Lonestar Lead Guitarist Talks Band History, Waterville Gig

The Lonestar band members from left are Keech Rainwater, Drew Womack, Dean Sams and Michael Britt. Taylor Ballantyne LLC photo

Frequent readers of these columns are probably well aware that I am a big fan of close vocal harmonies. No matter what genre has them – folk, pop, classical, jazz, rock, metal, bluegrass or country – I love them all! And there is one band in this last category that is among the best in the business: Lonestar. For 30 years now, this group has blessed us with some of the most memorable country songs of the moment, “Amazed”, “I’m Already There”, “What About Now”, “No News”, “Come Cryin’ to Me, “Mr. Mom,” “Smile,” “Tell Him,” and “Flee My Heart” to name a few. When I found out they were coming to the Waterville Opera on the 11th February, I just had to chat with a member and find out what was going on lately with the band, which is made up of Dean Sams (keyboards, acoustic guitar, backing vocals); Keech Rainwater (drums, backing vocals); Drew Womack (vocals , guitar); and Michael Britt (lead guitar, backing vocals). I was able to catch up with Britt, who called me from his house in Nashville, and I started by complimenting him on the signature Lonestar sound with these close harmonies aforementioned.

Brit: Good thanks alot. That’s actually one of the things, when we started this band, that was one of our main goals was to have really good background harmonies, that’s something we’re always striving for.

Q: At one time there were five members and there are currently four, right?
Brit: Yeah, John Rich was originally in the band, then he left in 1998, I think, and then there were only four of us, and then Richie[McDonald}leftseveraltimesButoverallit’salmostthesameguysfor30yearsalmost

Q: Oh my word, that’s impressive in itself.
Brit: It really is and the fact that we were able to continue even with the lead singers gone is a testament to the cohesion of all the other band members I think.

Q: I completely agree. And another thing that really works for you is having an ear for a good song, is that a fair assumption on my part?

Brit: Yeah. And without a good song, you can have the best harmonies in the world, but nobody wants to hear them, they want to hear music that they can somehow relate to. And so we wanted good harmonies, we wanted really big choruses, whether it’s a beat song or a ballad, and then we just like songs that people can relate to. So that’s kind of been our recipe and it’s been pretty successful so far so we don’t want to change too much but, yeah, we’ve just been very lucky to have some really great songs that kind of cemented our career.

Q: So how do you choose something? Obviously this has to be something you can identify with and also hear the possibilities of your signature harmonies?
Brit: Definitively. So when we had a record deal and a producer, we actually had a lot of meetings where we would sit in a room and listen to songs. After we made the song list, we would figure out what other songs we needed for an album, or what songs we wrote that worked, and our own songs had to stand up to all those monster songs we were getting from songwriters around town . I feel like we always picked the best of the best, no matter who wrote them. We would always know the ones that really spoke to us, that would be the ones, at the beginning of the meeting, we were like, “Yeah, we have to cut that one, that looks like us, that looks like us and that’s kind of what for what we want to be known, in a certain way!

Q: Now, when you come to the Waterville Opera, it will only be the four of you, you are all instrumentalists as well as singers, aren’t you?
Brit: Yes, we’re not just a band of singers with a band behind us, we all play. We come from the days when you could make a living playing in bars five nights a week, so we were a working band, we played covers and tried to slip our own songs in there, and we did for three or four years before having a recording contract. And that’s another thing, we sort of approach our music, not so much from a traditional point of view because Keech and I are a bit more rockers in the band, so we have a rock energy, but we also want to keep those harmonies and have great country hit songs. We’ve just been really lucky to have the right group of people and the right songs for all these years.

Q: Now, have you ever performed at the Waterville Opera?
Brit: Sounds familiar, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we hadn’t. I know we’ve been to Bangor and we’ve been to Maine a few times, but I can’t remember if we’ve played Waterville for sure. I used to remember every gig, but after about 10 years I started losing some gigs we did (laughs).

Q: (Laughter) And having done this for as long as I have, I went through my files and my notes to see if I had ever interviewed you and could not confirm such a thing. I will therefore consider that this is the first time that we have spoken to each other.
Brit: (Laughs) And I’m going to consider this the first time we’ve played in Waterville.

Q: Besides not happening, how has this pandemic affected Lonestar?
Brit: Well, personally I was able to take a vacation with my family, so that was the best thing to come out of the pandemic as far as being off the road for that long. I guess when you’re on the road all the time for 30 years, you always think, “I wish we could do this, I wish we could do that!” But I was able to do some of those things, so I hate to say it, but the pandemic has been good for me mentally and everything else. And, coming out of the pandemic, Richie decided he didn’t want to be in Lonestar anymore, so we had to find a new lead singer, so our exit from the pandemic was also different, but we ended up with Drew Womack, just an amazing singer that i have known for over 30 years, i was a fan of his when he was in sons of the desert. It was just crazy how it all happened, it just seemed like it was meant to be. It’s so fun to play with Drew, he’s so talented, it’s awesome. I feel like we came out of this whole COVID mess with actually a better mindset, better sound and a better group of people too.

Q: Now that you may be seeing your first performance at the Waterville Opera House, is there anything, Michael, that you would like me to pass on to people reading this article?
Brit: Well we just like to go out and have fun and honestly playing gigs is kind of the reason we do what we do and we make records and stuff but our goal has always been to play gigs for the people. We love the people who sing our songs and enjoy what we do so much that I can’t wait to play for the people up there. I know it’s a beautiful place, I’ve been to Maine many times, and I think it’s gonna be a fun show, you don’t realize how many of our songs you know until you start hearing them all back. It’s kind of nice to be able to have fun and play songs that people know and react to.

Lucky Clark, winner of the 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” award, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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