Jason Aldean Dishes on CMT Awards, Touring and His Formula for Success
Multi-platinum country rocker Jason Aldean is continuing life down the fast track to country superstar status. Over the past two years, Aldean has driven six songs into the Top 5 on the country singles chart, including the No. 1 hits 'She's Country,' 'Big Green Tractor,' 'The Truth,' and his latest blockbuster, 'Don't You Wanna Stay.' His current single, 'Dirt Road Anthem,' is quickly on its way to becoming another chart-topper, as the song sits just outside the Top 10.
Aldean is the nominee leader for next month's CMT Awards, for which he's up for four categories: Video of the Year and Male Video of the Year for 'My Kinda Party,' Collaborative Video of the Year for 'Don't You Wanna Stay' (along with Kelly Clarkson), and Best Web Video of the Year for 'My Kinda Party' (Live from the CMT Webcast). Just weeks after the awards show, Aldean is hitting the road for the second leg of his My Kinda Party Tour, this time taking along Thompson Square and Chris Young as his supporting acts.
Taste of Country recently caught up with the singer between tour stops to reflect on his recent success and getting the recognition from his peers that he certainly deserves.
Next month you lead the nominations for the 2011 CMT Awards. How does it feel to be recognized like that?
It's cool. Obviously it's nice to get nominations, even if you don't win, but to go into that show being the leading nominee is really cool. So I'm excited. We've never won one of those awards, and I think CMT has the coolest trophy of any awards show there is so I just want one of the four. I'm not gonna be stingy ... I just need one of those buckles! So if we do that, I'll be happy.
If you could walk away with only one "buckle," which category would you like it to be?
I'm not choosy at all [laughs]! I'll take whichever one!
You've obviously had an amazing couple of years with back-to-back chart-toppers and reaching platinum certification on your albums. Did you think prior to the announcement of the nominees that you had a good shot of seeing your name on multiple categories?
Whenever it comes to an awards show, it's always been kinda weird for us. There has been years that we thought we might get a nomination and didn't, so it almost got to the point where I came to the realization that I don't even want to expect it anymore. If we get one, cool; if we don't, whatever. To be honest with you, I wasn't really thinking about it a lot, and all of the sudden the nominations came out, and we got four of them. That's kind of how it goes. When you least expect stuff and when you're not paying a lot of attention, a lot of times, that's when things start to happen.
Do you hope now that the other award shows will sit up and take notice of your hard work and recognize you more with their nominations as well?
That's been the only part of it that has been a little weird. I've always said that I don't get mad or whatever if we don't get a nomination. I've always felt like if it's our time and people want to recognize us like that, then we'll get them. I never really thought about it much. A lot of times in this industry you've got to just sit back and wait, and if it's meant to be it will come around. I just figured if it was ever going to happen it would happen, and there ain't a whole lot you can do other than go out and handle your business the way you do, and be patient.
Does it make it a little sweeter to know that these are fan-voted awards?
The fans are the whole reason that any of us have a gig. I think it's cool for them to be able to get involved and pick the winners. It makes it a little bit more not so political. It's actually cool. You have legitimate fans who are out there doing the voting, which is cool for this kind of thing.
In July you will kick off the second leg of your My Kinda Party Tour. Can you give us a little teaser of what fans can expect when they see the show?
We've been out with Eric Church and the JaneDear Girls, and the first leg of it has been great. To change it up in the last half of the year, we've got Chris [Young] coming out with us. Chris has been having a pretty good run over these past couple years. It seemed to take a little time for him to get some traction, but now that he's got it, he's rollin' pretty good. So we're excited to have him out. Thompson Square ... that's a pretty good way to start your career by having your first No. 1 single. My band produced that record for them, so it's cool to go out and not only have them be successful, but to be able to carry them out and kind of help them get established a little bit more on the road. It's cool to kind of give them a platform to go out and make some noise for themselves. So I think it's gonna be good for everybody involved, and we're looking forward to having them all out.
