“Growing up, I liked rock, my mom listened to pop, and my dad was a country music fan," says Lonestar lead guitarist and backup vocalist Michael Britt. "On the way to school, I might hear Merle Haggard or Johnny Mathis or even Neil Sedaka – it kind of depended on who was driving."
And what about when he came home from school? "Well, that's when I'd put on a KISS record," Britt says with a laugh.
Although he's now widely regarded as one of country's premier players, Britt says that his style is based more on classic rock, metal and blues icons. "Eddie Van Halen, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hendrix, all the greats," he says. "Those were the guys who really inspired me. But because I came from such a rock place, I think it allowed me to sound a little different when I started playing country music."
Lonestar's just-released new album, Life As We Know It, is a spirited, winning affair, and as always, Britt's guitar playing, a crafty amalgam of widescreen hard rock riffs and solos backed by toothy, metallic textures, is a far cry from Hee-Haw-style pickin' and a-grinnin'. “The band thinks it’s pretty cool when I bring in new sounds and styles to our music," Britt says. "Even when it's based on something they might not listen to – like a Tom Morello-inspired sound, say – they appreciate the variety of what I put into our songs. It all comes from keeping your ears open to everything that's around. It doesn't have to start out country to become country."
On the following pages, Britt runs down his not-so-guilty pleasures, five albums that might not make it onto the CMT playlist, but one way or another, they could wind up influencing the music of Lonestar.