Known for merging their country roots with strong melodies and rich vocals, Lonestar has amassed RIAA-certified sales in excess of 10 million album units since their national launch in 1995, and achieved 10 No. 1 country hits including “No News,” “Come Crying to Me,” and their crossover smash “Amazed.”
This year, as the band celebrates 25 years together, members also are celebrating their new CD, “Never Enders,” which features 10 new, original songs that bring their trademark sound into the contemporary arena. Franklin County area fans will get to hear them perform live when Lonestar takes the main stage at the Washington Town and County Fair Saturday evening, Aug. 5, at 6:30 p.m.
The Missourian’s Currents Arts and Entertainment Editor Ethan Busse was able to speak with band member Michael Britt (lead guitar and backing vocals) in a phone interview about the band’s staying power, his influences and more.
Following are highlights of that interview:
MISSOURIAN: You guys are going to be coming to play our Fair this year . . . We are excited you’re coming. We have a lot of Lonestar fans in Washington and the surrounding area.
I know you guys were in the soundtrack to my youth. I was in high school when you guys broke on the scene.
BRITT: That’s awesome! Yeah, you know our crowd is changing over the years. We are getting a new generation of fans whose parents listen to us on their way to school and stuff.
We get a lot of people now saying, “Yeah, I grew up going to school with your music because my parents were big fans.” So it’s funny that we have multigenerational fans.
MISSOURIAN: That’s cool, though. It speaks to the music, you know.
BRITT: Yeah, it’s awesome that we are still around and still able to do it.
MISSOURIAN: That’s right, still relevant! So, what were some of the inspirations for you guys when you were getting started in music?
BRITT: There’s always the motivation of just wanting to be a musician and not “get a real job.” That was the primary motivation. And then just trying to eat. We spent our first three years as a band traveling all over the country and up into Canada in a van pulling a trailer playing five and six nights a week in different places. So we just worked as hard as we could, and then after a few years we thought — we should try to get a record deal if we’re going to keep doing this. So we stayed in Nashville a little bit more and tried to play for the people who mattered, and we just got lucky.
You know, when this band first got together, it was just five guys thrown together on short notice. We just happened to have two great lead singers in John Rich and Rich McDonald, so I think that’s really kind of our lucky break in the very beginning to have two really talented great singers in a band that can each do well on their own.
I think that got us recognized early on and after that it was just a matter of finding songs that would resonate with people and make us have a career.
MISSOURIAN: Who was your biggest influence as a guitarist?
BRITT: Well, I was the rocker of the band, you know, so all of my influences, most of them, weren’t country, so I brought in the rock edge to the band early on.
I grew up listening to Eddie Van Halen, and then I got into Mark Knopfler from Dire Straights, and Stevie Ray Vaughan was a huge influence.
And when I started listening to country, people like Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Albert Lee, all those kind of guys influenced me so. Honestly I listen to such a wide range of music, everything from rock to jazz or whatever. I just try to find little things from all of it that I like and that I can maybe incorporate.
MISSOURIAN: Right on! I can hear it in your playing. It’s versatile.
BRITT: Thanks. Yeah, that is what I always wanted to do. I never wanted to have just one sound. I wanted to be able to play almost anything that was thrown at me. That was the cool thing when we played country music in the beginning was you got to play all of those different styles.
Then when we started making our own records, I thought, well I don’t want to just limit myself again. I want to try to incorporate all those little bits and styles that I learned over the years. And that’s what kind of I’m able to do with Lonestar.
MISSOURIAN: Awesome! So what’s new with the band. Anything big going on?
BRITT: We put out an album last year called Neverenders, and that’s the album that we are out promoting right now.
But we also have an endorsement deal with Tractor Supply Company. They’ve sponsored our tour, so we are doing a bunch of stuff for them. We are shooting some web commercials for them, and just basically acting silly and educate the public on all they have.
I know we are doing some shows in their parking lots, and at some of the new store openings, we get to do concerts in the parking lots, in addition to our regular tour schedule, so we have a lot of stuff going on this year.
More than usual, actually.
MISSOURIAN: Do you guys like playing in places like fairs and stuff in the heartland versus playing the big stadiums? I know you guys have played the biggest stadiums as well.
BRITT: Yeah, when we were on the George Strait Festival those were our biggest shows because we were playing sold-out football stadiums and stuff, and that’s a lot of people.
But there’s always something about, it seems like all the different venues we play have their little benefits and things, so when we do our acoustic show in these smaller theaters and stuff those are cool because it’s so intimate, and when we do the big shows, it’s cool just because how many people are there.
But the county fairs are fun for us because it’s a whole day of stuff. Families are going . . . you’ve got multigenerations of people. It’s a festive day. They are going to ride rides, play games and we are just the icing on the cake at the end.
MISSOURIAN: Right! Exactly! What kind of show can we expect that night?
BRITT: We try to put on a high-energy show. We are known for our ballads like “I’m Already There” and “Amazed,” but we really like to rock out and make people get up and have fun.
So even though you kind of think of us as the ballad band or whatever maybe sometimes, we have songs like “Front Porch Lookin’ In,” “Mr. Mom,” “What About Now?” “No News,” we have up tempo songs, so we try to keep it paced up-tempo, and every year we try to throw in a few cover songs that people maybe don’t expect, and there’s maybe a couple of them that people might never expect that Lonestar would do live.
So we try to keep it fresh and interesting for us and the people who keep coming to see us.
MISSOURIAN: Yeah, I know your up-tempo ones when they come on the radio, you can’t help but sing along.
BRITT: I love doing “What About Now?” . . . every day when we do that song, I’m just so glad that that’s our song because it was probably pitched to other people but we’re so lucky that we got that. That was a huge one for us.
MISSOURIAN: Yeah, it just fits you guys perfect.
So, Richie’s in the band again. He had left at some point and then came back?
BRITT: Yeah, he left from around 2008 to 2013 or ’14 . . . but it just fit right in as soon as he came back. It’s like, “Oh yeah, there’s our sound.”
I guess we’ve all grown up a little bit too over the years, so our touring now is actually, I don’t want to say it’s more fun, but it’s kind of relaxed. We just go out, we get to play shows and go home to our families. There seems to be less stress around it and just more fun.
MISSOURIAN: Yeah, you’re doing it the way you want to do it now.
BRITT: Yeah, we don’t have a bunch of record label people wanting this or that from us all the time, so it’s kind of fun for us.
MISSOURIAN: That’s awesome! Well, Michael, is there anything else you’d like to say to the fans before you come out?
BRITT: I don’t think so. We’ve been really fortunate in that area. We’ve played all over Missouri and gotten great response, so I just can’t wait to get there and hopefully see a lot of our fans and have a good show.