Jason Aldean knows what he has to do every time he walks out on stage.
He’s not going to just stand at the microphone and sing, especially now that he’s headlining arena shows. He’s going to deliver more than just a live version of the songs that bring people in to see him.
“If somebody wants to hear you sing, they can go buy the record and pay 12 or 15 bucks,” Aldean says. “When they pay 40 or 50 bucks for a ticket, they want to be entertained. There’s a difference between being a singer and an entertainer. I consider myself more of an entertainer than a singer.”
Well, maybe not just an entertainer. Aldean really sees himself as an entertainer who can sing or a singer who can entertain. He’ll be doing both tonight at the Great Jones County Fair. Aldean takes the stage at 8 p.m. after fellow country stars Chris Young and Thompson Square. He will be back in the state in August for a sold out concert at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.
“To be able to sing and be an entertainer, that’s what you want, that’s what you have to do. It’s something you can’t fake. You’re either born with it or you hone your skills for years and years,” he says.
Aldean, who’s now 34, may have been born with it. But the hottest act in country music has been honing his skills for more than half his life. Learning guitar from his dad while he was in middle school, Aldean started playing with a house band in a Georgia nightclub at age 15, and played clubs across the southeast before moving to Nashville in 1998.
He landed a deal with indie Broken Bow Records, released his self-titled debut in early 2005 and was named Top New Male Vocalist at the 2006 Academy of Country Music Awards. By then, Alden and his band had graduated to arenas, first opening for bigger acts, then as his popularity increased, headlining his own shows.
Now that he’s made it there, Aldean is a happy man.
“I love it, man,” he says. “It’s an adrenaline rush and I’m an adrenaline junkie. It’s like crack for me … That sets the feel for the night, that initial response you get from the crowd.”
What follows is a show packed with hits that are more rockin’ than most contemporary Nashville fare — Aldean’s signature standout sound.
“Every artist wants to find their own thing, what makes them unique and special. I think that’s what makes being an artist cool,” he says. “Mine came from the days of me playing a George Strait song, then turning around and playing a John Mellencamp song and then playing a Guns N’ Roses song. Over time, you don’t even think about it. It becomes your thing.”
Aldean’s music has really connected over the last two years. The combination of “She’s Country,” “Big Green Tractor” and “The Truth” had Aldean spending the most time at No. 1 in 2009-2010 of any male country artist.
Then came the chart-topping album “My Kinda Party,” which, since last fall, has generated the No. 2 hits “Crazy Town” and the title cut and helped propel Aldean into ever larger venues.
“I can’t complain at all,” he says. “ The last year has been pretty amazing. It’s definitely a being in the right place at the right time sort of thing. But it’s also being prepared when your time comes. I wanted to make sure it didn’t slip away.”
“Don’t You Wanna Stay” is Aldean’s first song that has crossed over from country. After hitting the top spot on the country charts earlier this year, the song received airplay on adult contemporary stations, making the top 40 and even got some Top 40 attention.
“I thought if we ever had a song that would happen, it would be this one,” Aldean says. “It’s not something we directly went after. We were aiming at country and it hit there. After that, it’s all icing on the cake. Music’s about finding new fans, bringing in new fans. If this song is bringing new fans to country, I’m all about it.”
— L. Kent Wolgamott, Last Word Features
- WHO: Jason Aldean with Chris Young and Thompson Square
- WHERE: Great Jones County Fair, Monticello
- WHEN: 8 p.m. today (7/21)
- COST: $25 to $40
- DETAILS: GreatJonesCountyFair.com