Jason Aldean got candid during a panel on Day 3 (Feb. 15) of the 2019 Country Radio Seminar, held in Nashville, Tenn. The singer was the featured guest for a discussion about overcoming obstacles.

Throughout his career, Aldean has gone from a 21-year-old bar singer to a country music superstar with a namesake bar on Lower Broadway. And while that path has been sprinkled with joy and success, it hasn't always been an easy one to pave. Aldean discussed his greatest roadblocks, from divorce, to the "bro-country" label, to being onstage during the largest mass shooting in American history at the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nev.

Aldean's CRS 2019 event began with the audience seeing a childhood photo of the artist in a baseball uniform. When asked how his love of sports during adolescence affected his work ethic in music, Aldean responded, "I hate to lose" -- a sentiment that underscores the singer's hustle.

After signing to Warner-Chappell Publishing as a songwriter, Aldean "moved to Nashville at 21, and by 25 I was a dad," he reflects. The struggle to provide for a family combined with the sting of losing two record deals made Aldean ready to give up -- that is, until Broken Bow Records offered him a spot on their roster.

In recent years, Aldean has found himself labeled as a "bro-country" artist, grouped in with Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan among others as a poster child for the movement: "They wanted me to take off the cowboy hat [and] put on a baseball cap," Aldean says. While he admits that many of his singles touch on those tropes, Aldean points out that his other album cuts go deeper, and that the bro-country style isn't always intentional.

"We're singing songs about what we know: trucks, girls, parties," Aldean notes. "I've never gone out and tried to change the world with my music. I'm just here to have fun."

Aldean sees a positive to the bro-country movement, however: It expanded the entire format of country music on terrestrial radio. The genre's audience widened to a younger generation, many of whom are attached to newer American culture, which they see reflected in those songs.

During his CRS 2019 panel, Aldean discussed genre as an obstacle as well. The artist combines elements of rock, R&B and more into his records, which has earned him radio airplay, which in turn has opened up other opportunities. While there's no such thing as "pure country," Aldean defended his pop-hybrid sound.

"Sometimes when you play it safe, you're gonna get a safe reaction," Aldean says. "It gives us a chance to shake it up on the record, so I've added those influences over the years."

Shifting to a more serious note, Aldean discussed the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting, telling his story of the night. He was playing his song "When She Says Baby" onstage when the shooting began, and he was pulled offstage to take cover with his crew. His wife Brittany was present and eight months pregnant at the time, which was his immediate concern.

Aldean notes that the experience has changed the way he operates his show entirely, and that his team sends out scouts to venues to create emergency plans before shows. He also spoke fondly of the connections he's made with victims of the shooting, even sharing an anecdote about visiting some of the victims in the hospital in Las Vegas, then hanging out with them at shows months later.

"It's something that will always kind of be there," he reflects of the tragedy.

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