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Lonestar: Party Heard Around The World

Posted by: Petr Mecir

photo: CountryZone.net
Interviews 06/26/2009

Lonestar is one of country's finest bands consisting of Cody Collins, Dean Sams, Michael Britt and Keech Rainwater. With 10 #1 hits including "No News", "Amazed" and "I'm Already There" they already made their mark in country music history. I met with the guys on their first European tour in Switzerland and before they burned down the house with their high-energy show, I interviewed keyboardist Dean Sams and lead vocalist Cody Collins.


You recorded a very rocking and cool version of "Gimme All Your Lovin'" for the ZZ Top tribute project. Do you find a lot of inspiration in rock music?

"Me and the rest of guys in Lonestar, we definitely come from various backgrounds. We love all kinds of music. I would say we're very influenced by groups like ZZ Top. I guess you can go down the line and for each guy there's somebody different, but I'm probably the least rock guy in the band. I'm definitely more on the country side, but I love Journey and things like that, anything really vocally driven, the rest of the guys are more into the guitar and drum driven stuff."

Who are your heroes then?
Dean Sams

"Wow, I've got so many. What got me into country music was Ronnie Milsap. I'm a huge Ronnie Milsap fan and the first song I ever learned to play on the piano was 'Stranger In My House'. And him and Kenny Rogers both, I love inspirational soft balads, and stuff the touches your heart, heartstrings that Kenny Rogers had the best in my mind. And then as far as just all great performer, Ronnie Milsap, he's the guy."

Let's talk about the new days of Lonestar. Do you think that the sound of Lonestar has changed since Richie left?

"The sound itself won't change, because we're the band. We're the sound of the band. But what will change is the subject matter what we sing about. It seems like the last few years all the singles that Richie was part of writing tended to be all family driven and there's nothing wrong with that, I mean we all have families and that's great, but we wanted to be more diverse. There's so many types of people that come to your shows and buy your music. It's not everybody who just has families. I feel it's our job as a band is to reflect life. It's about love and loss of love and heartache and there's so many facets of life. We're gonna try to touch on all of it instead of getting focused down on just one part of it."

Some critics say that the cause of your commercial decline was just the wrong choice of the singles made by the label. Is it true that you were forced to record those songs?

"Well, we were forced more by Richie than anybody about recording those songs. I was adament against recording 'Mr. Mom' and 'Class Reunion' and things like that, but as the matter of fact we went on to record those songs in the studio. We weren't even supposed to record them, we were supposed to record some other things and Richie kind of put his foot down and said he wanted to record these songs, so we did that went against the label. Joe Galante that had the label didn't want to record those songs either. And I think Joe put out the singles to prove the point. Even though they were hits on the radio, they didn't sell any records. Our record sales went drastically down. I feel it's very much because of the type of songs they were."

What label are you signed to now?
Keech Rainwater

"We have our own label, the Lonestar Records, which we actually had before we ever got a record deal. The first record we ever put out was on the Lonestar Records. It was the live EP that we did. We're totally independent now, which is both good and bad. It's good from the stand point of that we can do exactly what we wanna do, it's bad from the stand point of we gotta pay for it all." (laughs)

How did you find Cody?

"I produce a lot of other acts in Nashville and I was working with an act that was singing at a club down in Atlanta doing a show and I went there to support them, which I always try to go see what my acts perform somewhere. And I was waiting on them to come out and sing and out comes Cody singing and I was just blown away with his voice and his performance. He's just a great entertainer. So, I stayed there after the show, introduced myself and talked to him about producing a project on him, but as fate would have it, we got very busy and I wasn't able to ever do a project on him. I think it was exactly a year later Richie told us he was leaving and I immediately thought hey I've got the guy."

I know that Josh Gracin was singing in one of your shows at the time.

"Josh Gracin actually did two shows with us."

Did you consider him to be the new lead singer?

"We did talk about Josh, but you know Josh had a successful solo career going on. Although he and I are friends and I actually just got through producing three sides on him, we talked about it, but bringing somebody in that has some sort of solo success, I think it would probably cause problems somewhere down the road. Josh is a great talent, an awesome singer, I just felt like eventually we would have butted heads, because we were the band and the brand and him in the new situation by him having some solo success, he would probably start doing things his way and we would have butted heads eventually."

Tell me about the new project.

"There's a song on the new record called 'The Future' and its title says it all. It's really about us looking forward to the future of our music and our fans and growing our business back bigger than ever. 'The Future' and the other song called 'Let Me Love You' are the ones that we put on our website lonestarnow.com and a lot of fans have written and said we really love the music. That's just the tip of the iceberg that we got coming, it's a great record."

