JASON ALDEAN - FROM HICKTOWN TO MOVIES
“Well, you can see the neighbour's butt crack, nailing on his shingles /and his woman's smoking Pall Malls, watching Laura Ingalls." - Hicktown - John Rich-Big Kenny Alphin-Vicky McGehee.
When Georgian star Jason Aldean appeared in 2013 movie Sweetwater it was a natural ascent from roles in vibrant videos that made him one of the hottest artists in country music.
It enabled him to develop acting skills for future roles in a career that embraces country rap and hick hop and may bring him to Australia next year.
“It was cool, I had a chance to work with Ed Harris who is great, and January Jones,” Aldean, 38, told Nu Country TV in a call from Kentucky.
“It was great. It prepared me if I wanted to do something a little bigger. In very movie you have a good guy and a bad guy. In this movie the bad guy was the preacher. I was kind of the guy who did all the dirty work for him. It was pretty cool thing to see yourself on the screen in a motion picture.”
The movie, set in 1886 in the New Mexico frontier, finds Aldean in cinematic footsteps of fellow singing actors Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Tim McGraw.
But it's unlikely to bring him acclaim of Texan World War 11 hero actor Audie Murphy who wrote the 1965 Tennessee Ernie Ford hit Hicktown that shares its title with Aldean's breakthrough smash.
“I didn't know that, it's a bit of news I didn't know before,” joked Aldean, born Jason Aldine Williams, in Macon - hometown of Otis Redding and Little Richard.
Audie Murphy has a chapter in singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman's book Heroes of A Texas Childhood.
Audie was one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of World War II, receiving every military combat award for valour from the U.S. Army, as well as French and Belgian awards for heroism.
Murphy received the Medal of Honour at 19 after single-handedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers for an hour at Colmar Pocket, France in January 1945, then leading a successful counter-attack while wounded and out of ammunition.
Murphy's post war 21-year acting career included 40 movies and TV series Whispering Smith.
He played himself in 1955 autobiographical To Hell and Back based on his 1949 memoirs of the same name but most his films were westerns.
Murphy was an accomplished songwriter and bred quarter horses in California and Arizona .
Suffering post-traumatic stress disorder he slept with a loaded handgun under his pillow and sought solace in addictive sleeping pills.
In his later years he was plagued by money problems, but refused offers to appear in alcohol and cigarette commercials because he did not want to set a bad example.
Murphy died in a plane crash in Virginia in 1971 shortly before his 46th birthday and was interred with full military honours at Arlington National Cemetery.
David McClure, his collaborator on the book To Hell and Back , found Murphy's poetry among discarded verses in his Hollywood apartment.
One of those poems, The Crosses Grow on Anzio appears in To Hell and Back attributed to a soldier named Kerrigan.
Only two others survived, Alone and Far Removed and Freedom Flies in Your Heart Like an Eagle .
The latter was part of a speech Murphy wrote at 1968 dedication of Alabama War Memorial in Montgomery , and later set to music by songwriter Scott Turner under the title Dusty Old Helmet .
Murphy was a fan of country music - especially Bob Wills and Chet Atkins.
Through recording star friend Guy Mitchell he was introduced to Turner in the 1940s and collaborated on many songs 1962-1970 - most successful were Shutters and Boards and When the Wind Blows in Chicago .
BIG & RICH
“Throw your suitcase in the back/ done gassed up the Pontiac/ blasting out to Johnny Cash/ heading for the highway/ baby, we ain't ever coming back/ it's four hundred and sixty-seven miles to the outskirts of Las Vegas/ what do you say we go get married by a preacher man who looks like Elvis?” - Johnny Cash - John Rich-Rodney Clawson-Vicky McGehee.
Aldean's Hicktown hit from his self-titled 2005 debut disc was penned by John Rich making his second Australian tour with Big & Rich in March.
