Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan travel to Atlanta on "My Kinda Party" tour
The pair of country singers are friends outside the music business, Aldean says
He's also stepping out his comfort zone, collaborating with Ludacris
Hunting, golfing and a couple of clothing lines keep Aldean busy
It was two hours before Friday’s concert, and already fans of Jason Aldean were tailgating in the gravel parking lot. Not surprising since Aldean’s “My Kinda Party” tour has sold out in venues across the country, often in under a couple of hours.
Last week, the singer’s latest single, “Fly Over States,” hit the top of the charts, marking his ninth No. 1 overall and his fifth consecutive No. 1 from the “My Kinda Party” album.
Aldean’s sound is a little bit country and a little bit rock ’n’ roll. Introspective songs such as “Amarillo Sky” and “Don’t You Wanna Stay” have earned him big sales numbers, but concert fans clamor for his more upbeat numbers such as “She’s Country.”
He’s also not afraid to step outside his comfort zone – “Dirt Road Anthem” was a collaboration with Ludacris that had Aldean rapping about jumping barbed wire and lighting bonfires. Still, it surprised more than few people in the audience Friday when Ludacris appeared onstage with Aldean during the encore to perform the hit song.
While tour buddy Luke Bryan has an infectious eagerness on stage, Aldean rarely breaks his brooding stare. That doesn’t change backstage as his tour manager brings him in. He’s friendly, but no overly so. I get the impression that manners are as ingrained in this Georgia homeboy as deep as his music.
The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity:
CNN: This show in Atlanta sold out in minutes, so you had to add a second night. What does that tell you about your fans?
Jason Aldean: Obviously that’s a good sign. We’ve always made it a point to let fans know that when you come out to our shows, it’s going to be fun. You’re going to have a good time, and we encourage that – probably a lot more than other people do. (laughs) But that’s what you want.
You know, people come to a show to kind of forget about whatever crappy week they had at work or school or whatever it was, and it’s our job to make sure that that’s what happens.
CNN: What’s the best thing about touring with Luke Bryan?
Aldean: The best thing about touring with Luke is just the fact that he and I are legitimately friends away from the music business. I think that, unlike a lot of other artists in the business, you know, he and I actually pull for each other. We want to see each other succeed and do well. There’s not a competition sort of thing there at all. He’s one of my best friends. So obviously when he’s out on stage and he’s doing his thing and you see people going crazy, that’s cool. It makes you feel good. And I think he’s the same way.
And like I said, I legitimately like hanging out with the guy. He’s a lot of fun. We come from the same part of the country, we grew up about two hours apart from each other. So even though we didn’t know each other until five or six years ago, we have a lot in common.
CNN: Atlanta country radio has been touting Georgia as the new capital of country music thanks to artists like you, Jennifer Nettles, the Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebellum. Do you think Nashville can really be ousted?
Aldean: I don’t know if Nashville will ever be ousted as the Music City. But I also think that here, over the last few years, Georgia has definitely kind of risen to the top as far as the crop of young artists coming out of this area that are kind of making waves, you know?
I think for long time it was artists from Texas, then it was artists from Oklahoma. Now it just seems like Georgia is kind of a hotbed for that kind of thing. And it’s cool to be part of that fraternity a little bit.
CNN: You’re elected president of the United States. What’s the first thing you do?
Aldean: Well, first of all, I wouldn’t want to be president. But if I was, the first thing I’d probably do is uh… hm. Let me think about this for a second. I’d probably do away with, try my best to do away with taxes (laughs). But I know every politician says they’re going to do that, and they’re all liars. But I would actually really try to do that. That would be beneficial to everybody. Or at least give a flat tax across the board – everybody pays, you know whatever, 20%.
CNN: Have to say I’m a bit disappointed – I was hoping for a big country party.
Aldean: Oh, I’d definitely turn the White House into a Redneck Riviera, for sure! There’d be deer heads hanging off the wall, in the Oval Office. It’d be cool.
CNN: What do you always bring with you on tour?
Aldean: I always bring my bow and arrow. I love to hunt so it’s always under the bus. I like to just get out there in the day and just shoot, backstage somewhere, and just practice doing that. Never know when I might luck up and get an invite to go hunting somewhere too … so I like to prepare for that. So I usually bring that and my golf clubs.
CNN: Do you have a good golf score?
Aldean: My golf score is really bad. I don’t know. I’m definitely not a good golfer. Off the tee box, I can drive it about 275, and I’m in the fairway about 99% of the time. It’s my next shot that needs work.
CNN: If you had to survive on one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
Aldean: You know what, I’m a steak and potatoes guy. So it would be a thick filet, baked potato and maybe like something else really bad for you, like fried okra. I love fried okra. The fact that it’s okra makes me feel like it’s good for you – I forget the fact that it’s fried.
CNN: It seems everybody these days – singers, actors, etc. – has a clothing line, a perfume, a jewelry brand. What are you doing to expand your empire?
Aldean: We did a deal with Wrangler where we’re kind of the face of their Wrangler retro line of clothing – jeans, shirts. I got a hat deal with Resistol, where I have my own line of cowboy hats. Luke and I both actually are part owners in a company called Buck Commander, which is a hunting – it’s a show but we also have hunting products, clothes, that kind of stuff.
CNN: And do feel that’s important for you to do, or is it just something to do with your money?
Aldean: I think it’s important to do things that you’re interested in. I think it’s important to have other outlets away from the music industry.
You know, for me that’s what the hunting side of it is, just kind of a way for me to somewhat get away from the music side of it and have another outlet to kind of decompress. … Things like that for me are kind of for sanity reasons I think more than anything else.
And you know the other thing, with the clothes and that kind of thing – I think when you wear the brand anyway, why not go out and try to promote it and make it as cool as you can? The fact that I can continue to do what I’ve always done and kind of become the face of that brand is to me, kind of just makes sense. It doesn’t make sense not to do it I guess.
CNN: What’s left on your dream list?
Aldean: There’s still a lot of things I’d like to accomplish. There’s still a lot of artists I’d like to work with. We’re in talks right now of like possibly doing a movie so we’re kind of dabbling in on the acting part of it.
You know, I think a lot of times you just kind of wait and see what opportunities present themselves. My main focus was to be successful in the music business, which has always been my main focus, and I never really want to get away from that. But at the same time, I think it’s cool to branch out and do some other things and see if it’s something that you like.
One day the music business, the music side of it goes away – to have some other things that you’ve kind of dabbled in that you like… you can kind of maybe travel down that route for awhile.
CNN: You’re new album comes out in October. What should listeners expect to hear that’s different?
Aldean: When it comes to albums, I think it’s important to never get away completely from what got you to this point, and obviously, what’s worked for you.
That said you don’t want to go out and continue to make the same albums over and over – that’s going to be kind of boring too. So you know for me it was about going in and finding the best songs we could find and trying to put together a record that I felt like was you know, just as good if not better than the previous record.
I think “My Kinda Party,” that album, was so successful, it’s going to be really hard to compare any album to that one. Now [I’m] not saying that I don’t hope this next record doesn’t come out and blow the doors off of that one, but you can’t really expect that.
You’ve just kind of got to go in and make what you feel like is a great record and put it out there and hope people dig it.