Jason Aldean on What’s Cool vs. What’s Crap

CMT Artists of the Year Honoree Says He Might Not Cut “Hicktown” Today

Just about 10 years ago, Jason Aldean was making a choice — to “Hicktown” or not to “Hicktown.”

He did end up cutting that song, then releasing it as his debut single. So, yeah, he chose well.

But if he was starting out in country music now, he might not have gone down that same path down Blue Hole Road.

“Songs like ‘Hicktown,’ now? Man, I don’t know that it would fit for me to cut that now,” Aldean told me recently when we talked about his status as one of the honorees on the CMT Artists of the Year special airing Tuesday (Dec. 2) at 8 p.m. ET on CMT and CMT.com.

“It’s a little dated,” he said of the song. “But at the time, it served a huge purpose. And it’s still huge in our show.”

Therein lies the gift Aldean was given. In 2005, that song was just right for a country newcomer. But today, it might be dismissed as too rock or too bro country or too misogynistic or too whatever. (Not for me, though. I never get tired of songs about the Pall-Malls-and-White-Rain lifestyle with lyrical references to Little House on the Prairie.)

Aldean said the past decade in country music has brought about changes in him and in his music.

“The subject matter may change here and there,” he said. “Hell, I’m 10 years older than I was when I made the first album, so I hope it has. But the way I make records now is the same way I always did. I feel like I’ve always had a really good grasp on what’s cool and what’s not cool. I know great songs when I hear ‘em, I know songs that are crap when I hear ‘em. I feel like I always have.”

And when you consider how far he’s come since “Hicktown,” Aldean has earned the right to keep on keeping on.

“There are certain things I’m not gonna compromise on in my career,” he said, “and making my records is one of them. I’m gonna pick the songs I wanna cut. Those are the songs I’m gonna cut, and I’m not gonna haggle back and forth with labels and management. At this point, I’ve earned the right for them to trust me and know that I’m gonna turn in a great record. They’ve given me that freedom to do that.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.