What musical direction are you going this time?
Michael Britt

"The musical direction is very similar to the Lonely Grill record, which is our biggest record to date, it's sold 4.5 million copies and, of course, had 'Amazed', 'What About Now', 'Smile' and things like that, but I would say with a lot more energy to it. And vocally Cody gives an amazing performance on all of the songs. He really is a brilliant singer. I think he brought that to the record that a lot of guys can't pull it off. They can't even pull it off live that they can pull it off on the record, but they can't do both, and Cody can do both."

Do you mind if fans approach you in public places?

"No, it happens. It just depends. All the time I don't like it is when I'm eating, but outside of that it's never an issue. The fans are what keep us going, so if they wanna come say hey, get an autograph or something, that doesn't bother us. I think a lot of people forget when they come from when they start having a little bit of success. But it really doesn't bother like I said only time it does is when I'm eating but even then I don't get too upset about it, I usually sign. I've never told someone no."

How many dates a year do you play now?

"About 70 to 80 shows a year. That's really why we're coming over here to kind of test the waters, because it's our goal to still do 70 or 80 dates in the States and maybe come over here and do 20 or 30 dates and round about a 100 dates in a year, so if can build up a big enough fan base, that's exactly what we're gonna do."

Is this your first trip to Europe?

"Well, we've been to different parts of England, Ireland and Scottland. We did that when 'Amazed' was really big. It's been almost 10 years did that. Like I said, we're just gonna stick a toe in the water and see what it's like, see what the fans will react to us and they like what we
do and if they do, we can built up a big base and start making regular trips over here."


You joined the band two and a half years ago. Where did you play before?

"Before I joined Lonestar I was singing in Atlanta, GA and I was singing at a bar called Cowboys, a 48,000 square foot country club. A very cool place, I sang there for four years and before that I was playing fairs, festivals, and whatever I was trying to get somewhere. Everything went in the proper order. I had acquired just enough skill singing and playing and everything through Cowboys enough to have enough to fit in with Lonestar. Everything's right now."

Have you always played country music?
Cody Collins

"Always. I mixed it up with a little bit of rock'n'roll, but for the most part, everything was strictly country, I like that."

Were you a Lonestar fan before you joined the band?

"Yeah, I was."

Did you know the songs?

"I did, not every one. I knew pretty much three quarters of the songs. I had never thought before Lonestar that I would have the opportunity to play with the guys and join them. But yeah, I knew 'Amazed', I knew 'What About Now', I knew most of the songs. It was kind of easy just learning the ones that I didn't."

How long did it take to learn the repertoire?

"It took me a few weeks to catch up everything. I had already known most of the songs, it wasn't too bad."

Did you co-operate with Richie in any way?

"Honestly I never had the opportunity to meet Richie. We haven't crossed yet unfortunately. I've heard he's a nice guy and he's written a lot of great songs with the band and great history of the band. He's got a great talent and singing. I'm hoping that a chance to meet him will come soon. It's kind of strange, I know. But he's off to his own thing now. The first thing we recorded together when I joined the band was a Christmas album 'My Christmas List'. That came out the Christmas before right after I joined the band."

Do you think that the Lonestar fans have accepted the change of the lead singer?

"Yeah, it's been great. I thought there would be a little trouble with it, I was little nervous when I joined the band that had been together for so long, and so many fans had been fans of the other guy, Richie, so I little worried. But in the end when the change happened, they were very accepting that. Some people, you know, you can't please everybody. Some people liked theLonestar - Party Heard Around The World other guy better and that's fine. We're different, me and Richie, are different in our own way and people can't accept both. We're having a great time, still going strong. We got a plenty of shows this year and have one of the first opportunities to come overseas, to come over here in Europe and we're here now, trying our best."

What of your musical heroes have you already met?

"Yeah, we've been on the Opry three times and two of the times we played with Hal Ketchum. He's cool. Also Aaron Tippin, and several other people I had the opportunity to meet with Lonestar. I know they've known these guys for many years. I got to meet a lot of people I used to listen to, where a lot of my influences came from. Very nice people, most of them."

What has been your most memorable moment of meeting some of your heroes?

"There's actually two of them. One was a big deal at the time because I was a little younger. Last year I met George Jones and believe it or not, I was at the Nashville Star taping. I was sitting in the audience. I was sitting right behind the judges, me and Dean Sams. And George Jones actually ended up sitting right in front of us. I actually got to chance to meet him and that was very cool. And another time, I was 15, I got to meet George Strait, at a ACM after-party. I'll never forget that he was my biggest idol of the time."

Thank you.


Lonestar & Petr Mecir

(Lonestar & Petr Mecir - Interlaken, Switzerland, 06/25/2009)




Lonestar - "Let Me Love You"



(C) Petr Mecir 2009. All rights reserved.