Jason Aldean is addressing criticism of his controversial song “Try That in a Small Town,” including his decision to film the video for the track at the site of a 1927 lynching, while also defending his own intentions with the music video, the idea of which, he says, “was to show the lawlessness and the disrespect for cops.”
On Wednesday, Aldean appeared as part of a taped interview for CBS Mornings, where he explained and defended his intentions with the song, which he is not credited with writing, as well as the video he takes credit for conceptually but admits he did not select the various controversial images and clips that were included.
“The whole idea behind the video was to show the lawlessness and the disrespect for cops and just trashing cities and burning — I’m just not cool with that,” he said. “I don’t know, I feel like the narrative really got switched over and became more of a racial type thing. If that’s what you got out of the song and video, I almost kind of feel like that’s on you because that wasn’t our intention.”
Aldean spoke generally in the Wednesday interview and did not clarify whose specific lawlessness and disrespect for police he was referring to, but he previously wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that it was “meritless and dangerous” to say he was “not too pleased” with the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.
“In the past 24 hours I have been accused of releasing a pro-lynching song … 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 in July. “There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it — and there isn’t 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.”
During the interview, he defends the video against criticism that it targets and stereotypes Black Americans. “There was people of all color doing stuff in the video. That’s what I don’t understand,” he said. “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.”
The country singer also addressed other elements of the backlash, including the location his music video was filmed, the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee. It’s the site of the lynching of Henry Choate, an 18-year-old Black man accused of attacking a white woman in 1927. Aldean denied picking that “building specifically for that reason” but said he did not research the location ahead of time. Instead, it was a location in the county he lives in and “the place that I go get my car tags every year.”
“I also don’t go back 100 years and check on the history of a place before we go shoot it either,” he continued. “Honestly, if you’re in the South, if you go to any small town courthouse, you’re gonna be hard-pressed to find one that hasn’t had some sort of racial issue over the years at some point. That’s just a fact.
“I don’t feel bad about that because I know my intentions behind shooting the video there and recording the song and everything,” he added.
Aldean went on to note that despite the pointed criticisms around “the location, the video, the song, all of it,” he would “do it over again, every time.” That is “minus the setting, knowing what I know now, obviously, knowing that that was gonna be a thing. Maybe you look at doing it somewhere else.”
The singer also stated that while he did not anticipate all the backlash he got, he did think one lyric mentioning guns — “Got a gun that my grandad gave me. They say one day they’re gonna round up” — was going to set off some reaction with “Try That in a Small Town.”
“That I thought was gonna be the biggest issue with the song, was that it said gun,” Aldean said. “That will tend to get people talking sometimes about that. I didn’t expect it to get the kind of heat that it got, and I think that was probably more because of the video, more so than the actual song.”