Jason Aldean has spent much of the past two years touring with two of the biggest acts in country music: Rascal Flatts in 2007 and Tim McGraw this summer. "I think that was really a great launching pad for my career," says Aldean of the Rascal Flatts tour. "The chance to get in front of those guys and play for 10,000 to 15,000 people every night was a huge deal for us."
The McGraw tour was an equally big deal for Aldean with one key difference.
"I remember going out with Rascal Flatts the first time, and we only had one hit," Aldean says. "It gets a little easier to do the show the more hits you have, too. You can kind of make your show seem like it's full of hits."
That observation from Aldean says a lot about the trajectory of his career. With just two albums under his belt, he's managed to put together an impressive string of popular singles.
His 2005 self-titled debut yielded a No. 1 single in "Why" and two Top 10 singles, "Hicktown" and "Amarillo Sky." His 2007 follow-up, Relentless, has so far given him Top 10 hits "Laughed Until We Cried" and "Johnny Cash."
The success has to be sweet for Aldean, who faced his share of uncertainty after getting a deal with Capitol Records a decade ago. That deal fell apart before Aldean was able to release an album.
"I think at that time, Capitol was going through a pretty bad time," says the 31-year-old Aldean. "Garth [Brooks], he was pretty much retired and wasn't really making any records. Keith Urban hadn't really taken off yet. Trace Adkins was not doing as well as he's doing now. They just really didn't have a whole lot going on. I think everybody was scared for their jobs. Then they had the whole regime change over there, and I think I was just kind of caught in it."
As word got around about Aldean being dropped, he found it increasingly difficult to get another record deal. He was literally days from giving up and moving back to Macon, Ga., to find a job that paid enough to support his wife and child, when Broken Bow Records made him an offer.
Aldean's career has been moving on fast-forward ever since.
His popularity is understandable. On Relentless, Aldean returns with a solid collection of rock-edged, twang-accented, up-tempo tracks, including the aforementioned "Johnny Cash" (a tale of escaping everyday life) and "I Use What I Got" (about accepting your shortcomings and playing to your strengths), balanced by heartfelt romantic ballads ("Laughed Until We Cried" and "Grown Woman").
Relentless has not yet finished its run, but Aldean is focusing now on his third album, which could arrive in stores at the end of this year or in early 2009. He likes the way the album is coming together.
"I think with every album, we've been able to find better songs," says Aldean. "I think it's definitely as good, if not better, than the first two."