"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," Aldean told CBS Mornings
Jason Aldean is opening up about his controversial "Try That in a Small Town" song and music video.
In a new interview with CBS Mornings, the country star addressed critics who claimed the chart-topping song featured racist and violent undertones as well as backlash for shooting its music video at the site of a 1927 lynching in his town of Columbia, Tennessee.
Aldean, 46, wondered "how" viewers came to find racism in the music video, which includes visuals of vandalism and riots that appear to take place during the 2020 racial injustice protests (but, as some on TikTok pointed out, some clips are taken from stock footage or from protests in other countries).
"There was people of all color doing stuff in the video. That's what I don't understand," said the country artist. "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."
As for the video's filming location — in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, where the 1927 lynching of 18-year-old Black man Henry Choate took place — Aldean said he wasn't aware of the event beforehand.
"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."
The courthouse is a popular filming location outside of Nashville, per Tacklebox, the music video's production company. They also cited several music videos and films that have been filmed there, including the Lifetime Original movie Steppin’ into the Holiday with Mario Lopez and Jana Kramer, Runaway June's “We Were Rich” music video, a Paramount holiday film A Nashville Country Christmas with Tanya Tucker — as well the Hannah Montana film.
Now aware of the location's history, Aldean told CBS Mornings 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," he said. "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."
Before releasing "Try That in a Small Town," Aldean said he expected "the biggest issue with the song" to be its lyrics about guns: "Got a gun that my grandad gave me / They say one day they're gonna round up."
"So, I didn't expect it to get the kind of heat that it got," he told the program. "And I think that was more probably because of the video, more so than the actual song."
The "Dirt Road Anthem" singer explained "Try That in a Small Town" was inspired by how Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" addressed world issues. Aldean was looking to shed light on "lawlessness" and "disrespect for cops," feeling especially passionate about disheartening events following his experience at the 2017 Route 91 festival shooting in Las Vegas. "I do think it makes you look at things a little different when you go through something like that," he said.
Ultimately, Aldean defended his intentions with the controversial song and video. "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."
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