The release date for “They Don’t Know,” country superstar Jason Aldean’s seventh studio album, is Friday, Sept. 9 — the same day he teams with Kid Rock for a show at Boston’s Fenway Park. The fall leg of Aldean’s Six String Circus Tour then kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 11, with a show at Xfinity Theatre in Hartford, with Thomas Rhett and A Thousand Horses opening.
“They Don’t Know,” meanwhile, is classic Aldean: hard-rocking, gritty, more soulful than contemporaries like Florida Georgia Line, but no less fun. Two singles are already in heavy country-radio rotation: “Lights Come On,” the album’s opener (co-written by FGL’s Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard), came out in April, and “A Little More Summertime” was released on July 15 — smack-dab in the middle of summer.
Aldean talked to us about “They Don’t Know,” early life-shaping concert experiences, and the challenge of putting out albums in the streaming era.
Q: Based on how the first two singles performed, did you make any adjustments to “They Don’t Know?”
A: This is the first time we’ve released an album after the second single. Typically we do it when the first single is peaking, when that first single is going No. 1 or top five or something. In this case, we had the Olympics going on, so we had to kind of back up. We didn’t want the album to get lost in the media shuffle, because obviously the Olympics suck up a lot of attention. We just thought it would be better for us to wait, to go ahead and put the second single out and let the Olympics do its thing. We can make people more aware that we have an album out. That was the theory behind it, and it’s the first time we’ve done it, so we’re not sure how it’s going to work out. But the songs are doing well, and that’s the main thing.
Q: “Lights Come On,” the first single, is a testament to the power and excitement of live music. What early concert experiences stand out in your mind as life-changing?
A: The first concert I went to was Kenny Rogers and the Gatlin Brothers. I was about 4 or 5 years old. That was the first time I went to a show, and I thought it was cool, but I was still pretty young. A few years later, I went to see Alabama. I think it was the Forty Hour Week Tour. They were my favorite band growing up, and still probably my favorite band ever. But I saw those guys for the first time, and I was still pretty young, but I remember every time they’d go into a song, there was this roar of screams. Something about watching those guys made it seem really cool to be in a band, but not only that, to be the main guy, the front man. They instilled that in me early on.
Q: You’ve performed “Lights Come On” and “A Little More Summertime” at your most recent shows. When the album drops, will more new songs enter the set lists?
A: Before the album comes out, you’re a little leery of it. Nowadays, with YouTube, you sing a song one time at a show and the next day it’s all over Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. For me, there’s still an element of surprise. I don’t want those songs out there too early. I still want there to be this unknown thing about the album, so when it comes out, people are excited to go get it. Then, as the album comes out, you definitely start adding songs into the show. I think that’s how you figure out which songs are striking a nerve with some people and which ones are just kind of okay. As a fan, I’ve always thought there was something pretty cool about waiting for an album to come out, to get home and listen to it. You still want to have that element of surprise.
Q: It’s a shame that some of that is lost nowadays. People share new stuff instantly.
A: Which can be a great thing, at times. It depends on the situation. With albums, it’s tougher and tougher to sell them. The art of albums coming out one day and people going out to get them is almost gone. This generation of listeners are so used to listening to whatever they want, whenever they want, on streaming sites. ... It’s getting tougher to have that build-up to albums coming out. It’s just the way it is now.
Q: Does that make you want to focus less on the album experience and maybe spend more energy on singles?
A: I still like recording albums, so I still do things the way I always have. I also think the days of recording full-length albums of 12 to 15 songs are probably numbered, I hate to say. That’s the way I grew up listening to music. Some of my favorite songs weren’t necessarily singles. They were just really cool album cuts. Those days are probably numbered. You’re going to see a lot of people releasing EPs, six-seven song albums, and most of them are going to be singles. For me, at this point, I still enjoy making records. I put songs on there I feel are great songs, top to bottom. Hopefully when people realize that when they go get one of our albums, every song on there can be a single. I don’t just put songs on there to fill the album up. I spend a lot of time trying to find great songs, and I think that’s all you can do.
Q: “They Don’t Know” is your seventh studio album. You’re a big baseball fan. Is there a seventh-inning stretch in music? Do you ever get to a point where you want to take a break?
A: I don’t know. I enjoy what I do, and I want to do it as long as everybody will let me. We’ve been touring pretty hard now for 11 or 12 years, whatever it has been. At some point, it’s probably good for myself and fans, for everybody, if we took six months off. … You take something away from somebody for a while and it makes them appreciate it that much more. But if I were to take some time off, after a month or two I’d probably be going crazy and be ready to get back out on the road. People may think we’re in their hometown every other month because we’ve toured so much. I’ve never taken any time off, so I don’t know how it would work out. At some point, I’m sure it will happen.
JASON ALDEAN’S SIX STRING CIRCUS TOUR reaches Hartford’s Xfinity Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 11, at 7:30 p.m., with Thomas Rhett and A Thousand Horses opening. Tickets are $31.25 to $71.25. livenation.com.