One of the currently hottest artists in country music's new-school crop is Jason Aldean--who's been making records since 2005, and has enjoyed the experience of seeing every single year shine brighter than the last, with 2010 to the present being nothing short of explosive. The singer rattled a few cages by dueting with rap star Ludacris ("Dirt Road Anthem"), won even more hearts by pairing up with American Idol Kelly Clarkson ("Don't You Wanna Stay"), and picked up a crazy amount of awards and award nominations along the way during that period, including the prestigious Album of the Year title at the 2011 Country Music Association Awards.
Aldean's newest album, Night Train, will be released next month, and it's an apt name--things are continuing to speed along at breakneck pace for him. Who has time to sleep? Aldean will be zooming in to Las Vegas Friday to headline the 2012 iHeartRadio music festival, but he managed to take a few minutes out of his schedule to catch up with Yahoo! Music.
Jason Aldean (Photo: Sara Kauss)YAHOO!: When you take the stage at the iHeartRadio festival, you'll be playing to a lot of country and non-country fans alike. Are you planning to do anything special during your set, considering this? Any surprises in store for your hardcore fans?
ALDEAN: I'm just kinda gonna enjoy it. I heard a lot of cool stuff about [the festival] last year, and I think it's a cool opportunity for us to go out and turn people on to our music who maybe haven't been aware of it. It's a cool way for every artist to cross genres a little bit, and branch out to some new listeners. So that's the thing that I'm probably most excited about.
YAHOO!: Do you feel you've already amassed a pretty good crossover audience at this point in your career?
ALDEAN: I don't know, I guess we'll find out! I think that obviously, the song that we had with Kelly, that was a big crossover hit. "Dirt Road Anthem" kinda had some of that too, with Ludacris. So, I think so. I think we've branched out in the last couple of years, and reached an audience that isn't necessarily country. Country is my home, but any time you can go out and reach some new fans--you want as many people as possible to hear your music. And sometimes it takes a crossover song like that to make them aware of you and hopefully turn them on to some of the other stuff you're doing. I think we've done some of that over the past couple years.
YAHOO!: That said, country music is hotter than ever. How do you feel about the state of your "home genre" today?
ALDEAN: Country music's doing really well right now, and I think it's largely due to the fact that here's a lot of new younger artists out there. I happen to be in that pack. It's really fun to be a part of right now--to see country music kind of making its way to the top of the pack. It's what we want to see. I think sometimes country music artists feel like country is sometimes an afterthought with a lot of things--like awards shows, or anything where there's a lot of different genres. Country comes a little bit as an afterthought to a lot of people. It's right at the top right now, though, and it's cool, and I hope people are taking notice of that.
YAHOO!: Your new album is out next month. I'm sure you're very excited about that! In some recent interviews, you've said that there will be some unexpected things on it. Can you tell us a little more?
ALDEAN: I thnk anybody whose ever listened to any of my records--or all my records--knows, I think, there's a certain sound that we've developed. I don't even know if developed is the right word! It just kind of the sound we have when we're in the studio, and I think there's similarities between all of the records. But at the same time, you don't want to make every album sound the same. It's a fine line between sticking to what got you to this point, and kind of going down a different road a little bit--and I think we did that on this record.
There's a song on there called "The Only Way I Know" that I brought in Luke Bryan and Eric Church on, so it's the three of us on a song and I think it's really cool. We got a song on there called "1994" that's big uptempo--I don't even know how to describe it. Very unlike anything we've ever done, and talks about things that were going on in 1994, so you have to get into that mindset when you're listening to it. Some of the sounds and vocals we used were throwbacks to the '90s. So there's little things like that, that we did on this record.
YAHOO!: You're obviously not afraid to collaborate with artists out of your genre. Who would you like to work with next, that is definitely not in the country realm?
ALDEAN: There's a lot of people that I think are really cool! Like, some people that I think are really great singers--Gavin DeGraw. I love Maroon 5. Someone whom I really love their voice is Demi Lovato. I think she's got a really cool voice, and I think she's kind of separated herself from the whole Disney thing with the stuff she's doing now. Some of the rock bands that I grew up listening to--Aerosmith, Bon Jovi. There's a lot of people out there that I would love to work with at some point.
YAHOO!: Sounds like you've given this some thought already!
ALDEAN: I constantly have that stuff in the back of my mind. It comes to a point where it depends on the song--what I hear from the song. When I heard "Don't You Wanna Stay," I heard a female voice on it, and a really soulful female voice. There's just not a lot of those out there. First person that popped into my head was Kelly. So I think it's that kind of thing. You hear a song, and you hear who would sound good on it--and you go from there.
YAHOO!: Another amazing thing that's happening this year, not too long after your album release, is the CMA Awards. You are up for three big ones (Entertainer, Male Vocalist, Single of the Year). That must feel fantastic.
ALDEAN: It's been a great couple years. It really has, and especially this last year. Any of those nominations, I don't think you take any of those for granted. I feel that now I've legitimately earned those nominations, where before you kind of just hoped to be in there. I never really cared about being nominated for anything unless I had a legitimate shot to win it. You know what I mean? I didn't just want to be a nominee just to take up a fifth spot. And I feel like now, we've kind of made our mark a little bit, and we've got as good a shot as anyone at winning some of that stuff.
YAHOO!: How will you feel if you land the coveted Entertainer of the Year award? You are up against some stiff competition.
ALDEAN: If I win that award, I don't care if I ever win another one in my career. That's the one that I would like to have--even if it's not this year, then before my career is over. You have vocalists, and you have entertainers. I consider myself a singer, yeah. But am I the best vocalist in Nashville? No. But when it comes to our shows, I feel our shows are up there with anybody's. So winning that one would be really special. It would be the perfect end to my year.
Linkin Park, Brad Paisley, Aerosmith, Taylor Swift, Mary J. Blige and six other superstar artists will perform at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas on Saturday, September 22. Green Day, Lil Wayne, Rihanna and Miranda Lambert are among the acts playing Friday, September 21, the event's opening night. The shows begin at 7 p.m. PST and will be streamed exclusively on Yahoo! Music.