Jason Aldean decides not to address the Las Vegas massacre in song, but his entire new album is dedicated to the victims and their families.

By Nancy Kruh
April 13, 2018 10:45 PM
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Jason Aldean has had spectacular personal highs and lows in the past several months, but don’t expect his latest album, Rearview Town — due out Friday — to be this cowboy’s confessional.

Well, except for that sexy chart-climbing single.

“My relationship with my wife [Brittany],” Aldean says, is “probably a big reason for the ‘You Make It Easy’ single. That’s sort of a thing for her. That kinda reminded me of her.”

But no, there aren’t any sentimental daddy songs to celebrate the recent birth of their son, 4-month-old Memphis.

“I’m not really that guy, man,” Aldean, 41, tells PEOPLE. “I don’t feel like I gotta go cut an ‘I just had a baby’ song just because I just had a baby.”

And he also made a conscious decision not to musically address the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting that occurred just as he took the stage at the Las Vegas event on Oct. 1. (Of course, he did respond just days after the massacre with a fierce performance of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” on Saturday Night Live; proceeds from its release went to help victims.)

Most of the new album was completed before the tragedy, he explains, and “as far as … feeling like I needed to go back in and sort of put an exclamation mark on the record for what happened in Las Vegas, I didn’t feel the need to do that.”

He did feel a strong desire, however, to dedicate the album to the victims and their families. “You guys will forever be in my heart,” he wrote in the album notes.

Otherwise, the album is a straight-up shot of what has kept Aldean fans rocking through his previous seven studio albums – high-octane songs ready-made for his arena and stadium shows.

“I want things that are gonna translate [to the stage],” he says, “and so I’m constantly listening for that stuff.”

Credit: Chris Owyoung / Todd Owyoung

Notable among the 15 tracks is “Drowns the Whiskey,” a duet with Miranda Lambert, who also made a joint appearance with Aldean on his 2007 album singing “Grown Woman.” It’s one of two breakup songs: “Better at Being Who I Am” is another standout that allows Aldean to channel his bluesy side — something he’s also showing off with “You Make It Easy.”

Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard pitched the song while the two were riding around in Aldean’s pickup; Hubbard co-wrote it with FGL partner Brian Kelley, singer-songwriter Morgan Wallen and songwriter Jordan Schmidt.

“I heard, like, verse, half-chorus and I stopped,” Aldean recalls. “I’m like, ‘Are you all cutting this song?’ and he’s like, ‘Aw, man, I don’t know. We just wrote it.’”

Once Hubbard learned Aldean was hitting the studio before he was, he gave the green light. “It would have been a hit” for FGL or Wallen, Aldean says, “but somehow it ended up with us, so I’m very thankful for that.”

Credit: Courtesy Broken Bow Records

Perhaps not surprisingly, the song is Brittany Kerr Aldean’s favorite on the album, Aldean reports. “She’s loved that song from the minute I played it for her,” he says.

Aldean is now preparing to launch his “High Noon Neon” tour on May 10 in Kansas City. So far, the tour stops don’t include Las Vegas, even though there is a grassroots effort among shooting survivors for Aldean to finish his festival concert. He returns to the city this weekend, of course, for the ACM Awards, where he is once again nominated for entertainer of the year.

Aldean confirms he has been in discussions on how to mount a special Las Vegas show. “I think you’ve really got to make sure you handle it the right way,” he says. “You want to make sure, if you’re gonna go back and play that show, that the people who were there — who were the victims and the families — are the people who are getting to come to the show. … It may take a little time for us to figure it out, but we’re talking about it.”

One tour development that already has occurred is an added feature to Aldean’s bus: a baby bed for Memphis.

“It’s like his bunk but it has a zipper that zips him in so he can’t fall out on the floor,” Aldean explains. “He’s ready to go.”

Aldean may not sing about fatherhood, but he says, “I love being Dad,” and the baby has brought lots of welcome changes to his life.

Noting that his daughters are now 10 and 15 years old, “it’s been a minute since I’ve had a little one at the house,” he says. “Believe me, he’s making me remember all of it, and it’s cool. Having a boy after all this time, and honestly thinking I was done having kids, for him to come along has been … definitely a shot in the arm for us at the house as far as, like, excitement. [I] can’t wait to get up [in the morning] and go up there and get him out of bed and bring him down and hang out.”