Two weeks ago, Aldean defended himself on the podcast Coop’s Rockin’ Country Saturday Night, accusing online critics of making the video “into something it’s not.” And in his first televised interview about the track on CBS Mornings, the Grammy-nominated singer still hasn’t changed his tune.
“There was people of all color doing stuff in the video,” Aldean said in the interview, which aired Wednesday morning. “That’s what I don’t understand. 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.”
Shortly after the video’s release in July, online users noticed that it had been re-edited. Aldean’s team told CBS that the clips of BLM protesters were used without permission and had to be taken out.
When the video went viral back in July, Twitter (now X) users also noted that Aldean and his band were singing in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tenn., where a Black teenager was lynched in 1927. Regarding the filming location, Aldean initially told CBS he “[doesn’t] feel bad” about performing the song in front of a former lynching site, citing his intentions in shooting there.
“It’s also the place where I go get my car tags every year. It’s my county that I live in.” He added that he doesn’t “go back hundreds of years and check on the history of a place.”
Still, Aldean conceded that he would have picked a different filming location if he’d known about the site’s history.
“I would do it over again, every time, minus the setting.” he said. “Knowing what I know now, obviously, you know, knowing that that was gonna be a thing, you know, maybe you look at doing it somewhere else.”
Prior to “Try That in a Small Town” blowing up on social media and CMT subsequently pulling the video, Aldean said he thought the lyrics about guns would cause the most controversy. He was partially right—one of the song’s initial critics was Shannon Watts of the public safety advocacy group Mom Demands.
“I thought what was gonna be the biggest issue with the song was that it said ‘gun,’” Aldean said, referring to the line, “Got a gun that my grandad gave me / They say one day they’re gonna round up.”
“I didn’t expect it to get the kind of heat that it got,” he added. “And I think that was more probably because of the video, more than the actual song.”
Ultimately, all the criticism “Try That in a Small Town” generated online seemed to only benefit the song, which shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July. Likewise, the media circus surrounding Aldean will probably do well for his 11th album Highway Desperado, which includes the incendiary track and arrives this Friday.
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