(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)
Back when Jason Aldean was just the kind of guy who competed in local talent shows, record producer Michael Knox was just a guy going to visit his grandmother in Georgia. Knox told Billboard magazine he stopped by a talent show at the Buckboard, an Atlanta club, because he was “just trying to find a way to write the trip off.” And once he heard Aldean, he just knew. “I told him I really dug what he did,” Knox said. “I don’t know how the talent show turned out, but Jason was the guy.” Knox also describes how Aldean’s upbringing made him the right guy to be the country-rock star he could hear in his head. “People forget that [Aldean’s] generation grew up on heavy metal, as well as traditional country,” he said. “It’s hard to grasp that until you get out into the clubs and see it firsthand.” But even though Aldean is fast becoming country’s biggest rock star — and I’m thankful for that — I’m also grateful to Knox for mixing a little business with pleasure back in 1998.