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Interview:
Hoedown headliner Jason Aldean having his own party thanks to success
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Jason Aldean is making his WYCD Downtown Hoedown debut this weekend.

As one of the festival’s headliners.

“Yeah, I like it — that’s what we’ve been waiting for, y’know,” Aldean, who closes the Hoedown at 9:15 p.m. Sunday, May 15, says with a laugh. “We wanted to do it right.”

It’s safe to say a lot of things are going right for Aldean these days.

His fourth album, “My Kinda Party,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard country chart in November — and at No. 2 on the Top 200 — and has already been certified platinum. It’s yielded the hit title track and the chart-topping “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” a duet with inaugural “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson that’s also gone platinum, while “Dirt Road Anthem” is climbing.

And Aldean has a field-leading four nominations for the CMT Music Awards, June 8 in Nashville. “It’s cool to get one nomination at one of these shows,” the 34-year-old Georgia native notes. “To be leading the pack, and with four, that’s pretty crazy. Even if we could pull one out of four, it would be all right.”

And even if he comes home empty-handed, Aldean says “My Kinda Party” has still given him plenty to celebrate.

“It just feels like we’ve finally hit our stride,” says Aldean, who was taught guitar by his father and moved to Nashville in 1998, when he was 21. He had a couple of fruitless recording contracts before his self-titled debut album came out in 2005.

“Your first couple of records, I think, are all trial and error. You just go in and record them, and you don’t really know what you’re doing. You don’t know who your fans are or any of that stuff. Then as it goes on, you start to figure out more and more what it is you want to do and you start refining it with each album after that.

“(‘My Kinda Party’) being our fourth record, I had really locked into that. I knew exactly what it was I wanted to do, what kind of music I wanted to make. You’ve got to make a record that reflects you and is something that you like, but you also are very aware of your fans and what they like, too.”

The key, Aldean adds, is finding a balance between what could be competing desires.

“You have to get to a point where you’re comfortable with, ‘OK, this is the kind of stuff I like to do, people seem to like it, radio’s playing it. ...’” he explains. “You follow your instincts, and all the rest of it’s gonna play out.”

Instincts — both Aldean’s and his producer, Michael Knox’s — played a big part in making “My Kinda Party.” “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” for instance, was the result of a long-held desire to record a duet but only “if the right thing came along.”

“Everybody wants to go out and try to find the ‘duet song,’” Aldean says. “If that happens, you’re never going to find the song.” Rather, he accepted “Don’t You Wanna Stay” simply on the song’s merits and then heard the potential for a duet within it.

“I thought Kelly would be great for the song,” Aldean recalls. “I didn’t know if we could get her, but I thought she’d be awesome. We ended up getting her a copy of the song and she loved it, and the first time I met her was when she came in to record the song with us.”

“Dirt Road Anthem” was another instinctual choice. It had already been recorded twice by each of its writers — Colt Ford and Brantley Gilbert, the latter of whom also co-wrote the “My Kinda Party” title track. But as “a fan” of the song even before Knox proposed cutting it for the album, Aldean felt he could do it some justice as well.

“The only way I was gonna do it was to put our spin on it, do it a little differently,” he says. “If you listen to Colt and Brantley’s versions and listen to our version, it’s completely different. We just got in the studio and messed around with it a little bit and made it our own kind of song ... instead of trying to copy someone else’s version of a song.”

Aldean expects “there’s definitely gonna be one more single, possibly two” from “My Kinda Party,” and he and Knox are “in the process now of starting to look for songs for the next album,” although he doesn’t expect it out until early 2012. He’s also recorded a version of Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me” for a Richie duets project due out later this year.

And, of course, he’s on the road, although Aldean plans to take “a little break” during the summer.

“I’ll take a few weeks over the summer and take my family and hang out at the beach for about a month,” he says. “That’ll split up our first and second legs of the tour, and I’m sure I’ll be listening to some songs for the next album then, but it’ll still be time off, which is good.”



The WYCD Downtown Hoedown opens 3 p.m. Friday, May 13, and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15, at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. Admission is free. For a full lineup of acts, visit www.wycd.com.



Web Site: www.wycd.com

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