The Meaning Behind Jason Aldean’s Controversial Hit “Try That in a Small Town”

When released on May 22, 2023, Jason Aldean’s single “Try That in a Small Town” initially didn’t spark many reactions. Known for recording songs about his roots— even giving another nod to smaller rural communities on Macon, Georgia track “Small Town Small”— and never muting his political stances, “Try This in a Small Town” addressed crime, and the deterioration within smaller towns, and how people can do something about it.

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“When you grow up in a small town, it’s that unspoken rule of ‘We all have each other’s backs and we look out for each other,’” wrote Aldean of the song. “It feels like somewhere along the way, that sense of community and respect has gotten lost. Deep down we are all ready to get back to that.”

[RELATED: Jason Aldean Met by Protestors at Connecticut Concert]

The Meaning

Written by Kelley Lovelace, Kurt Allison, Neil Thrasher, and Tully Kennedy, the track was a one-off single, following Aldean’s 2022 album, Macon, Georgia, and centers around rural communities and references gun owners in small towns who will take it upon themselves to retaliate against people who carjack an old lady, cuss out a cop or stomp on the flag and light it up.

Sucker punch somebody on a sidewalk
Carjack an old lady at a red light
Pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store
Ya think it’s cool, well, act a fool if ya like

Cuss out a cop, spit in his face
Stomp on the flag and light it up
Yeah, ya think you’re tough

Well, try that in a small town
See how far ya make it down the road
Around here, we take care of our own
You cross that line, it won’t take long
For you to find out, I recommend you don’t
Try that in a small town

“‘Try That in a Small Town,’ for me, refers to the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief,” said Aldean of the song. “My political views have never been something I’ve hidden from, and I know that a lot of us in this country don’t agree on how we get back to a sense of normalcy where we go at least a day without a headline that keeps us up at night. But the desire for it to—that’s what this song is about.”

The Video and Backlash

Filmed in Columbia, Tennessee, the video, produced by TackleBox Films, a production company that has previously worked with Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, and Luke Bryan, among others, features Aldean and his band in front of the Maury County Courthouse, the site where 18-year-old Henry Choate was lynched in 1927. Choate was accused of assaulting a 16-year-old white girl and though he denied the attack, he was hanged from the second floor of the courthouse and died.

Following the release of the video, which was later pulled from the rotation on CMT, criticism flooded in around some of the other interspersed imagery, which some suggested embraces violence and is anti-protest.

Gun Lyrics

Aldean also received pushback for lyrics thought to provoke gun violence since he performed and survived the deadliest mass shooting the U.S. history during the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas in October 2017.

Got a gun that my granddad gave me
They say one day they’re gonna round up
Well, that shit might fly in the city, good luck

“As so many pointed out, I was present at Route 91-where so many lost their lives and our community recently suffered another heartbreaking tragedy,” said Aldean. “No one, including me, wants to continue to see senseless headlines or families ripped apart.”

Fellow artists began taking on both sides, including back-and-forth words between Jason Isbell and Jake Owen, and Sheryl Crow criticizing Aldean’s image of a small-town America. Aldean also received support from Ted Nugent and Travis Tritt and many within his fan base.

[RELATED: Production Company Behind Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” Responds to Controversy]

Full of good ol’ boys, raised up right
If you’re looking for a fight
Try that in a small town

Making History

On Monday (July 31) “Try That in a Small Town” officially topped the Billboard Hot 100 and helped placed country songs in the No. 1, 2, and 3 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in the 65-year history of the chart.

It also marks Aldean’s first No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart. He previously hit the Hot 100 with “Dirt Road Road Anthem,” which peaked at No. 7 in 2011.

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

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