To say Jason Aldean is excited these days "is an understatement for sure," according to the platinum-selling country star.
And who can blame him?
Three of Aldean's four albums have passed the million mark, with 2010's "My Kinda Party" selling more than 2.7 million copies so far. He's notched 15 Top 10 country hits -- seven of which reached No. 1 -- and the new "Take a Little Ride," the first single from his upcoming "Night Train" album, is the highest chart debut of his career.
Add to that a pair of Academy of Country Music Awards, two Billboard Awards and a CMT Music Award this year alone -- and he's up for three Country Music Awards on Nov. 1 -- as well as his first stadium headlining show, in Columbus, Ohio, and Aldean would seem to have every reason to party on.
"One thing I've learned, man, is if you continue to put out good music and not try to reinvent the wheel every time you go out, people will stay with you," says Aldean, 35, a Georgia native who was taught to play guitar by his father, then moved to Nashville as a songwriter in 1998 and spent six years kicking around before releasing his first single, "Hicktown."
"I remember as a fan, when I was buying records and I would get into an artist and love what they did; if the next record fell in a completely different direction, I felt like they would owe me a little bit, y'know? It's cool to experiment a little here and there, but once you've established yourself with people it doesn't make sense to go completely 360 or something like that.
"I think you just kinda grow as an artist and learn what works best for you. "Obviously the longer you're around you're a lot more in touch with your fan base than you are early in your career. I have a lot better understanding of what it is they expect to hear from me and what they like and what they've come to expect. So for me, that part of it is easier."
Aldean certainly comes into "Night Train," due out Oct. 16, with expectations generated by "My Kinda Party's" success. But that's something he and longtime producer Michael Knox, who brought Aldean to Nashville in the first place, tried to put out of their minds as they worked on the 15-song set.
"Honestly, I tried to just not even worry about it," says Aldean, who's married to his high school sweetheart and has two young daughters. "To go in with the mindset of trying to top it or make an album that sells more than the last one, you can't really do that. I think if you start to think that way you're going to set yourself up for failure.
"I think you've got to go in and make what you feel like is a great record, and whatever's gonna happen after that is gonna happen. It's just out of your control. So I tried to not even think about trying to top ('My Kinda Party') or worrying about the pressures of trying to beat what he done last time and just worried about what we were doing in (the studio)."
Aldean had an unwitting head start, as it turns out, with "Take a Little Ride," whose No. 12 peak on Billboard's Hot 100 is his second-highest position on the pop-dominated chart. The song -- by writers Dylan Altman, Rodney Clawson and Jim McCormick -- was actually pitched to him while he was making "My Kinda Party," but Aldean says it "came in sort of late, and we had all the (up) tempos we were looking for for that album." Nevertheless, he found himself "listening to it over and over, even after we had finished that album" and decided early on it would be the song he's use to launch whatever he did next.
"It's catchy. It's uptempo," he says. "We wanted to come out of the gate with something that's a little more straightahead than maybe I'd go with for a second, third or fourth single down the road. It's kind of a right down the middle sort of radio thing; that's always good when you're getting ready to launch" an album.
And while Aldean and Knox stayed true to their desire "to not get away from what brought you to the dance," he promises there are a few "surprises" -- including "The Only Way I Know," a rowdy musical summit meeting with buddies Luke Bryan and Eric Church.
"Musically we go in and try things," Aldean explains. "I don't want to just go in and do the same thing everybody else does. So we go in and use sounds and things that people don't use anymore because they think they're kind of old and outdated -- as simple as a wah-wah pedal or an e-bow, things that people just don't use a whole lot of anymore but I still think they sound pretty cool.
"So, yeah, we go in and experiment around with stuff like that and make the record sound different than before, but not so different that it sounds like somebody else."
Aldean is playing some of the "Night Train" songs on his "My Kinda Party" tour, which wraps on Oct. 27 in Dallas. He'll spend the rest of the year doing TV and radio appearances to promote the new album as well as "a little break over the holidays to get the batteries recharged for next year" -- which he says has some exciting opportunities in store.
"We're kind of dabbling in the stadium thing now," he says. "We did the first one this year and it went really well. It sold out, which is always a good thing, so I think we're gonna dabble into that a little more next year, along with the usual arenas and amphitheaters. I think it's a good fit, and we've definitely grown into that size of a place."
Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Rachel Farley perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $57.75 pavilion, $33 lawn. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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