Country fans know Jason Aldean for his hard-driving sound – and as the reigning, two-time ACM Entertainer of the Year. Since 2005, hits like "Hicktown," "My Kinda Party," "Dirt Road Anthem" and his latest Number One, "Any Ol' Barstool," have had a huge impact on the genre.
But it wasn't always this way.
In his new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum – "Jason Aldean: Asphalt Cowboy" – visitors will get a look at the Georgia native's early life and get a sense of how he became a star. The exhibit opens today (May 26th), but Rolling Stone Country was on hand a day earlier as Aldean got to check it out for the first time. And according to him, it's still hard to believe how far he's come.
"To think this all started by me playing guitar in my bedroom just because I wanted to learn to play guitar with my dad and my uncle ... it's sort of turned into this amazing career that is now on display here," he tells Rolling Stone Country. "I don't know, it kind of blows me away."
Standing in front of a display filled with his high-school baseball jerseys, and just down the hall from his first batch of band T-shirts – back when he performed as Jason Aldean & the Young Guns – Aldean says there's a lot to learn at the exhibit, even for longtime fans.
"I hope they get a chance to go back and see the full story, from my teenage days and high-school days when sports was really my main thing and the sort of transition to becoming a musician and playing in bands," he explains. "Sort of how that ended up becoming the rest of this whole display."
Beyond the sports gear and musical mementos, fan will also see personal items like his childhood rocking horse and even one of his favorite hunting bows. The whole exhibit is presented by Field & Stream, and Aldean says getting outside to hunt or fish after a long tour is like therapy to him. He thinks it ultimately makes him a better entertainer.
"My life is hectic and we always have somewhere to be," he says. "It's a good crazy, but it's crazy. You don't really have a lot of time to yourself. For me, being able to hunt and fish, it gives me a chance to get out turn my phone off. I'm not worried about somebody calling or replying to a text or email or any of that stuff. I get to get out there and hit the reset button and decompress."
With this new exhibit, Aldean now joins country legends like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., and Alan Jackson who have also had displays featured. And after working so hard to achieve his dreams, that means more to him than well-deserved trophies or Number One stats.
"I think for a country music singer, this is the pinnacle of this business," Aldean says. "If you're a singer, this is where you hope to end up at the end of your career. I always kind of thought if that ever happened, it would be way down the road, so it blows me away to know they thought enough of the things I've done."
"Jason Aldean: Asphalt Cowboy" runs through November 5th at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.