By Kevin Greer
Lakeside Communications Manager
Multi-platinum country band Lonestar achieved superstar status when their ballad “Amazed” became a No. 1 hit on Billboard’s country and pop charts in 1999. The song still gets airplay on radio stations and is a fan favorite at Lonestar’s concerts.
The band will perform that and all their hits as they make a “TEN to 1 Tour” stop in Hoover Auditorium Saturday, Aug. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Dean Sams (keyboards, acoustic guitar, background vocals), Michael Britt (lead guitarist, background vocals) and Keech Rainwater (drums) have been together since the early 1990s and Drew Womack (lead vocals, guitar) joined band in March 2021.
Britt discussed several topics with The Lakesider newspaper, including his musical influences, what he was studying in college and why he left, music he listens to and playing in smaller venues.
Your thoughts about coming Lakeside.
Britt: The venue looks really cool. We like older rooms like that. There’s something magical about old buildings and the way they were built back then. They have a cool sound to them, reflect everything and it’s lively. I think that translates to the crowd, too. We’ve always had a great fan base in Ohio, and the Midwest has always been really good to us. We can’t wait to get up there.
Is there something you want to do when you’re here?
Britt: We just lay low during the day because we try to save our energy for the night. If you see a tall blonde guy rolling around town on one wheel, that’s our drummer. He does that all the time. It really depends on where we were the day before and how much sleep we got. We’ll definitely get out and look around.
Talk about your bandmates.
Britt: Are they going to read this? My bandmates are great guys. Drew has only been with us a couple years, but he is the most fun to be around. He’s a super nice guy and very talented. Keech and Dean, we’ve been in the band together for almost 30 years. It’s kind of crazy to think that we’ve been around that long. We feel like brothers, we know each other, we know what buttons to push or what buttons not to push. We’re just in a really good spot. We have fun playing music and we get to do what we love to do.
What does Drew bring to the band?
Britt: He is a consummate professional. He’s such a good singer and he treats singing as a full-time job. I’ve never heard him have a bad night or sing a wrong note. His voice just fits our material so well that it feels like we’ve been doing this forever with him. The cool thing is I’ve known him for over 30 years, and we started out in Texas in different bands. I’ve always respected his musicianship and his singing, so it’s just nice to have him part of the band.
Who is your biggest musical influence?
Britt: I’m kind of all over the place. I grew up with rock, so Eddie Van Halen is probably one of the first influences, but I can’t play anything like him. I don’t even try anymore. Stevie Ray Vaughan was a huge one, so I do sneak a little of his music into my solos every now and then. Those kinds of guitarists are people who changed the way a guitar is played. I’m also a big song guy and I love the Eagles. They had so many great songs and vocal harmonies, and I think that’s one of the things Lonestar is always trying to do. We want to have strong vocals, harmonies and musicianship. We brought all the influences we liked growing up and just tried to stick it in this band.
You grew up listening to classic rock and here you are in a in a country band. How did that happen?
Britt: It’s funny because when I was in high school, and even through college, I was playing in rock bands in Austin or Fort Worth. If you wanted to play rock music, it was like winning the lottery. There weren’t many places you could work and make money. But you could play in a country band and make money, and I realized I could play my blues licks and my rock licks. Country is a really cool style of music that you can pull all these different influences into, which I thought was just perfect.
Did you listen to a lot of country music before you joined the band?
Britt: I did not. When I first started, they gave me a list of 30-40 songs to learn. I started finding bands and singers that I really liked —Steve Warner, Vince Gill, Restless Heart — that were around in the early 90s. I thought it was good stuff and became a student of country music for a while. I’m still not like the epitome of the country player. There are people who play circles around me, but I’m very familiar with country music now and it’s another love of mine. I still listen to classic rock and I don’t listen to much new country just because I feel like I’m just older than the demographic they’re aiming for most of the time. I like good music wherever it comes from.
What was the job you quit when things started to work out musically?
Britt: I was working my way through college in drugstores. I’ve done everything you can do at a drugstore starting in high school. I was the manager of the front end and then I became a pharmacy technician. I was even going to school to be a pharmacist for a minute and then I realized, I’m going to have to work nights and weekends, so I’ll just play music for a living.
Where were you going to college?
Britt: I went to University of Texas-Arlington and then I moved to University of Texas in Austin. I took a semester off to go play music and I never went back.
Was “Amazed” a game changer for Lonestar?
Britt: It was. We had two albums and three No. 1 songs before that, but we felt like we were still trying to make it. Then John Rich left the band after the second album and that was a scary moment for us. But the funny thing about this band is every time we’re confronted with a challenge or something that seems harder to get through, we always seem to come out of it better on the other side. When John left, we ended up changing producers to Dann Huff. I don’t know if it was just the combination of us and Dann at the time or just the songs we picked, but that Lonely Girl album had four No. 1 songs on it. That’s what really made our career. We wanted to keep making more music and didn’t want to be one-hit wonders. We just always put our heads down and worked.
The same people listening to Goo Goo Dolls, Janet Jackson, Madonna and Backstreet Boys were also listening to you guys.
Britt: “Amazed” got so big. I remember walking in New York City to do some media stuff and I could hear “Amazed” coming out of an electronics store. I thought, “This is crazy. I’m in the biggest city in the country, and I’m hearing our song just walking down the street.” We were backstage at the American Music Awards show in Los Angeles, and there were rock bands that I’ve always looked up to. Ryan Peake, a guitar player for Nickelback came up to me and goes, “Hey, I love your song ‘Amazed.’” Then I thought, “How does Ryan from Nickelback know our song?” I just had to pinch myself.
Is there a favorite Lonestar song you guys that you like to play during your concerts?
Britt: People ask if we ever get tired of playing “Amazed,” and I’m like, “How do you possibly get tired of playing that song?” Every time we start it people just light up. There’s not a feeling of any other song we do at the show like that one. That’s always a special song. I love playing “Walking in Memphis.” I liked that song before I ever started playing country music for a living. We started playing it one day at a soundcheck and then we kept doing it until we finally recorded it and put it on our greatest hits record. It’s just a fun song to play live.
Most bands don’t even come close to lasting 30 years. How did you do it?
Britt: We’re just stubborn. I don’t think we want to do anything else. I mean, this is what we put our time and energy into for so long and this is what we like to do. If you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t feel like work. We feel like we’ve just been cheating the system the whole time because we got to play for most of our lives.
Are you going to record some new stuff in the future?
Britt: Oh, definitely. Dean and Drew are already starting to write a little bit. We’re gonna start recording in the fall.
How much fun are you still having?
Britt: We’re having more fun now than ever. In our heyday, it was so stressful and you’re always being pulled in all kinds of different directions. I feel like now we’ve hit our stride where we go out and play on the weekends, have a great time and go home to our lives that we’ve built over the last 20-something years. I feel like we can really appreciate going on the road and it doesn’t feel like a chore or feel like we’re just on that treadmill trying to get to the next thing.
What kind of show should Lakesiders expect?
Britt: Well, this is our “TEN to 1 Tour,” and it’s the first time we’ve ever done all 10 of our number one songs. Usually, we have a new album to promote, so we take out some of our older songs to put new songs in. We want to make sure all the new songs are in here and the kind of the versions we do on the record, too. We always try to have a show that’s high energy, up tempo and then slows down for the ballads. One of our fans the other day said something like, “Oh yeah, I was laughing and then I was crying.” We’re like a Steven Spielberg movie. We try to get all the emotions out in an hour and a half period.