Jason Aldean Talks Georgia Music, Staying Consistent, & Fostering Young Talent [Interview]
Multi-Platinum country entertainer Jason Aldean has always been a proud Georgia native. He has released songs about the peach state, supports Georgia sports teams, and has always talked openly about the influence his home state has had on his music. That’s why it comes as no surprise that his tenth studio album, out now, is simply called Macon, Georgia—his hometown.
“Macon has a rich music history with the Allman Brothers, Otis Redding, Little Richard, and more being from there,” Aldean tells MusicRow. “But for me, it’s my hometown. It’s where this whole ride started. It’s where I learned to be a musician and play on stage for the first time.
“When I was coming up, there was a lot of people that were coming out of Georgia that almost made it seem like this wasn’t an unreachable goal. Trisha Yearwood, Travis Tritt, and Alan Jackson were coming out of Georgia. I came up playing some of the same bars and towns, and doing some of the same stuff.”
The home state-inspired project is a double album, with the Macon half having released in November of 2021 and the Georgia half out today (April 22.) Both sides find Aldean’s signature southern rock sound on some new songs, and feature live versions of some classics.
The 30-song project releases as Aldean celebrates 16 years in the music business. Since releasing his debut single “Hicktown” in 2005, he has gone on to notch 26 No. 1 hits, garner 15 billion streams, and win numerous awards, including the ACM’s Entertainer of the Year three times. Aldean says if he could go back and talk to the kid moving from Macon, Georgia to Nashville in 1998, he would tell him to hold on tight.
“[I would tell him] this thing is going to be bigger than you ever imagined possible. You’re going to have some ups and downs along the way. Just enjoy it,” he says. “Early on, when things really started to happen, I was so worried about it going away after I worked so hard to get there. In the early days, I don’t think I ever took the time to enjoy it and appreciate what I had accomplished. I don’t think that happened until later in my career.”
Aldean’s non-stop grind paid off, though. His ten albums have solidified him as one of this generation’s top country record-makers. With songs such as “She’s Country,” “Big Green Tractor,” “Tattoos On This Town,” “My Kinda Party,” “Crazy Town,” and many more, Aldean has consistently delivered the music his fans have come to expect: hard-hitting, southern rock-infused country hits.
Like his sound, Aldean’s all-star team and album-making process has also remained pretty consistent over the years. Alongside his long-time producer, Michael Knox, Aldean has celebrated more than 20 million albums sold.
“I cut records now the same way I always did; with the same band and same producer. I’ve had the same crew, basically, this whole time,” he says. “The difference now is just a confidence factor. As an artist, I know a lot more about who I am at this point, what I want to do and the kind of stuff that works for me.”
Of the new tunes on Macon, Georgia, Aldean has made waves with Macon‘s “Small Town Small” and “If I Didn’t Love You,” his hit duet with Carrie Underwood that was crowned the Single of the Year at the 2021 ACM Awards.
Georgia features Aldean’s new single, “Trouble with a Heartbreak,” which has already hit No. 1 on MusicRow‘s radio chart and looks to be heading that way on other charts. Another track on Georgia, “Ain’t Enough Cowboy,” shows off Aldean’s rap influences—a theme ever-present from 2011’s “Dirt Road Anthem.”
“Early on in my career, I knew that I never wanted to get painted into a corner. I knew that I was going to have a lot of rock influence in my music as well as some really traditional stuff. But people my age, we grew up listening to everything. Early on I made it a point to start branching off and doing some different things so that whenever I wanted to do those things later, it wasn’t that far of a stretch.
“Even with ‘Dirt Road,’ it’s got the rap verses, but once the chorus kicks in, that’s country. It’s just finding those certain ones that work. Every once in a while, you get one that comes along.”
A stand-out track on Georgia is “God Made Airplanes,” a heatbreak tune about getting ‘out of Dodge’ after a break up.
“John Morgan wrote that with the Warren brothers [Brad and Brett Warren] and Jessi Alexander. John is a new artist that I actually signed to a publishing deal, a record deal, and I produce his records,” Aldean says. “He wrote a bunch for his record and he co-wrote the song. As soon as they demoed it, I got a text from John, both the Warren brothers, and Jessi. They all texted me the song saying, ‘This has got you all over it.’ I heard it the first time and fell in love with the song.”
Morgan isn’t the only new writer credited on Macon, Georgia. Lydia Vaughan scored her first hit, along with Morgan, on “If I Didn’t Love You,” and new songwriter Lalo Guzman co-wrote “Ain’t Enough Cowboy.”
“Obviously we have our go-to guys that always seem to come through with songs, like Neil Thrasher, Rhett Akins, and some of those guys. Michael Tyler has some stuff on this record,” Aldean says. “John Morgan, Kurt Allison, and Tully Kennedy—who are two of the guys in my band—they were writing a ton for this record. You’ll see a lot of stuff from those three guys on this record more so than you have in the past. They just got really locked in on this album and were writing some cool stuff.”
In addition to cutting eight of his songs for Macon, Georgia, Aldean has invested in John Morgan by signing him to his new publishing company, as well as his imprint with BBR, Night Train Records. Aldean says fostering young talent has always been a part of his plan.
“I always felt like at some point I would transition into the producer role a little bit. I knew, at some point, there would be some artists that came along that I would want to work with and help this next generation do their thing,” he says. “The publishing side of it was a little bit of a different story. That all happened because of John Morgan and the stuff that I heard him writing. I thought, ‘Man, this guy is so good. Between him, Kurt and Tully, we can build this thing around those guys.”
Now, with his tenth studio album out, a growing music business empire, and 16 years behind him, Aldean is poised to spend the next 16 as a Music Row maverick. His new project, Macon, Georgia, is available everywhere now.