Cody Johnson & Brantley Gilbert Rally Behind Jason Aldean Amid Backlash: “Keep It Up Brother”

Over the weekend, Johnson and Gilbert both shared messages with their audiences on each of their respective tours.

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Andrew Wendowski

Andrew Wendowski is the Founder and CEO of Music Mayhem. As a 29-year-old entrepreneur, he oversees content as the Editor-In-Chief for the independent brand. Wendowski, who splits time between Philadelphia, Penn., and Nashville, Tenn., has an extensive background in multimedia. Before launching Music Mayhem in 2014, he worked as a highly sought-after photojournalist and tour photographer, collaborating with such labels as Interscope Records and Republic Records. He has captured photos of some of the biggest names, including Taylor Swift, Metallica, Harry Styles, P!NK, Morgan Wallen, Carrie Underwood, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Shania Twain, and hundreds more. Wendowski’s photos and freelance work have appeared nationwide and can be seen everywhere from ad campaigns to various publications, including Billboard and Rolling Stone. When Wendowski isn’t running Music Mayhem, he enjoys spending time at concerts, traveling, and capturing photos.

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Posted on July 24, 2023

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Brantley Gilbert, Jason Aldean, Cody Johnson; Photos By Andrew Wendowski

Cody Johnson and Brantley Gilbert are showcasing support for “Try That In A Small Town” singer Jason Aldean amid controversy.

Over the weekend, Johnson and Gilbert both shared messages with their audiences on each of their respective tours.

Cody Johnson Speaks Out, Saying “Keep It Up Brother”

Johnson shared his frustration during a recent headlining concert.

“Everybody gets pissed off at Jason Aldean for putting out a song,” Johnson said, expressing his frustration to the crowd while throwing up his hands. “If you’re videoing this, Jason Aldean, if you’re seeing this video, keep it up, brother. You do you, boo-boo. If being patriotic makes you an outlaw then my God I’ll be an outlaw. I’m going to play you an outlaw song it goes like this…”

He then continued on with his performance.

Gilbert Said He Was “Pissed” About The Aldean Situation

Meanwhile, Gilbert told his crowd, “I’m a little bit of an old school soul man and there’s a lot going on in society right now that I don’t understand and don’t much fu**ing care to. One of my pet peeves is we live in a world now where nobody gets punched in the face anymore. We got a bunch of keyboard warriors hiding behind cell phones and laptops talking sh*t. So, I got a little pissed about this Aldean thing the other night and I decided that I was going to say some sh*t. Then I realized that I don’t have the passwords to any of my social media because I’m a liability. So I decided to write these sons of bit**es a song and I think you’ll appreciate it Texas.”

Brantley Gilbert then went on to perform “Bury Me Upside Down,” a track from Gilbert’s latest project, So Help Me God (Deluxe Edition).

Social media outrage surrounding the song began after the July 14 release of the “Try That In A Small Town” music video. As the video and song began to circulate online, many social media users accused the singer of being pro-gun and racist. Listeners also dubbed the track a “dog whistle” and believed that the lyrics pushed a right wing agenda.

Jason Aldean; Photo Courtesy of Josh Brasted/CMA
Jason Aldean; Photo Courtesy of Josh Brasted/CMA

Aldean Speaks Out

The country star recently broke his silence to address the backlash and defend his song and music video.

“In the past 24 hours I have been accused of releasing a pro-lynching song (a song that has been out since May) and was subject to the comparison that I (direct quote) was not too pleased with the nationwide BLM protests,” Aldean explained. “These references are not only meritless, but dangerous.”

Jason Aldean, Photo Provided by Theo Wargo
Jason Aldean, Photo Provided by Theo Wargo

Aldean Shares The Meaning Behind The Song “Try That In A Small Town” In His Own Words

He went on to detail what the song means from his perspective. 

“There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it- and there isn’t a single video clip that isn’t real news footage -and while I can try and respect others to have their own interpretation of a song with music – this one goes too far.”

Jason Aldean continued, “‘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. Because they were our neighbors, and that was above any differences. 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.”

He then spoke out on the comments users made about him being the subject of one of the world’s deadliest mass shootings.

“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. NO ONE, including me, wants to continue to see senseless headlines or families ripped apart.”

Jason Aldean’s statement was released after social media erupted with comments and criticisms around his music video. 

