Jason Aldean is an ideal example of an overnight success nearly 15 years in the making. When the singer/songwriter/guitarist won the Academy of Country Music's top new male vocalist award in 2005, he had been working in Nashville, Tenn., for about seven years and playing in bars and clubs since he was a teenager.
"Once ‘Hicktown' came out, it seemed like I kind of came out of nowhere and all the sudden had a hit,” Aldean said in a phone interview from Indianapolis, where he was preparing for a show. "For me, it didn't feel like an overnight thing; I was just glad it finally happened.” Now, Aldean, 31, and the duo Halfway to Hazard are guests on superstar Tim McGraw's "2008 Live Your Voice Tour.” The tour stops at the Ford Center at 8 tonight. "I watch what he (McGraw) does on stage and how he interacts with fans and things like that, but also how he takes care of all his people who work for him. Little things like that just make a big difference,” Aldean said. "Being out there, it's almost like having a free education.”
Starting young"Hicktown,” the first single off Aldean's 2005 self-titled debut album, was the first of five straight top 10 singles for him. His sophomore album, "Relentless,” entered the country charts at No. 1 a year ago. It has spawned hits with "Johnny Cash” and "Laugh Until We Cried.” The recently released title track is in the Top 40. Aldean started performing in little clubs around his native Georgia when he was 14 and had a house gig at the Macon nightspot Nashville South within about a year. By the time he graduated high school, he was playing music five nights a week. He decided to forgo college and the chance to play baseball to tour with a band around the South. In 1998, his producer, Michael Knox, then-vice president of Warner-Chapell Publishing, spotted him playing in an Atlanta club and signed him to a songwriting contract. It took the next six years for Aldean to land a secure record deal. A native Georgian, Aldean plays country with a solid shot of Southern rock. His biggest musical influences are Alabama, Tracy Lawrence and John Anderson. While he scored a hit with the song "Johnny Cash,” about hitting the road with a Cash classic blaring, he doesn't list the Man in Black among his main influences. "I kind of took some heat over saying this when that song was out, but you know, Johnny Cash, I can't honestly say he was a big influence for me.
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Tim McGraw with Jason Aldean and Halfway to Hazard•When: 8 tonight. •Where: Ford Center, 100 W Reno. •Tickets and information: 235-8288 or www.okfordcenter.com.