He mixes loud guitars, hip-hop and Joe Diffie into his brand of country.
When he accepts awards, gives interviews or talks about himself on his recent DVD “Night Train to Georgia,” country superstar Jason Aldean sure seems humble, soft-spoken and businesslike.
But put him in the recording studio or onstage and Aldean turns up the volume and cranks up the craziness.
Take his second consecutive winter visit to the Twin Cities, a crazy move for a Georgia native.
“I didn’t have a say-so,” said Aldean, who will perform Friday at Xcel Energy Center. “They [his agents and promoters] book the tour. I typically try to stay in the South through the winter. Most of the venues up there [North], you drive the bus right into them so I never have to go outside. So it’s no big deal.”
Aldean is facing competition Friday from a massive outdoor party, the 2014 Hockey City Classic, featuring the Gophers men’s and women’s hockey teams at TCF Bank Stadium — the first major open-air games at the leading university in the State of Hockey.
“I will be skipping out on the hockey game,” he said. “Party inside.”
Aldean is always willing to go outside the box, however.
Take “1994,” his hit from last year that celebrates country star Joe Diffie. Remember him? He had a run of hits including “New Way (to Light Up an Old Flame)” and “Third Rock From the Sun” in the 1990s. The tune has muscular guitars, rapped verses, sing-songy choruses and a refrain that repeats “Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie” as if it’s a takeoff on Kriss Kross’ 1992 rap hit “Jump.”
When it was pitched to Aldean, he thought “the song was kind of quirky and cool, talking about a guy like that. You always hear people talking about Haggard, Waylon, Johnny Cash or even Tim McGraw, but talking about Diffie came out of left field,” said the singer, who also had a 2006 hit called “Johnny Cash.”
“When I came up playing the clubs, I played a lot of Diffie songs. He was a big seller. The song name-checks a lot of his songs. We were just looking for up-tempo songs for the record. I never thought it would be a single. I thought it was just fun and different from anything else out there.”
And the Kriss Kross vibe? “About 90 percent of hip-hop songs from the ’90s had that same sort of deal,” said Aldean, who insists, “I’m a country music artist, but I shouldn’t be limited to it.”
‘Black Tears’ and soccer moms
Take “Black Tears,” a dark, Southern-flavored piano ballad about a stripper, on his current “Night Train” album. Has he gotten any flak for that song?
“It’s one of the most well-written songs on the record,” he said. “I’m sure if there’s a soccer mom driving around and her 8-year-old or 10-year-old is in the car, they might want to change the song.
“I’m going to cut songs that I’m into. If people like them, that’s cool. If they don’t like them, that’s their right. There’s a button to skip that one and go to the next one. I don’t take those things into consideration when I cut a record. You’re never gonna please everybody. That’s something I learned early in my career, so I don’t even try.”
Aldean, 36, has performed on TV with rapper Ludacris (on the country-rap smash “Dirt Road Anthem”) and rocker Lenny Kravitz, and incorporated pseudo-psychedelic guitars into his hit “Tattoos on This Town.” Both singles came from his 2010 album “My Kinda Party,” his fourth, which has sold 3 million copies and was named album of the year by the Country Music Association. Over the course of his five albums, he’s scored 10 No. 1 country singles. He’s already recorded several songs for an album he expects to release in 2014.
Twin Cities stadium date?
Last year’s leg of Aldean’s Night Train Tour featured mostly Luke Bryan and Jake Owen as opening acts. This year’s leg, which kicked off this weekend, will showcase Florida Georgia Line, who had the blockbuster single “Cruise,” including a pop version featuring rapper Nelly.