MACON, Ga. — Country superstar Jason Aldean is building on Macon's musical heritage and paying homage to his hometown with a double album. Aldean released the "Macon" half of "Macon, Georgia" in November, and the "Georgia" half on April 22.
Speaking with 13WMAZ anchor Frank Malloy over Zoom from his place in Nashville, Aldean shared how special Macon is to him.
“It’s been a fun ride, man. Obviously more than I could have ever thought possible for my career,” said Aldean.
It all started for Jason Aldine Williams off Hartley Bridge Road in south Macon. He played clubs like Whiskey River and Nashville South, and events like the Georgia National Fair as a teenager. He says it was here that he learned to do it all.
“I just tell people like it was a great place for me to grow up,” he said. “I grew up playing sports and all those things. You could go into the city if you wanted to or hang out in the country a little bit down there where I was at. And it was fun, man, I loved it. I still have a ton of friends there.”
He filled his teenage years pursuing two passions – music and baseball.
“It’s funny because at that time playing ball was really my main focus. I mean music was almost kind of a hobby to me at that point,” he said.
Melissa Giles worked in the front office at Windsor Academy, where Jason graduated from high school.
“[It] must be nice to be able to say I’m either going to be a baseball professional or a music professional,” said Giles.
Back in the day, she drove the school van and sometimes Jason would get a ride home.
“I didn’t realize he was a musician until one day he got on the van and he had his guitar, and I thought ‘What’s he doing with that guitar?’” she said with a laugh.
His high school years featured gigs on the weekends and bashing baseballs for the Windsor Knights coached by Brannen Smith.
Smith remembers the days when Jason was in his dugout from 1992 to 1995. He says Jason was well-liked by everybody.
“Very likeable,” said Smith, “He wasn’t an extrovert, but he wasn’t an introvert either. His peers loved him; he was a good guy. He would never talk bad about anybody, he was just, you know, just a good quality guy.”
A heartbreaking loss in the state finals his senior year ended Jason’s baseball career and his focus shifted solely to music – his senior bio says it all. But the path to stardom was paved with a few potholes.
Longtime WDEN personality Laura Starling remembers the rough beginnings.
“We did a live broadcast at a discount cigarette store on Shurling Drive… and said, ‘Hey, come out and meet Jason Aldean, we've got his new CD and you can meet him,’ and hardly anybody came,” said Starling.
Two failed record deals produced more frustration.
“It took me a few years to land the deal that I have now and even when I landed that deal, Broken Bow Records, it was kind of an independent record company that really didn't have a lot going on,” said Aldean.
The combination clicked and Jason’s self-titled debut produced three huge hits, and now he’s found himself at the top of the charts two dozen times.
“Know this guy is a superstar. He’s a superstar,” said Starling.
Aldean continues to win at country music, literally. Through his nearly two decades in the business, 10 studio albums and all the success, he’s still just a kid from Macon with big dreams.
“We've all -- as he's gotten bigger and bigger and bigger -- we all think back to that time when he came to the school and we ran to the store and got the magazine that his first article was in,” said Giles.
“I’m just glad they still kind of let me be part of the game at this point, you know?” said Aldean.
He will headline CMA Fest this June in Nashville with duet partner Carrie Underwood, and his Rock and Roll Cowboy Tour kicks off July 15.
Sadly, he will not be coming to Macon for the tour. The one Georgia date scheduled so far is at Enmarket Arena in Savannah Oct. 1.
VIDEO EXTRAS: Mullets and math
Photos: Jason Aldean's yearbook photos