How Jason Aldean Became Country Music's Biggest Star

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Why you should care

Because Jason Aldean has overcome tragedy to bring music to his dedicated fans. 

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OZY Media’s third prime-time television show, Breaking Big, airs Fridays at 8.30 p.m. ET on PBS stations, OZY.com and Facebook Watch. Join us as we explore the unexpected journeys to success of some of the world’s most influential stars.

So far, we’ve heard from Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, restaurateur Eddie Huang and actress Danai Jekesai Gurira. This week we go backstage with country music superstar Jason Aldean.

He’s now much more aware of his surroundings every time he goes onstage.

Aldean never imagined he would be a country music superstar — he wanted to play professional baseball. But his dad bought him a cheap guitar, and one boring summer Aldean taught himself how to play. By age 14, he was playing local shows in his hometown of Macon, Georgia. A few years later, Aldean was spotted by music producer Michael Knox of Warner/Chappell, who was captivated by Aldean’s “rocking” style of country. Knox brought him to Nashville and within six months, Aldean was signed to a label. It all seemed too good to be true, and at the time, it was. He was asked to dress more “clean-cut” and without his signature cowboy hat and boots, but Aldean refused — and he was dropped from the label shortly thereafter.

Aldean was sure he had come to the end of the road and even called his cousin at home to help him find a job. But after playing one final showcase in Nashville where he sang his heart out, Broken Bow Records offered him a deal on the spot. Aldean was back on the path toward stardom and was soon turning out hit after hit. Today, he’s a platinum-selling artist, playing sold-out stadium shows around the world.

Last fall at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Aldean was onstage performing when a gunman carried out the brutal massacre of 58 people — an experience that left him dramatically shaken. Aldean tells OZY’s Carlos Watson how he’s now much more aware of his surroundings every time he goes onstage and how putting the incident behind him has been a challenge.

Still, Aldean remains the same down-to-earth, small-town guy he was the day he picked up a guitar. And he says he’ll never stop playing for his fiercely dedicated fans.

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