CMT Insider Interview: Jason Aldean Goes Home

He Talks About Otis Redding and Performing for Family and Friends in Macon, Ga.

Jason Aldean would probably disagree with the late novelist Thomas Wolfe’s assertion that you can’t go home again. In fact, he always looks forward to returning to Macon, Ga., to play music and seeing family and old friends.

CMT Insider recently talked to Aldean after he visited the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon while in town for a sold-out show at the Macon Coliseum.

Talk about touring the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and what it this means to you.

This is the first chance I’ve really had to come here and see what it’s all about. Macon has such a rich musical history — and the state of Georgia, as well. It’s cool to be mentioned with some of the other artists that are here, guys like Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers and Little Richard. So it’s cool to come and see a little bit of the background of not only your home state but your hometown. To see what kind of musical icons came out of this city is pretty amazing.

Otis Redding … .

Aldean:Probably my favorite singer of all time. I didn’t get turned onto him until I was a teenager, I guess, and I started listening to him. He’s one of the most soulful singers that there’s ever been, and I think that’s one thing that kind of influenced me about him — hearing somebody sing like that, with that kind of passion and that kind of feeling was something you still don’t hear a lot of. That’s probably the reason he’s my favorite.

Performing in Macon, you get to see lots of familiar faces, but it must be a lot of extra work because everybody wants to spend time with you.

There’s always a little extra stuff that goes on when we’re here in Macon, for sure, but, at the same time, I get to see some family and friends, and it’s fun. You know, I don’t get to come back here as much as I’d like to. It’s nice to come back, and we schedule some stuff. I kind of block some time off for family and make sure I get a chance to see them and spend some time with them. So it works out pretty well.

Is it different to return to your hometown?

No, it seems the same to me. I mean, I was born and raised here, so it’s the same to me now as it always was. You know, living in Nashville, I actually got tired of living in the city, so we moved about 30 or 40 miles south to the country to get away from it [for] more of a vibe that reminded me of here. It’s the way I always remember it.

What does it mean to you to sell out in Macon?

The first year we came here and played, we played a bar. And then the next year, a little auditorium that’s here, and then we sold out one of the arenas in Perry which isn’t too far from here a couple years ago. The last time we played the Macon Coliseum, we had three or four thousand maybe. But this is the first time we’ve ever sold out the Coliseum, which is where I saw my first concert. So that’s a special place for me, and to come back and sell it out is pretty special. It feels good when your hometown supports you, and Macon’s always done that with us. Every time we come here, it’s an event — which is nice.

What’s the difference between hometown crowds and the people who see you in other cities?

They’re a lot more rabid here in your hometown, which is great, but I think it’s one of those things where hopefully I represent my hometown well and make people proud here. I love the fact that I come back and there are people from my high school coming back and giving me shout-outs. (laughs) But it’s cool, you know. I love it, man, I love being here.

We travel around so much, and you’re in places that you really don’t know anything about. You don’t really know any of the people. I mean, it’s great, you go out and play the show, but when you’re in your hometown, you look out and know some of the people. You’re familiar with the area. It’s a really comfortable vibe for me. Like I said, something I look forward to all year, is playing this show here in my hometown.

2009 was a good year for you.

I’ve said this a lot lately, but I’ve been waiting since I was 14 years old to have a year like we had last year. It’s almost like it happened so fast last year that we didn’t even realize what was going on until the end of the year when we took a couple months off. That was when it really sunk in for me that things were really starting to change. Being at home a couple months and starting to think about it, we kicked off this tour in South Carolina, and the first night of our tour we had over 11,000 people. At the beginning of 2009, we were playing for, like, 3,000, so things have changed a little bit, but changed for the better. For whatever reason, 2009 was our year, and nine has always been my lucky number. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but I’ll take it!

Are you feeling any pressures as you move forward with your career?

I try not to think too much about that sort of stuff. I was just following my instincts and recording stuff that I liked and stuff that represented what I did. I never thought too much about trying to get songs. You know, “Is this song going to be bigger than the last song?” … I don’t think you can predict that sort of stuff. I had no idea “Big Green Tractor” was going to be as big a hit as it was. You just can’t predict those things. … Just trusting my instincts on songs and decisions I have to make is what got me here, so I don’t want to overthink that stuff too much. I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing up to this point and keep my fingers crossed.