From Wednesday’s Life section of The Oklahoman.
In the past year, Jason Aldean has embarked on his first headlining tour, watched the size of his concert crowds triple and notched the two biggest hits of his career with “She’s Country” and “Big Green Tractor.”
Suddenly, the country rocker’s future looks “Wide Open,” just like the title of his latest album.
“It was almost like we were on everybody’s radar and then all the sudden these two songs came out, and it just kicked it into overdrive for whatever reason. And it’s been a good thing,” Aldean said by phone from a tour stop in Lexington, Ky.
“It’s been fun, but things all the sudden got a lot busier this year than they had been, which is really weird, because all the sudden we were getting a lot of TV offers.”
Suddenly, Aldean was appearing on “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien,” “Chelsea Lately” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” The country star, 32, will reunite with Fallon Saturday when the singer and comedian are featured at Oklahoma State University’s Orange Peel 2009.
“He is what you see. He’s funny and a very good personality and a very nice guy,” Aldean said of Fallon, adding he hopes to hear the “Saturday Night Live” alum’s Barry Gibb impression. “He’s a trip, and I think it’s gonna be a great show. … I’ll definitely be on the side of the stage watching his show.”
More music fans than ever are watching Aldean, whose Lexington concert sold 10,000 tickets, compared to the 2,500 he drew a year ago.
He he has a come a long way from his teenage days playing clubs in his native Georgia. When he won the Academy of Country Music’s top new male vocalist title in 2005, he had been working in Nashville, Tenn., about seven years. His first two albums — his 2005 self-titled debut and 2007’s “Relentless” — spawned seven top 10 hits and have sold more than 2 million copies.
But Aldean’s career blasted into a whole new orbit last November when he premiered the sexy single “She’s Country” at the Country Music Association Awards. With guitar riffs inspired by AC/DC and lyrics paying tribute to Southern beauties, the rocking track rocketed to No. 1.
“I thought if radio will play this — I don’t know if they will, but if they’ll play this — I think it’s got a shot of being a big song for the … spring, going into the summer. And that was kind of my original thought. I had no idea it was going to do what it did,” he said.
The lead-off single shot his third album, “Wide Open,” to No. 2 on Billboard’s Country Albums Chart and No. 4 on the all-genre Billboard Top 200 list when the record was released in April.
The momentum just kept building with his next single, the rural romance “Big Green Tractor,” which topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for four straight weeks. He recently became the first country artist to top Billboard’s Ringscan list when “Big Green Tractor” plowed past tracks by Jay Z, Mariah Carey and The Black Eyed Peas to become the top ringtone.
“I like the song a lot, obviously, or I wouldn’t have cut it. But I mean, I would have never thought that that would be the one to hang there at No. 1 for four weeks,” Aldean said.
“And that’s the thing with music: You just never know which songs are going to strike a chord with people. The thing I’ve always tried to do is just put out songs that I liked, things that I like singing, that I thought were cool, and you just hope that people get it and can relate to it. And those are two songs that obviously they did. And it changed everything.”
Despite his recent successes, Aldean said he still is nervous about this week’s release of his new single, the brokenhearted ballad “The Truth.”
“(It) is completely a 360 and is probably the most country thing we’ve ever put out,” he said. “We’ve had two songs that have done great, but this one may die at (No.) 50. It’s so hard to tell. But it’s also exciting to sit there and watch one climb up the chart when it’s doing really well.”
The country rocker said he won’t let his own football-related heartbreak stop him from putting on a great show at Orange Peel.
“I’m still heartbroken that OSU beat Georgia, but I’m getting over it,” he said. “I’ll be over it by then.”
Orange Peel 2009 with Jimmy Fallon and Jason Aldean
When: 7 p.m. Saturday. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Oklahoma State University.
Information: (877) OSU-PEEL or www.osupeel.com.
When: 9 p.m. Friday.
Where: WinStar World Casino, Thackerville.
Information: (580) 276-4229 or www.winstarworldcasino.com.