CBS Mornings/Jason Aldean/YouTube
Controversy isn’t new to country music. From Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill” to Garth Brooks’ “We Shall Be Free” and Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” many country songs have sparked debate among listeners. But, few have garnered as much attention and vitriol as Jason Aldean’s “Try That In A Small Town.”
In the age of social media where opinions can be freely shared and negativity spreads like wildfire, it’s no surprise that Aldean found himself at the center of controversy upon the song’s music video release in July. Despite the harsh reaction to the tune that critics claimed had racist and violent undertones, the song saw huge success, climbing to the top of the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The video featured footage of riots, rallies and looting, interspersed with footage of Jason Aldean singing in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee. The location is also where the lynching of black teen, Henry Choate, took place in 1927, further fueling speculation about Aldean’s motivation behind filming the video for “Try That In A Small Town” there.
Jason took to X (formerly known as Twitter) to address the backlash he was receiving for the video, but mostly kept quiet about it until his recent interview with CBS.
“But I also don’t go back a hundred years and check on the history of a place before we go shoot it either,” he said. “It’s also the place that I go get my car tags every year. It’s my county that I live in.”
He added that he would “probably not” film there again. “But also, I don’t think, again, I’m not gonna go back 100 years and check on the history of this building. If you’re in the south, you could probably go to any small-town courthouse — you’re going to be hard-pressed to find one that hasn’t had some sort of racial issue over the years at some point. I mean, that’s just a fact.”
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“Try That In A Small Town” was inspired by Billy Joel’s Grammy-nominated 1989 hit, “We Didn’t Star The Fire.” While both songs shed light on world issues, Aldean wanted to specifically draw attention to “lawlessness” and “disrespect for cops.” A longtime patriot and supporter of law enforcement, Jason’s passion was further fueled after his experience at the Route 91 festival shooting in Las Vegas in 2017.
“There was people of all color doing stuff in the video. That’s what I don’t understand,” said Aldean, 46. “There was white people in there. There was Black people. I mean, this video did not shine light on one specific group and say, ‘That’s the problem.’ And anybody that saw that in the video, then you weren’t looking hard enough in the video, is all I can tell you.”
If he had it all to do over again, would he? “I would do it over again, every time … minus the setting, knowing what I know now, obviously, you know, knowing that that was gonna be a thing, you know, maybe you look at doing it somewhere else,” he said. “I know what the intentions were behind the location, the video, the song, all of it. And, you know, and I stand by all that.”
“Try That In A Small Town” was the lead single to Jason Aldean’s new album, Highway Desperado, releasing Friday, November 3.
Watch Jason Aldean’s full interview with CBS Mornings in the video below.