October 2023: Jason Aldean responds to racism controversy
During an interview with CBS Mornings with Jan Crawford, Aldean said he “stands by” all the choices he made in writing the wrong and choosing the location for the controversial video clip. “I would do it over again every time,” he said. “I love the song. I was excited to cut it and thought it was actually a song that said something for a change, not just here’s another song for radio. I didn’t expect it to get the kind of heat that it got, and I think that was because of the video more so than the actual song.”
He continued: “For anybody that thinks that we picked that building specifically for that reason, because there was a lynching there or whatever,” before Crawford asked if he was aware of the building’s history. “No, but I also don’t go back 100 years and check on the history of a place before we go shoot it either. It’s also the place I get my car tags every year. It’s my county that I live in,” he said.
“The whole idea behind the video was to show, you know, the lawlessness and the disrespect for cops and just, you know, trashing cities and burning—I’m just not cool with that,” Aldean said. “It just — I don’t know, I feel like the narrative got switched over and became more of a racial-type thing. It’s like if that’s what you got out of the song and the video, I mean, I almost feel like that’s on you because that wasn’t our intention.”
July 2023: “Try That in a Small Town” gets pulled from CMT
The song “Try That in a Small Town” is released in May 2023 and flew mostly under the radar until July, with the release of its accompanying music video that depicts protestors as violent and lawless. CMT pulled the clip from its rotation and music fans around the world slammed Jason Aldean, claiming he was inciting violence.
Aldean dismissed the criticism, saying in a statement published to Instagram: “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,” he tweeted. “These references are not only meritless, but dangerous. There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it – and there isn’t a single 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.”
He added: “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 neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief. Because they were our neighbors, 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 one day without a headline that keeps us up at night. But the desire for it to – that’s what this song is about.”
This didn’t fly with some other music stars, though. “I’m from a small town,” Sheryl Crow wrote on Twitter. “Even people in small towns are sick of violence. There’s nothing small-town or American about promoting violence. You should know that better than anyone having survived a mass shooting. This is not American or small town-like. It’s just lame.”
Mayor Chaz Molder of Columbia, where the clip was filmed, told local news station FOX 17 that while he respects Aldean’s “freedom of his own lyrics,” he hopes the next music video filmed in his town will “seek a more positive message.” He continued: “Like many small towns across America, Columbia, Tennessee is focused on bringing people together. I hadn’t listened to the song prior to today, but I’ve now seen the video.”