“I met John Rich when I first came to Nashville,” says Aldean who penned three songs on his debut album but has been too busy touring to write prolifically since.
And like Big & Rich he was also ignored by the country mainstream in his indie era.
“We had a lot of success but weren't getting nominated for award,” Aldean recalled.
“All of a sudden that changed - we got the recognition for our success over the years.”
DAVID LEE MURPHY
“And I can take you for a ride on my big green tractor/ we can go slow or make it go faster/ down through the woods and out to the pasture/ long as I'm with you it really don't matter/ climb up in my lap and drive if you want to/ girl you know you got me to hold on to/ we can go to town but baby if you'd rather/ I'll take you for a ride on my big green tractor.” - Big Green Tractor - David Lee Murphy-Jim Collins.
Murphy had hits with Dust on the Bottle and Party Crowd and wrote Big Green Tractor with Jim Collins.
“I live outside of Nashville ,” Murphy revealed of the song source.
“I spend a lot of time out on my farm and on my tractor. The night before Jim and I had gotten together to write, I was out bush-hogging. One of my favourite things to do is get out and bush-hog at night and play around with my tractor. I was out riding around one night, and I just got the idea for that song. I started singing the chorus in my head.
‘I was supposed to write with Jim writer of She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy for Kenny Chesney the next day.
I walked into his office and I said, ‘Hey man, do you feel like writing another tractor song? He just busted out laughing and said, ‘It's been about eight years since She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy . I think I'm through!' We sat down and wrote that song.”
Although Aldean blazes a country rock trail he credits traditional country pioneers in Johnny Cash and 1994 - a tribute to Oklahoma star Joe Diffie.
“I have a lot of admiration for artists who came before me, paved the way for me to be here and have my career,” Aldean says.
“If not for those guys we wouldn't be here. It's important to not forget those people, important to give credit to those pioneers so that younger newer country fans coming up, who haven't heard of Joe Diffie, know who they are. At some point we'll be the guys never heard of by the younger generation, who we influence and keep the music alive. I think that's part of the process.”
“Tell 'em all I'm out in Vegas/ blowin' every dollar I ever made/ tell 'em that I must be into somethin' bad for me/ cause I sure lost a lot of weight/ tell 'em I'm out on the road/ with some old rock and roll band/ living like a gypsy can.” - The Truth - Ashley Monroe-Brett James.
Aldean honoured traditional country with Ashley Monroe-Brett James song The Truth on fourth album Wide Open.
“Ashley Monroe has a really unique voice and a really great songwriter over the years,” Aldean said of the Pistol Annies singer.
“She wrote The Truth with Brett James. Brett's written quite a few songs for us. I thought it was a great traditional country song - we don't do many of those. We go over the top with crazy stuff but this was simplified. It's probably the most country-sounding song we've put out so far,"
So how important are videos to Aldean?
“I love making videos, it's fun when you have a good storyline,” confessed Aldean who soared to fame on indie label Broken Bow .
“I love live videos also, showing people the backstage. The real grainy black and white live footage and images are really cool. It's an opportunity to create a mini movie - 3-4 and a half minutes to promote your song. You can make it whatever you want it to be.”
Ironically Aldean added to the impact of The Truth when he was drenched shooting the video at the Drake Motel in Nashville .
A complete contrast is hick hop hit Dirt Road Anthem.
“ Dirt Road Anthem crossed into country rap, that was really cool,” Aldean explained of a song penned by Colt Ford and Brantley Gilbert.
“It was different to anything else out at the time. I wanted to do something different. I don't want my music to sound like everyone else's. If we do something and others start doing it too we'll move in a different direction and do something else. I feel like I like to lead the charge and not follow what everyone else is trying to do. That song enabled us to travel down a path that no-one else had done yet. I don't think any of us knew how big that song was going to be.”
So was Murphy penned award winning hit The Only Way I Know with Luke Bryan and Eric Church.
“Eric and Luke have been friends of mine for last three or four years,” Aldean said.
