Lonestar moves in new direction
Richie McDonald is leaving the band after one more tour.
By JOHN BENSON
Being in a band is just like a marriage.
Not only do you have to continuously work to keep it together, but there are times when things just don't work out. For country band Lonestar, which was formed over a decade ago and has scored numerous hit singles -- including "No News," "Amazed," "Smile" and more -- a break-up appears imminent with singer Richie McDonald recently announcing he's leaving for a solo project at the end of the year.
In the marriage dynamic, this is tantamount to having the "It's not you, it's me" conversation with a spouse, only to leave the house, buy a red sports car and begin dating a 20-year-old.
"Basically we were at the end of our seven-album record contract with BNA [Records] and were kind of waiting to see if they were going to re-sign us, which they didn't," said Lonestar guitarist Michael Britt, calling from Nashville. "So we were meeting with our manager and we knew there were some little things we had to work on in the band. Then Richie said he wanted to take a couple of weeks to think about everything."
One last tour
Naturally, he decided to leave the group. However, before he calls it quits, the original Lonestar has hit the road for a big tour, including a Friday date at Chevrolet Centre in Youngstown. While Britt said he wasn't surprised by McDonald's decision, he pointed out all the band members are unhappy with their recent history.
Specifically, he blames BNA and its choice for radio songs as pigeonholing the outfit as country music "for soccer moms." He cites singles such as "I'll Die Tryin'" from the 2005 album "Coming Home" over the fresh-sounding "Doghouse," as well as "Nothing To Prove" from the 2006 album "Mountains" instead of the upbeat "Cowboy Girl" as songs that hurt the band's image.
"It felt like the [singles] weren't really indicative of where we wanted to go with the band," Britt said. "I think that really limited us as far as our perception in the mainstream, and I think that's unfortunate because we always tried to cut a variety of songs. So to only promote this one type of song really stunted us, growth-wise."
Search for new singer
Making up for lost time is how Britt and the remaining members of Lonestar are approaching the next phase of their career. Their first order of business is to find a new singer to replace McDonald. While years ago such an endeavor would have quietly been done on a Music City soundstage without prying eyes, we live in the reality television world where "American Idol" rules and rock band INXS found a new singer on its "Rock Star: INXS" a few years ago.
Britt said Lonestar is currently talking to a few networks with no firm plans in place; however, if the band does choose the reality television route doesn't it run the risk of becoming a novelty?
"That's one of the concerns," Britt said. "We don't want it to be really exciting and entertaining for six days and then people forget about it. This is our career that we spent a lot of years building, so we're going to make sure whoever we get is going to fit with the band and not just be a novelty for a 30-minute television show."
Speaking of a revolving door of singers, Van Halen has gone through its share with both erstwhile frontmen -- David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar -- recently dabbling in the country format. The former participated in the Van Halen bluegrass/country tribute "Strummin' with the Devil" while Hagar recorded Toby Keith's "I Love this Bar."
When asked who he'd prefer to front Lonestar, Britt laughed, "Sammy I think. David Lee Roth is pure novelty. Sure, I like his stuff but Sammy has the pipes. I'm Sammy partial."