When Jason Aldean put out his 9 album back in 2019, he explained that the title’s significance was about more than just the fact that it was his ninth studio album: 9 is the singer’s lucky number and has been ever since it was the number on his baseball jersey in high school. Now, the singer’s celebrating his tenth album — a number that’s just as meaningful, but for a whole different reason.
“It’s just a big number, you know? It’s ten records,” the singer reflected during a recent virtual press event. “I hit the scene in ‘05, so it’s 16 years that I’ve been out…the fact that I’ve been around that long and still can put records out that people seem to care about, and still wanna hear, that’s what’s cool to me.”
That’s especially true since Aldean started his career with relatively low expectations: He loved music and simply wanted to be successful enough at it to continue doing it. He’s surpassed that by a long shot, and at this point in his career, he feels like he’s playing with house money.
“I never in a million years thought it would last as long as it has or [that I’d] have done all the things I’ve done in my career,” he continues. “…My mindset is always that if it ends tomorrow, man, I’ve already accomplished more than I ever dreamed in a million years. Each time I get to make one of these records, it’s sort of the icing on the cake for me.”
In many ways, Macon — and its other half, Georgia, which will round out Aldean’s double-disc project when it drops in spring 2022 — is a retrospective on where Aldean started, where he is now and the path that got him from one point to the next. Its songs take the listener on a journey back to Aldean’s roots, in some cases, literally: For example, Macon’s track list features an official recorded version of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven,” which longtime Aldean fans will remember as a staple of the singer’s early career live set list.
His decision to include a version of “Heaven” on the album is a wink to the fans who’ve been supporting him since early on, Aldean explains. It all started in 2009, when he and Adams taped an episode of CMT Crossroads, a series that pairs two artists from different genres to perform a set list of both act’s songs as duets. “Heaven” was one of the songs they performed on the show.
“Little did I know that song, coming off that show, was gonna take on a life of its own and become a little bit of an underground hit for us,” Aldean recounts. “And for years, people have been asking us to record that — they wanted to use it as a wedding song, or whatever.”
With Macon and its companion album, Georgia, being a double project, he had more space in the track list, and that extra space afforded him the opportunity to record “Heaven.” It also meant that he could implement another concept celebrating the fact that he’s got ten albums under his belt. The singer’s never done a true live album (though his Wide Open Live & More! is a live DVD), and he’s never done a greatest hits record — but with each half of his double album containing five live tracks from across his nine albums to date, he gives listeners a taste of what both might sound like.
“We wanted kinda to take it even a step further and go, ‘Alright, here’s a double album, and also kind of like a greatest hits/ live versions of some of these songs,” he explains. “The idea was to pull one live song off each of the previous nine records. And obviously, one album will have two.
“[When you’re] at it for this long, you’re trying to just get creative and find new ways to get music out there and give your fans something different that you haven’t given them yet. That’s the idea that we came up with, that I thought was really cool,” the singer adds.
But for all the conceptual work that went into making and formatting Macon and its other half, Georgia, the most prevalent theme on the album is also its simplest, and it’s spelled out right in the title. On his tenth album, Aldean wanted to pay tribute to the place where he comes from: His hometown of Macon, Georgia. “Where I’m from was just such an influence on me musically,” the singer notes.
“I mean, it was just such a melting pot of different kinds of music. From Otis Redding being from my hometown to the Allman Brothers, Little Richard…growing up on that stuff, it was always playing in Macon, and I was so proud of those guys being from there,” he goes on to say. “And then obviously, country music was such a huge influence. You had Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, Trisha Yearwood, they were all from right around there, too.”
As a teenager, Aldean would play local bars and after those bars closed, he’d head out to after parties where he met all the musicians living and working in Macon at the time. “I just feel like if I was from anywhere else, my music probably wouldn’t sound the same,” he notes. Aldean’s signature blend of bluesy southern rock and mainstream country came from being in that bustling, vibrant community of diverse musicians. That blend continues to inspire him to this day, as evidenced by the new music on the track list, which is as confidently infused with his signature sound as its ever been.
“To me, it’s just sort of paying tribute to my town and where I’m from,” Aldean summarizes, “and the place that I feel like shaped my music.”