Jason Isbell Challenges Jason Aldean To Write His Own Song

“Seriously how do you defend the content of a song you weren’t even in the room for?”

By Andy Kahn Jul 21, 2023 7:34 am PDT

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jason Isbell jumped into the controversy surrounding country singer Jason Aldean’s song “Try That In A Small Town.” Isbell challenged Aldean to write the next song he releases as a single.

Isbell’s songwriting challenge came in response to Aldean defending the lyrical content of “Try That In A Small Town,” which references a “gun that grandad gave me” as well as perceived threats of violence to those “looking for a fight.” Aldean faced backlash this week after the release of a Shaun Silva-directed video for “Try That In A Small Town.”

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Rolling Stone reported that the video was recorded “reportedly in Columbia, Tennessee, the site of a 1933 lynching” and it is “interspersed with footage depicting protests as violent and lawless.” Cable television station CMT pulled the video shortly after its release.

Singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow, who will be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame later this year, tweeted a response to “Try That In A Small Town,” quoting a tweet from Shannon Watts, founder of the gun violence prevention organization Moms Demand Action. Crow called Aldean’s song “lame.”

Adeem the Artist responded to Aldean’s song by recording a scathing response track, “Sundown Town,” which resembles Isbell’s “Speed Trap Town.” Adeem The Artist is currently nominated for the Americana Honors & Awards Emerging Artist Of The Year.

Aldean responded to the controversy surrounding “Try That In A Small Town,” giving his interpretation of the intent of the four people credited with writing the song, Kelley Lovelace, Kurt Allison, Neil Thrasher and Tully Kennedy.

“‘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,” Aldean — a native of Macon, Georgia, the state’s fourth most populous city with over 150,000 residents — stated. “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 one day without a headline that keeps us up at night. But the desire for it to – that’s what this song is about.”

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“Seriously how do you defend the content of a song you weren’t even in the room for?,” Isbell (a native of Greenhill, Alabama whose population is less than 5,000 people) tweeted in response to Aldean. “You just got it from your producer. If you’d been there when it was written, you’d be listed as a writer. We all know how this works.”

“Dare Aldean to write his next single himself,” Isbell write in other tweets. “That’s what we try in my small town. Ok here ya go [Jason Aldean], I’m challenging you to write a song yourself. All alone. If you’re a recording artist, make some art. I want to hear it.

Country singer Jake Owen, who grew up perusing professional golf in the suburbs between Orlando and Tampa, responded to “tough guy” Isbell by telling him, “In ‘my small town’ you just walk up to the guy and be a man to his face if you want the smoke.”

“What really gets me about this is that it’s saying ‘if you don’t believe you can physically overpower me, you aren’t allowed to publicly disagree with me,’” Isbell wrote in response to Owen’s “tough guy” tweet. “What does that say to the people in your life who aren’t big strong boys? They just have to shut up?”

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