No matter where we end up, only one place is home, and what that means for each is unique. For Jason Aldean home has been a lynchpin of creative connection that’s helped produce one modern country’s most distinctive sounds … and one of its most impactful artists.
With 26 Number Ones, 15 billion streams and more than 20 million albums sold, he’s a three-time ACM Entertainer of the Year and the reigning ACM Artist of the Decade. Seven Platinum-or-better albums, sold-out stadiums and the record for most Top 10 songs on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart since 2005 lay in his rearview – along with a reputation for living the songs he sings.
Through it all his work has become synonymous with modern country, standing as one of its defining examples. But even now, Aldean knows his hometown helped make it all happen. And with his tenth studio album, Macon, Georgia, he’s letting everyone else know, too.
“To me it’s just throwing it back to where it all started,” Aldean says, describing an expansive double-length set the likes of which his fans have never seen. “I don’t care who you are, where you were raised is such a big part of who you end up being, and for me it’s no different. Macon is a crossroads of country music, Southern rock, blues and R&B, and just that whole combination of music was such a big influence on me growing up – and ultimately on how I make music myself.”
Part all-new music, and part career retrospective highlighting the fiery live shows Aldean’s made his calling card, the massive set features 30 songs over two jam-packed releases – with 20 new tunes and 10 unheard live takes showcasing everything he does.
Since the very beginning, the Macon-specific confluence of country, Southern rock, and R&B has provided inspiration for Aldean’s work – from hometown legends like the Allman Brothers to Otis Redding and beyond. It’s helped him create a game changing country-rock mix, and here he tips a hat while continuing to leave his own mark on the city’s vibrant history. But mostly, he just did it because he could.
Built slow through long months off the road, Macon, Georgia, represents the first chunk of time since Aldean was a teen that he was not hopping from city to city each night, and he put it to good use. Together with longtime producer Michael Knox, he took an anything-goes approach to his signature sound – tough on its surface, yet often tender at the core – adding new writers to his established crew and reviving his his barbed-wire vocal for a new era.
Fresh tracks run the gamut from straight-up stadium rockers to bluesy barstool ballads, peppered with tasteful modern beats and the chest-thumping small-town pride his fans crave. Familiar themes of romantic regret and stirring souls join added introspection as his life journey evolves. And above all, he reaffirms his allegiance to the world Macon represents.
“I guess that was the one good thing that came out of the quarantine for us – it gave us some time to sit at home and work on the album,” Aldean explains. “It was like ‘If we’re gonna go in, let’s do different things, have fun and see what works.’ … So I spent a lot of time on this album in the vocal booth, just playing around with new ideas.”
Fans got an early taste of the result with the mega duet, “If I Didn’t Love You” (with Carrie Underwood), a two-week Number One that charted new sonic territory. Written by Aldean’s longtime band mates Kurt Allison and Tully Kennedy – along with Lydia Vaughan and John Morgan – it’s a power ballad of epic proportions, built around the darker emotional setting Aldean has made his sweet spot. But the pair’s soulful mix of fire and ice was an unexpected guidepost.
In fact, the track so well captures what Aldean wanted for Macon, Georgia, it was written and recorded in just three weeks flat. He now calls Underwood’s presence an album highlight.
“She did a couple of practice takes, and then when she really cut loose for the first time, it was like ‘Oh. Yeah. This is gonna be better than I thought,’” the star says. “We all looked at each other after that like ‘This is gonna be special.’”
Featuring 15 initial tracks, the rest of the album’s first half (Macon) was no less special. Like a sample of textures from Aldean’s career so far, fist-pumping arena rockers like “Over You Again” joined woozy whiskey ballads like “Story for Another Glass.” Tracks like “Watching You Love Me” and a long-asked-for cover of Bryan Adams “Heaven” offered space for Aldean to experiment with R&B and the upper reaches of his voice, while “Small Town Small” revisits the choice Hip Hop elements he pioneered on “Dirt Road Anthem” – all while speaking the language of that small town life he was raised in.
Fifteen more on the second half (Georgia) complete the set in 2022, this time with even more of that fire-and-ice mix. Often, the back half finds a wounded heart supported by armor-plated aggression, as it does on the top-fuel rocker and second single, “Trouble With a Heartbreak.”
Meanwhile, “Rock and Roll Cowboy” again taps Aldean’s Southern Rock upbringing – this time for a heavy-hearted dispatch from the road which recalls Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” – and “Ain’t Enough Cowboy” flashes sensual R&B; a slow groover filled with auto-tuned vocals and untamed desire.
Elsewhere, “The State I’m In” may remind listeners of Aldean’s 2009 hit, “The Truth” – another rock-bottom ballad built on classic-country desperation. And “Your Mama” unfolds as rootsy romantic serenade to Aldean’s wife, Brittany, which he admits recording for his own benefit.
“It’s just a different kind of song than what you would typically hear from me,” Aldean explains. “Then we turn around and go right back to the rock-driven stuff.”
True enough, as the addition of Aldean’s first-ever live tracks help fulfill the Macon, Georgia, concept. It was in the clubs surrounding Macon where Aldean cut his teeth, after all, unleashing a strutting stage presence and snarling sound for the first time. Here he offers at least one live standout from each of his first nine albums, showing how far he’s come.
“We’ve always tried to lean toward more songs than less,” Aldean explains of the monster, 30-track set. “And this album is no different.”
All told, Macon, Georgia is different, however, as it places his award-winning artistry in proper context. Paying tribute to the place that made him a country superstar, while continuing to grow from those roots, it’s a reflection of both where he’s from and where he’s going. Because as much as home means, he still feels called to rock the world.
“Over the last nine albums and 16 years of recording, I hope people understand why my music sounds the way it does,” Aldean says. “Hopefully by listening to these albums you can tell.”