Playing acoustic is nothing new for the Staind frontman Aaron Lewis, who brings his solo acoustic tour to Penn's Peak, Jim Thorpe, at 8 p.m. July 8. His career began with an acoustic guitar and a dream.
"The solo shows bring things full circle for me. It's something that I used to do before I ever met the guys in Staind. It was a way that I put money in my pocket since I was 17," Lewis says in a recent phone interview from his home in Massachusetts.
"I came from a musical family. My dad played guitar and sang. My dad got a new nylon-string classical guitar when I was seven, and I got his old guitar. I self taught myself to play it.
"First time I sang was in chorus. My music teacher told me I had the thickest vocal chords of anyone he had ever known.
"I also play other instruments, bass, drums and I use the keyboard when I write songs. But I focused on the guitar because it is the best instrument to accompany myself singing in a solo fashion without needing anything else.
"When I was 14 I joined my first band. It was around that time I found the poetry I was writing could be put to song too. That was it."
Lewis and Staind sold nearly 13 million albums over the course of six full-length releases, and they penned one of the most-played rock songs of the past decade, "It's Been Awhile."
Lewis' path broadened in 2004 when he embarked on his first solo acoustic tour, which became a tradition for the singer-songwriter.
"When I'm alone on stage with just an acoustic guitar and a microphone, I connect with the audience intimately. The song's lyrics are front and center during the solo shows, and I find that most rewarding," says Lewis.
"The words often get buried under all of the instrumentation. In the solo shows, there's nothing else to pay attention to but the lyrics."
Those lyrics continue to resonate with fans. Staind has had four consecutive albums debut in the Top 3 on the Billboard 200 based on the strength of, in addition to "It's Been Awhile," the hits "Outside," "Epiphany," "Right Here" and "Believe."
The singles translate flawlessly in the acoustic setting, as well. "An acoustic is all I ever had," Lewis says.
The most recent song to come as a result of the solo tour is his latest track, "Country Boy."
"It's a true story," says Lewis. "It's one of those songs that covers phases of my life. I did grow up down an old dirt road in a town you wouldn't know. We were the only house on a mountain."
Lewis has always been a storyteller, and he continues that tradition with the solo material.
"For the most part, the stories are personal tales of mine. Once in awhile, they're observational. I don't know how to write fiction.
"My songs always explored that glimmer of hope that I was so desperate to attain. I'm lucky and honored to say that my music has affected many people. I can say everything that I need to say in a song, and everybody gets to have his or her own personal take on it."