Watch the Jason Aldean 'My Kinda Party' Video
Describe how it feels before you walk out onstage to a sold out crowd, which has been happening a lot for you lately!
It's more of a relief now. The fact that the first couple years we were kinda fighting for our lives out there among all the other new artists that came out around the same time that we did. It's hard to make a name for yourself. At every show, we were fighting for our lives basically. So to go out now and have it be our show and to know that when you go out there each night there's gonna be people there to watch you play, it's a good feeling. It helps you relax a little bit, and go out there and concentrate on entertaining the people and putting on a great show for them. That, to me, has really been the cool part of it. To realize just how far things have come over the past few years, going from playing 500 seat clubs or bars to selling out 25,000 seat arenas ... I mean, just looking out sometimes it's just unreal to us. I don't know how many times we've come offstage and looked at each other and just been like, 'Damn ... thank you!' You know what I mean? We're all just blown away by the support and just how far things have come over the past years.
With all the chart success of having so many multi-week No. 1 hits, do you feel the pressure that you have to outdo yourself with each album or single release?
I don't think so ... or at least, you try not to. The way we found those songs was going out and trying to find the best songs, and we got lucky. We found those songs because we were out looking, and they connected with people. I recorded them because I love them, and that's the way I've always put together my records. I go out and find songs that I enjoy playing, that I think are cool and I just hope there are people out there that feel the same way about those songs that I do. That mentality is what has gotten us to this point. I try not to over think things too much. 'Wide Open' was a huge breakout record for us, and I didn't go into 'My Kinda Party' trying to top that record; I just went in and tried to make another great record. Luckily for us, it's been able to be as big, if not bigger, than the last one. It wasn't something that was planned. It just kinda happened that way. I think a lot of that has to do with continuing to build your fan base, and have more and more people become aware of you. I think we made a lot more people aware of us with the 'Wide Open' record, so when the new album came out, it had a little steam behind it, which was cool. Now with this album being as big as it was, we have a little bit more steam going into this one. Having a career is about trying to build it the right way, and keep delivering songs that are hits that you like and the people want to hear.
Do you look for songs that you think your fans have come to expect from you?
Ultimately, I'm not going to cut a song because I think the fans are going to like it. As an artist, you've got to make a record with songs that you like, first and foremost. That's all I have to go on. I feel like if I like something, I've got to believe that there are people out there who are going to feel the same way. I make a record for me. I make a record because it's something that I enjoy, something that I want to listen to, and when I make it, I just hope that the fans dig it, too. I think when you're making an album you've got to enjoy what is on it for yourself before you can expect anyone else to like it.
'Dirt Road Anthem' has already become a huge hit for you. The song was obviously something that Colt Ford recorded and used to sing in his shows. Is that how you heard the song initially?
Colt was on tour with me, and I heard the song from him. I had his record, so I had heard the song. My producer is the one who came up to me and brought up the idea of actually recording it. So the first thing I did was call Colt and say, 'Hey man, what do you think? This idea is being thrown around, but if we do this, I want your blessing on it for sure.' And he was ecstatic. He wanted us to cut it, and the biggest thing was, if we were gonna cut it, I had to put my own spin on it. Colt's version was cool, but a lot different than I wanted to cut it. So once we got in the studio and kind of found our stride on it, we kind of locked in on it, and it felt like we had something really cool, but we wanted to make sure we didn't go in and try to copy his version of it. We wanted to make it so there was no doubt that there were two different versions of that song, and I think that is something we were able to accomplish.
Besides taking home a CMT Award "buckle," what is something you set out to accomplish in your career this year?
Since this is the first year we've gone out and done a major headlining tour like this, my main goal is to make that a success, which so far it's been a huge success. Just to continue that I think is really my main focus this year, and to keep everything rolling into next year when we'll probably have a new album and another tour. So that's really the biggest thing on my plate right now.