Accused Of Making A “Pro-Lynching” Song

Many users pointed out that the music video featured a performance recorded in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee. This is the site of the 1927 lynching of Henry Choate, an 18-year-old African American man that was accused of attacking a white woman.

Others were outraged by the news clips in the music video, which included visuals of police brutality and unrest during the height of the pandemic in 2020 as well as scenes of riots and looting that destroyed American cities. 

“I just watched/heard about 45 seconds of the new Jason Aldean video/song and it is absolute right wing propaganda. ‘try that in a small town, we take care of our own’ ok well the small town my wife grew up in knew of abuse and no one did anything,” one Twitter user said. 

Aldean Criticized For Sharing A Pro-Gun Message With The Song’s Lyrics

Another user said the music video “rips into the left-wing riots, soft on crime governance in cities, gun control, and other leftist degradation.” Someone else believes the song is an “ode to a sundown town, suggesting people be beaten or shot for expressing free speech.”

The singer was also criticized for releasing a song with a pro-gun message as he was on stage at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas in 2017 when a gunman shot and killed more than 60 people. To date, this remains the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. 

“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 / Try that in a small town,” Aldean sings. 

CMT Pulled Jason Aldean’s Music Video

On Tuesday afternoon (July 18), it was revealed that CMT had pulled the “Try That In A Small Town” music video from rotation.  

According to Billboard, the network pulled the music video on Monday without any explanation. 

CMT reportedly declined to comment on their decision to stop playing Aldean’s music video, however, the network did confirm with the outlet that the clip has officially been removed from its platform. 

Jason Aldean, Photo Provided by Theo Wargo
Jason Aldean, Photo Provided by Theo Wargo

Highway Desperado Tour

Jason Aldean is currently in the midst of his Highway Desperado Tour. He recently addressed the controversy from the stage in Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“It’s been a long week and I’ve seen a lot of stuff suggesting I’m this, suggesting I’m that,” Aldean told the crowd. “I feel like everybody’s entitled to their opinion. You can think something all you want to, it doesn’t mean it’s true. What I am is a proud American. I’m proud to be from here. I love our country [and] I want to see it restored to what it once was before all this bulls— started happening to us… love my country, I love my family, and I will do anything to protect that, I can tell you that right now.”

Immediately following the beginning of his lengthy speech, the crowd began to chant “USA! USA! USA!”

Cancel Culture

He then went on to speak on cancel culture.

“You guys know how it is this day and age, cancel culture is a thing. If people don’t like what you say, they try to make sure that they can cancel you, which means try and ruin your life, ruin everything,” the 46-year-old singer continued. “One thing I saw this week was a bunch of country music fans that can see through a lot of the bulls—. I saw country music fans rally like I’ve never seen before and it was pretty bada– to watch. Thank you guys so much.”

Prior to performing the controversial song, “Try That In A Small Town,” Jason Aldean discussed whether or not he would be performing the tune live on this tour.

“I said, ‘You know, people that come to my shows, you guys know what I’m about. You know what I stand for.’ I never shied away from that at all,” he said. “I know a lot of you guys grew up like I did and you have the same values, the same principles that I have, which is we want to take our kids to a movie and not worry about some as*hole coming in there shooting up the theater, right? So when somebody asked me, ‘Hey man, do you think you’re going to play the song tonight?’ The answer is simple. The people have spoken and you guys spoke very, very loudly this week.”

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Andrew Wendowski is the Founder and CEO of Music Mayhem. As a 29-year-old entrepreneur, he oversees content as the Editor-In-Chief for the independent brand. Wendowski, who splits time between Philadelphia, Penn., and Nashville, Tenn., has an extensive background in multimedia. Before launching Music Mayhem in 2014, he worked as a highly sought-after photojournalist and tour photographer, collaborating with such labels as Interscope Records and Republic Records. He has captured photos of some of the biggest names, including Taylor Swift, Metallica, Harry Styles, P!NK, Morgan Wallen, Carrie Underwood, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Shania Twain, and hundreds more. Wendowski’s photos and freelance work have appeared nationwide and can be seen everywhere from ad campaigns to various publications, including Billboard and Rolling Stone. When Wendowski isn’t running Music Mayhem, he enjoys spending time at concerts, traveling, and capturing photos.

See more posts from Andrew Wendowski