing covers of songs from acts like Stone Temple Pilots, it can also be hard to fathom the reality of now being able to share the stage with some of those same acts -- which is the case as the band makes its second appearance on the Family Values Tour.

"There are personal sacrifices we've made for sure, but you have to do it because this won't last forever," he reveals. "Of course, we're honored to do the Family Values Tour for a second time. It was cool to be able to come back from being first to play on the bill to being fourth."

But with the fear of more terrorist attacks looming in the back of a lot of people's minds, Lewis says he didn't always feel that touring right now would be the best thing to do.

"The thought has haunted me the whole time we've been out here," he admits, "but we're trucking through it and we're doing our thing. Security has been severely stepped up, so that hasn't been an issue at all, but I have questioned whether it was right to be out here. But after thinking about it, I realized that we're giving all these kids something else to think about for a little while, so I guess we're just kind of doing our part."

Lewis admits to having his own way to take his mind off of everything: He hits the links. "I play golf on tour as often as I can because it's just a way to get away from everything. And I'm surrounded by a bunch of old people who have no clue who I am and don't care. I like that."

Staind will perform as part of the Family Values Tour on Tuesday, October 30, at the Charlotte Coliseum. For more details, call Ticketmaster at 704-522-6500. *

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