Addressing concertgoers during the Cincinnati leg of his Highway Desperado Tour Friday, Aldean maintained that despite the dialogue surrounding the song and the labels affixed to him amid the controversy, what he is, is a proud American.
“It’s been a long week and I’ve seen a lot of stuff suggesting I’m this, suggesting I’m that,” The country crooner said in the fan-captured video. “Here’s one thing I feel. I feel like everybody’s entitled to their opinion. You can think something all you want to, doesn’t mean it’s true, right?”
He continued, “What I am, is a proud American. I’m proud to be from here. I love our country. I want to see it restored to what it once was before all this bullsh*t started happening to us. I love my country. I love my family, and I will do anything to protect that. I can tell you that right now.”
Aldean’s speech was met with chants of “USA” from the crowd, who appeared to be in support of the singer’s message.
“You guys know how it is in this day and age, cancel culture is a thing,” Aldean said. “That’s something that if people don’t like what you say, they try and make sure that they can cancel you, which means try to ruin your life. Ruin everything. One thing I saw this week, was a bunch of country music fans that can see through a lot of the bulls**t. I saw country music fans rally like I’ve never seen before, and it was pretty bada** to watch, I gotta say. Thank you guys so much.”
Aldean didn’t shy away from the controversy and even played the song for the hoards of cheering concertgoers.
The song — which was released in May — really sparked controversy with its music video, which was released last week. The video was filmed in front of the massive American flag displayed on the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee — the site of the 1927 lynching of Henry Choate.
The music video is interlaced with clips of protestors vandalizing cities in the wake of police brutality and racial unrest during the height of the pandemic. The visual imagery was called into question, as were the song’s lyrics, which many have argued seem to be pro-gun and even pro-vigilante justice.
A portion of the lyrics in the track includes, “Got a gun that my granddad gave me / They say one day they’re gonna round up / Well, that s**t might fly in the city, good luck / Try that in a small town / See how far ya make it down the road / You cross that line, it won’t take long / For you to find out, I recommend you don’t / Try that in a small town.”
Aldean also sings about “good ol’ boys, raised up right,” taking matters into their own hands by “taking care of our own.” That being said, Aldean is not credited as a writer of the song. The tune was penned by Neil Thrasher, Kurt Allison, Tully Kennedy and Kelley Lovelace.
The debate over the music video has raged, with many musicians taking sides — some opposed to Aldean’s message, like Sheryl Crow, while others like Cody Johnson and Blanco Brown defended the singer. The music video was also removed from broadcast circulation on Tuesday by Country Music Television and has been roundly criticized by many for its message.
Aldean previously addressed the controversy surrounding the track on social media Tuesday with a statement.
“In the past 24 hours I have been accused of releasing a pro-lynching song (a song that has been out since May) and was subject to the comparison that I (direct quote) was not too pleased with the nationwide BLM protests. These references are not only meritless, but dangerous,” he wrote. “There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it — and there is not a single video clip that isn’t real news footage — and while I can try and respect others to have their own interpretation of a song with music — this one goes too far.”
The statement continued, “As many pointed out, I was present at Route 91 where so many lost their lives — and our community recently suffered another heartbreaking tragedy. NO ONE, including me, wants to continue to see senseless headlines or families ripped apart.
“‘Try That In a Small Town,’ for me, refers to the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbours, regardless of differences of background or belief. Because they were our neighbours, and that was above any differences. My political views have never been something I’ve hidden from, and I know that a lot of us in this country don’t agree on how we get back to a sense of normalcy where we go at least a day without a headline that keeps us up at night. But the desire for it to — that’s what this song is about.”
The music video’s production company, Tacklebox, told ET on Tuesday that the location is a “popular filming location outside of Nashville” and cited several music videos and movies that have been filmed there, including most recently the Lifetime Original movie “Steppin’ into the Holiday” with Mario Lopez and Jana Kramer, a music video from Runaway June titled, “We Were Rich”, a Paramount holiday film “A Nashville Country Christmas” with Tanya Tucker — as well the “Hannah Montana” movie. The production company says, “Any alternative narrative suggesting the music video’s location decision is false.” Tacklebox also noted Aldean did not pick the location.
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