Hitfix Interview: Jason Aldean on Lady Gaga, Adele, boxers and prosthetics
This week marks Jason Aldean’s first anniversary. No, not to his wife. On Wednesday, his fourth album “My Kinda Party” celebrates its 52nd week on the charts. In that time, the double-platinum title has never dropped out of the top 20 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart or below the top 5 on Billboard’s country albums chart. It’s spawned four hits, including the smash “Dirt Road Anthem.”
Those numbers please Aldean, but as he sits backstage at the Universal Amphitheater, a few days before Halloween, he’s way more concerned with the night’s sold-out show, and the next album, which he starts recording this month.
Sitting on a black leather couch, Aldean, who will headline the Stagecoach Festvial this spring, has his creature comforts around him: the iconic photo of Johnny Cash flipping the bird sits atop a piano, surrounded by candles; a Georgia Bulldogs banner waves, and the album cover from Alabama’s “Mountain Music.”
Aldean, who grew more relaxed as the interview wore on, talked about what he thinks about Lady Gaga—both artists will perform at the Grammy nominations concert on CBS Nov. 30, which CMA Award means the most to him, tattoos, and his weirdest interactions with fans: think boxers and prosthetics.
[More after the jump...]
Tonight is the next to last night of your first headlining tour. What’s going through your head?
It’s going to be nice to get home and reflect on the year a little bit because it’s been a real breakthrough year for us, altogether really, but especially out here on the road... We’re actually getting ready to go back in and start recording the next record too. We kick that off, we go back into the studio on Tuesday.
When you come off the road, how long does it take you to adjust to not having someone there to do everything for you?
That lasts for about 30 minutes when I’m at home. My wife don’t play that game...[She’ll say] “My car needs an oil change..” “OK, I’m on it.” I try not to be too high maintenance out here. Obviously you’ve got people working for you and it is pretty ridiculous sometimes that you don’t have to do stuff because I’m not used to that, I’m used to doing stuff for myself. But, yeah, as soon as I’m home, those days are over, for sure.
Next week marks the first year anniversary of the release of “My Kinda Party.” It’s never fallen out of the Billboard 200’s Top 20; Adele’s “21” is the only album that has stayed higher, but it hasn’t been out as long.
She’s on fire...My thing is I just want to go out and as long as the record’s doing well every week and my songs are doing well and there’s people at my show, the rest of it is just “whatever.” I’m very proud of the fact that it’s doing what it’s doing, but I don’t dive into it that much that I know every little detail.
Part of the album’s success has been its diversity. You have the party tune in the title track, the ballad with Kelly Clarkson, the rap in “Dirt Road Anthem,” the sentimentality of “Tattoos on the Town.” When you were making it, what did you want to do differently from your previous three?
I wanted to go in and make a cool record and I felt like we were able to do that. I had no idea that songs like “Dirt Road” were going to explode like that and basically carry this album for a year. It’s been crazy.
The video for “Tattoos on This Town” takes the song in a whole different direction with the ending and the military angle. How did that come about?
Wes Edwards, who’s directed a lot of our videos, came up with the treatment and I liked it just because it was different. It was again an avenue we hadn’t gone down before —that really sentimental kind of thing. We’ve never really done anything like that or a play on the military... [Anyone who’s seen it]started bawling. That was kind of the reaction we were hoping for, which means we shot a good video.
It is true you got a new tattoo to commemorate “Tattoos On This Town” coming out?
Kinda, sort of, not really. That story was a little fabricated. I don’t even know where that came from.
Let’s set the record straight [The tattoo is a Celtic cross on his left arm with his two daughters’ names on it].
The tattoo, I actually got in January, February. I just had been wanting to get something with [my girls’] names on it, so I went and got that and we decided to release “Tattoos on This Town” and I guess it just sounded like a good story that I’d gotten a new tattoo for my new single... but that is definitely not the case.
You and Lady Gaga were recently announced as the first two performers at the Grammy nominations concert on Nov. 30. What do you think when you see your name in the same sentence as Lady Gaga?
I think that I will not be wearing any kind of jacket with meat hanging off of it. No, it’s cool to be a part of something like that. The Grammys, obviously for the music industry, are as big as it gets and so the fact that I’m just a part of anything that has to do with the Grammys is pretty cool. Lady Gaga, she’s one of the biggest stars in music right now, so I think it’s cool. I love going to things like that and getting to watch other artists play and perform. It gives me ideas for my show.
First, you’ve got the CMAs on Nov. 9 and you’re up for entertainer of the year for the first time. You’re up for five awards: Is there another one that would mean as much to you?
No, that’s the one...To me, I’ve built my career on my live show. That’s the biggest award that as a country artist [you can win]. You know, there are other ones that are great. The album of the year is phenomenal. That’s a cool one just because I’d get to celebrate with my producer and my band who plays on my records. Male vocalist, that one’s a big honor. But to me, just building the career the way that I have, entertainer, that’s the one. If I only won one award ever... that would be the one that I would want. I remember my favorite band of all time, Alabama, I remember watching these shows when I was kid and those guys winning that award five or six times in a row, it was like, man! To me, that was the highlight of the night, so I’d be lying if I said there was another one that I wanted more than that one.
This is the end of your first arena headlining tour. What was the biggest thing you learned about being a headliner from one of the acts that you opened for?
If nobody shows up, you’ve still got to pay everybody, for one...One of the first tours I got a chance to be on was the Rascal Flatts tour. Those guys were like brothers out there, they treated me really well, so it showed me that that’s how you’re supposed to treat an opening act because I was nothing, I had one song, two songs, maybe...You kind of felt like you were part of that family. It was something that was really cool to me and kind of what I try to instill in people who come out with us.
What is the most memorable thing a fan has ever given you? [While Aldean is thinking, his publicist jumps in and brings up the time he was asked to sign a prosthetic leg]
He didn’t give me that, he just wanted me to sign it. You could tell he was like an old war veteran and it caught me by surprise because he reached down and snapped it off, he just popped it off, and handed it to me and I was like “Shit, I didn’t know what to say.” Apparently that was his thing because he had a ton of autographs on it... It was definitely one of the most memorable moments I’ve had with a fan for sure.
I’ve had people give me stuff with my picture on it, stuff like boxers with my face on them. People just give me weird shit all the time, some of it is really cool and some of it you just look at it and go, “Really? When you thinking about shit to buy me, this is what you came up with?” It’s just a trip. That’s a weekly thing though. The other day, I saw my face... they made a kit where you put my face on a pumpkin and carve it out. That’s weird.
You’re one of the headliners at Stagecoach. Just a few years ago, you were playing at one of the earliest acts on the bill. How do you get your head about that?
The first thing that comes to my mind about Stagecoach since we’re talking about Alabama earlier and I think they’re actually opening for me for that show, which, to me, is ridiculous. That’s really strange for me to have my idols opening the show, which I don’t even feel right about...I feel like I should sit back and let [Alabama] headline the show. I just feel very weird, but I’m looking as forward to seeing them play as I am playing my own show, so it’s going to be fun.