Even though all of the members of country band Lonestar are from Texas, they had to go to Nashville to find each other.
Formed in 1992, the band originally consisted of Richie McDonald (lead vocals and acoustic guitar) from Lubbock, Michael Britt (lead guitar, background vocals) from Fort Worth, Keech Rainwater (drums) from Plano, Dean Sams (keyboards, background vocals) from Garland, and John Rich (bass, co-lead vocals) from Amarillo. Rich (later of the duo Big & Rich) was fired from the band in 1998, and Lonestar went on to become one of the most successful country acts of the past 20 years.
After a few years without McDonald as he pursued a solo career, the original band (sans Rich) is back together and on tour, making a stop at Misericordia University’s Wells Fargo Amphitheater tomorrow.
“It was a big adjustment; things were not going great anyway and he wanted to try something different,” guitarist Britt told The Times Leader about McDonald’s departure in 2007. “It made us stronger as we had to tighten up to keep it going.
“And when Richie came back, suddenly it feels like the Lonestar we’ve always had.”
The group released its first album in 1995, hitting the singles charts five times with songs like “Tequila Talkin’” (No. 8), “No News” (No. 1) and “Runnin’ Away with My Heart” (No. 8). Second album, 1997’s “Crazy Nights,” produced another four chart entries including Rich’s No. 1 single “Come Cryin’ to Me” and “Everything’s Changed” (No. 2).
After Rich was fired, the remaining members never brought a full-time replacement into the band, instead using touring musicians to play bass.
“After five years, it seemed weird to bring someone in (permanently),” Britt said. “We were already starting to bring in additional musicians for our shows such as a steel guitarist and a fiddler, and we just did the same for bass.”
Lonestar hit its commercial peak with third album “Lonely Grill” (1999), hitting No. 1 for eight weeks with “Amazed” (which also topped the pop charts), and three other Country No. 1’s “Smile,” “What About Now” and “Tell Her.”
Subsequent albums produced three more chart toppers: 2001’s “I’m Already There,” 2003’s “My Front Porch Looking In” and 2004’s “Mr. Mom,” plus nine more hits.
Following one album with McDonald’s replacement Cody Collins (2010’s “Party Heard Around the World”), the new singer left in 2011, making room for a reunion with McDonald.
For its latest record, “Life As We Know It,” Lonestar took more control, producing it themselves and releasing it on the band’s own 4 Star Records.
“Richie had just come back, and we were between labels anyway,” Britt said. “We knew what we wanted it to sound like, so we just did it all on our own.”
After all of the band’s success – sales in excess of 10 million units, ten No. 1 singles on the Country charts, the 1999 ACM Single of the Year and Song of the Year awards for “Amazed” and the 2001 CMA Vocal Group of the Year award – Britt and his bandmates remain humble.
“We know how fortunate we are to do this for a living,” he said. “It’s still fun for us and we still get to be creative, creating new music.
“You want to be a musician because you don’t want to get a real job. Even after 22 years, I don’t know if there’s anything I’d rather be doing.”