Jason Aldean’s Night Train is on track to become one of the biggest-selling country albums this year. Before his fall tour gets full steam ahead, though, the country star took a few minutes to talk about some of the new tunes with CMT.com.
CMT: The album’s first track, “This Nothin’ Town,” really captures that small-town lifestyle. How does this song set the tone for the album?
Aldean: I think people who know my music, and who have bought my records in the past, know that is a big part of my upbringing. I’ve always recorded songs that I feel like I can relate to and things that I grew up doing. “This Nothin’ Town” is one of those songs. Especially when you grow up in a small town, you feel like your town is the most boring place on earth! So you’ve got to find ways to entertain yourselves. That’s what that song is about.
“Water Tower” comes at it from the other side — about being anxious to come home.
“Water Tower” is about the same sort of thing. You know, you spend your life trying to get out of a place. Then when you get out of it, you realize that is kind of your security blanket. You spend the rest of your life trying to get back there. In my case, I’m on the road so much and away from Georgia so much that sometimes I want to go there for a couple of days to get around some familiar territory. And get back to what life was before it got as crazy as it is now. I think a lot of people deal with that when they get older.
“Feel That Again” is about wanting to feel wild and free like you were in the past. If you could go back to being 25, would you want to do it?
I don’t know, man. I might go back to 28 because I had a record contract at 28. At 25, I was a frustrated artist! I’m 35 years old now, man, and I feel like everybody who reaches a certain age … when we get together and hang out and talk, I don’t know any of my friends who don’t bring up, “Hey, remember when we were in high school?” or “Remember when we were 16?” I think everybody thinks back and reminisces about things like that when you reach a certain age. To me, that’s what “Feel That Again” is. It’s a song with that nostalgic feel about thinking back to your nostalgic, carefree days.
When you were getting rolling in this business, did you anticipate that being a musician would be an around-the-clock job?
No! (laughs) Honestly, man, I thought I’d get to go make my album and go play a couple of shows a week, and everything else would be pretty easy. It’s actually the exact opposite. But I love it. I’ve learned a lot about this business, just being in it, and realizing that it is a full-time job. I think a lot of people don’t realize that. Making records and playing our shows live — you deal with all the other bullshit so you get to play live and you get to play your songs and perform for people. That’s the part of it that makes everything else tolerable. You know, that’s the truth. I didn’t get into this business because I like giving interviews. I got into this business because I like performing, being onstage, entertaining people and singing my songs. All the other stuff comes along with it, so you deal with that to do the thing that you really want to do.
Thinking about the song “1994,” why did country music from the 1990s appeal to you?
To me, the thing about country music in the ’90s was that all of a sudden there was this different sound. The ’90s country music didn’t sound like it did in the ’80s. There was a whole wave of new artists that came — Brooks & Dunn, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Joe Diffie. This list went on and on and on. All of these different artists changed the format, in my opinion. It brought this whole new buzz to country music, and all of a sudden, it was cool to like country music. To me, that was really the thing. I had always loved country music. I loved singing country music, and these guys were making it cool to do that.
Country music has changed a lot since then, but what do you think has remained the same?
I think the biggest thing in country music is that when you have an artist that fans gravitate toward, it’s unlike any other genre. You have a rock act that comes out with a big record, and they’re huge for two or three years, then they’re done. Country music is different. We actually get to have a career here. Once the fans latch on to you, they’re with you throughout your career. Radio gets behind an artist and they believe in them. It’s more about establishing an artist’s career, rather than [saying], “Hey, that’s a hot song. Let’s play that and milk it for all we can because they probably won’t have another hit after that.”
I’d imagine you want to have a career that spans into your 50s or 60s. Or do you agree?
I’m not one of those people who think that my career is never going to end. I know at some point, I’m not going to be that cool anymore. Not that I’m that cool now, but I’m definitely not going to be cool at some point. It’s just kind of that wave of what happens. George Strait is the exception to that rule. He’s a guy that’s been able to be around for 30 years. That is not normal.
I think for most of us, if we can last 10 years, that’s great. I’m still relatively young, and I feel like I’ve got plenty of time to do my thing. But at some point, every artist’s career peaks or starts to level off or hits the downhill slide. I know at some point, that’s going to happen with us. I think the musician part of you always wants to be able to go out — even if it’s at some bar somewhere — and get up onstage and play whenever you want to.
I look at people like Jimmy Buffett. He hasn’t had a hit in 20 years, but he can still go out and sell out a damn amphitheater, and people love the guy because he’s built his career on touring. You go to his show and it’s an event. That’s the kind of career I would like to have: When I’m 50 years old, if I want to play, I can sell out an amphitheater. If I don’t want to play, then I’ll do something else. But I’ve got a long way to go before I’m 50.