Why Jason Aldean Pushed So Hard to Send ‘Small Town’ to Radio


Before he released “Try That in a Small Town” last May, Jason Aldean didn’t expect it to be quite as polarizing as it turned out to be, but he knew his song had the potential to ruffle some feathers.

In a recent conversation with American Songwriter — which marks the first time Aldean has talked about “Small Town” alongside its writers (Kelly Lovelace, Kurt Allison, Neil Thrasher and Tully Kennedy) — the singer says that he expected the most controversial line in the song to be one about owning a gun. “Got a gun that my granddaddy gave me / They say one day they’re gonna round up / Well that s–t might fly in the city, good luck,” Aldean sings in that verse.

Sure enough, Aldean’s song caught criticism for what some listeners perceived as its readiness to advocate for gun-based vigilante justice. But even more critics railed against “Small Town” as racist dogwhistling, particularly when Aldean dropped the music video, large parts of which were shot against the Maury County Courthouse — the scene of a fatal 1927 lynching.

Related: Jason Aldean Issues Statement on “Try That in a Small Town”

Aldean has dismissed the idea that racism could be a factor in the song’s message. In the new interview, his song’s writers concurred.

“The song was all about positivity of, like, ‘We’re not gonna stand for that.’ It’s obvious things that are wrong,” Kennedy said. “People can find negativity these days, and if they want to, they’re going to find it. This song was not written, recorded or released with negative thoughts. It was all about trying to fix the things that we thought were messed up. Like, ‘What do we believe?’ It’s important to have that or stand firm on that.”

Now almost 30 No. 1 hits and 11 studio albums into his country career, Aldean says that it was the right time in his career to put out a radio single like “Small Town.” The song’s ambitions are greater than just being an earworm, or a party hit — they speak to how the singer feels, and he says he was willing to go to bat for it.

“And this was a conversation I had with my record company where I was like, ‘Hey, we can give you guys another fastball down-the-middle radio candy song that’s gonna do fine, it’s going to do what it does. Or we can give you something that actually says something, that actually means something,'” he remembers.

“At this point in my career, to be able to say something matters and really has some meaning to me, versus just, ‘Hey, here’s a cool song,'” Aldean continues. “That meant a lot to me. In the sense of, ‘Hey man, this is different. This is different than just putting out a normal single. This one’s got some weight to it.

“And it’s going to stir the pot a little bit, I think, and make people reassess, hopefully, the way they think about some things,” he added.

  • “Try That in a Small Town” marks Aldean’s 28th No. 1 hit, as well as his first-ever chart-topper on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • He celebrated the song’s No. 1 status at a recent party alongside the songwriters.
  • “Try That in a Small Town” is the first single off of Aldean’s newest album, Highway Desperado, which came out last November.

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Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes





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