“Eric really turned the corner. He was one of those guys took a while to make it on his own terms. He's got some of the coolest records out over the last couple of years and some great videos. You either like that or you don't. His Springsteen video was really cool - if you have a cool song it's easy to make a cool video out of it.”
“I really hate to let this moment go/ touching your skin and your hair falling slow/ when a goodbye kiss, feels like this/ don't you wanna stay here a little while.” - Don't You Wanna Stay - Jason Sellers-Paul Jenkins -Andy Gibson
Aldean has major priorities - including an Australian tour after his DVD and back catalogue is released here.
“The Australian tour is a very hot topic,” says Aldean whose entire Broken Bow catalogue will be released by Sony .
“We're going to Europe for the first time. We want to get out and play our music to many people as possible - want to get people familiar with our music and see how that goes. We don't want to go there until people know the songs. We're starting from ground level, want to get them excited and come over there this year or next year.”
“1994, Joe Diffie coming out my radio/ I'm just a country boy with a farmer's tan/ so help me girl I'll be your Pick-Up Man/ how about a night to remember and a fifth of Goose/about to bust out my honky-tonk attitude/ a little feel good you ain't never felt before/ I'm talking 1994.” - 1994 - Thomas Rhett-Luke Laird-Barry Dean.
And the DVD?
“I want people to see what our show is like, our career is built largely on our live show,” Aldean added.
“I want to put the DVD out so people can see what we do live, this is what you are going to get.”
Aldean has also made a swag of video clips for his hits dating back to Hicktown .
They include Amarillo Sky (2006) where the video opens with a series of young farmers telling how dear farming is to their hearts and how perilous the profession has become.
As tractors roll, crop dusters fly and combines rumble across fields, Aldean and band become a Greek chorus that comments on this noble survival struggle.
In Johnny Cash (2007) - Aldean not only name-checks the Man in Black but seems to be channelling him, as well, right down to the snarls and hand gesture.
Standing in a neon netherworld, he sings of the need to flee a dead-end town and never come back.
Laughed Until We Cried (2007) features Aldean strolling along a beach as phantom figures from his youth cavort in the sand.
Then he's on to the beachside amusement park, still deep in thought, until his little girl runs into his arms and brings his bittersweet reveries back to real life.
This is the only video in which Aldean isn't shown singing.
Relentless (2008) explores life on the road as a real drag when you're separated from the one you love.
Deep in thought, Aldean sprawls in a motel room, looking at a phone that doesn't ring and then goes for a solitary walk but nothing dispels the loneliness.
Equally vivid is Fly Over States .
“We're actually 200 yards from where we shot Tattoos on This Town video in airplane hangar,” Aldean recalled.
“We're in Smyrna , Tennessee at Army National Guard facilities. It's like an old airplane graveyard with some old planes sitting here deteriorating. Most of the time when we do a video, we find stuff that pretty much looks like crap. I came in here and thought, ‘Man, this place looks like a dump, and this is going to be an awful video.' But somehow they make it look cool, and that's why I'm not a video director because I don't see how they can make this look good. But they do.”
“There's a thousand faces I ain't seen before/ the only history I can see is from the civil war/ it's good for me to look around/ and go down roads she ain't been down/ no memories of our used to be's set me free.” - Old Boots New Dirt - Lee Thomas Miller-Tom Shapiro-Neil Thrasher.
“This is the best day ever,” Aldean later said.
“I've got my girl here, my friends, my family - it's the best day ever!”
Aldean and Kerr celebrated with family and friends, including Aldean's daughters Keeley and Kendyl.
Aldean wed first wife Jessica on August 4, 2001.
They split in January 2013 - seven months after Aldean met Kerr.
Old Boots, New Dirt, Jason Aldean, Relentless, Wide Open, My Kinda Party and Night Train , and Jason's live concert DVD Night Train To Georgia are out here on Sony .