Just a few days before launching his 2011 My Kinda Party tour, Jason Aldean and his band retreated to a sprawling Nashville warehouse to crank up their amps, test their new special effects and run through new hits like "My Kinda Party" and "Don't You Wanna Stay." After blasting through a few tunes, including Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive," Aldean visited with CMT Insider producer Laura Douglas about bringing the tour to life, giving the fans their money's worth and sneaking in a few surprises.
CMT: How does it feel going into 2011 after such an incredible year last year?
Aldean: I'm anxious. I felt like 2010 was really our breakout year. We had a lot of great things happen to us last year. But 2011's a different year, and I've got a new album to go out and promote with new singles. We're able to go out and make our show look and sound the way we've wanted it to for a long time now. We feel like we're able to go out and compete with other acts that are out headlining and make our show look as good as theirs, if not better. When people come out and buy a ticket, you want to make them feel like they got their money's worth. We want to make sure that we give them that. This year, by being able to carry out things like video and making the set look cool and different, it's the way we've wanted it to look for a long time. Finally, this year we're able to do that.
Your album, My Kinda Party, has been certified platinum. What does that success mean to you?
In the state the music business is in and where record sales are right now, any time you're able to achieve gold or platinum success is a huge milestone for any artist. This is something that I'm really proud of. This has been the quickest album to get there for us, which is really cool. I didn't even realize this, but my publicist just told me we have 5 million records now for my career, which is just insane. It's a good feeling. Like I said, with the state the music business is in, to be able to go out and do those kind of numbers is pretty special.
How involved are you in making this tour come to life?
We take a couple of months off during the holidays, and during that time, we go in and start designing a set. I'll tell them what I want in a set. A lot of times, they'll draw it up, send it to me and I'll 'x' out what I don't like or draw in something else that I think is cool. We talk about that, so that's a long process of getting it just right and figuring out how you want it to look. Even when you're off, you're still working.
What can fans expect from this tour?
For people who have come out to our shows before, they're going to see things in this show that they haven't seen. Obviously, we've got a new record, so there's going to be new songs in the show, which is going to completely change the dynamic of the show. Visually, we have video stuff that we pop up on the screen during the show. It's really different stuff that we've never had before. ... I feel like if I was paying money to go see a show, we're giving them the kind of show that I feel like I would want to see. I think having Eric Church and the JaneDear Girls with us, it's going to be the kind of show that's going to be high-energy from top to bottom. It won't be the kind of show that lags anywhere. I think it's going to be good all the way around.
How do you want to feel as you're looking back at this tour and your career in 2011?
I want to look back on this tour and feel like it was a success and feel like we accomplished the things that we set out to do. The album's doing well for us, so that's one thing we really don't have to worry about right now. We can focus on the tour. This year, we've kind of cut back. We're playing less shows but for more people. It's cool because it allows us to go home, rest a little while and come back and have that feeling of being excited about playing a show, versus going out for three weeks and by the end of it just feeling exhausted and ready to get home. I think every show this year is going to have that excitement that we feed off of, which makes the show better. I'm looking forward to that a lot this year.
During your concerts, Kelly Clarkson can be seen on the huge video screen during "Don't You Wanna Stay." How did that come about?
Obviously Kelly couldn't come out with us every single night and do her part of the song. And my guys don't sing like her at all. (laughs) That wasn't going to work, so basically we decided to go in and film her doing her thing. So even though she wasn't at the show, she could still be a part of the show. As big as that song is getting for us right now, it was definitely a song that we thought we had to have in the show. She cut a thing for us to use, and I cut a thing for her to use in her show if she wants to do that. It's a cool way to have her be a part of the show even though she's not going to be there every night.
Is it safe to say that fans can expect lots of surprises?
I think we're always trying to think about things that are different that people might not have done before, especially in the country music industry. It always feels like with country music, as far as shows go, we're always the last ones to try these things that everyone else has been doing for a while. So we want to go out and try some of these things that nobody really in country is doing but that other people have done. It's just little surprises in the show. Some of it is during our show. Some of it is during intermissions. We want the show to be more of an event, like going to the fair. It's an event. It's a thing that you look forward to doing. Hopefully, that's going to be the vibe. By the time we leave a town, those people are getting online, trying to figure out when we're coming back. That's what we want.