Cody Johnson is siding with Jason Aldean in the heated controversy surrounding Aldean’s current single, “Try That in a Small Town.”
Over the weekend, Johnson voiced his support for Aldean while onstage performing a show of his own, saying that he doesn’t agree with the outrage the song and its accompanied music video has garnered in recent days.
“…Everybody gets pissed off at Jason Aldean for putting out a song, Johnson told the crowd, throwing up his hands in exasperation. “If you’re videoing this, Jason Aldean, if you’re seeing this video, keep it up, brother. You do you, boo-boo.”
Johnson then explained that he interprets Aldean’s song as patriotic — and said patriotism shouldn’t ever be something anyone has to apologize for. “If being patriotic makes you an outlaw, then by God, I’ll be an outlaw,” he continued.
@mckennawalczak ❤️❤️❤️ “if being ptriptic makes me an outlaw, then by god imma be an outlaw” #jasonaldean #trythatinasmalltown #patriotic #codyjohnson ♬ original sound – mckennawalczak
“Try That in a Small Town” has been in release since May, but the backlash to the song didn’t truly heat up until Aldean dropped its music video in mid-July. Critics denounced the lyrics of the single as racist dogwhistling and a glorification of gun-based vigilante justice, also pointing to the fact that much of the video was filmed in front of Columbia, Tenn.’s Maury County Courthouse, where a mob hung the body of an 18-year-old Black man named Henry Choate after lynching and murdering him in 1927.
Aldean released a statement calling the accusations of racism against him as “meritless” and “dangerous.” He also addressed critics who felt that the song’s pro-gun message was jarring coming from him, since he was the performer onstage during the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting, which killed 60 people and injured more than 400 others. That massacre remains the deadliest shooting by a lone gunman in U.S. history.
“NO ONE, including me, wants to continue to see senseless headlines or families ripped apart,” Aldean said in his statement.
Aldean’s fellow country artists have offered their thoughts on both sides of the debate. Lee Greenwood and Travis Tritt supported Aldean’s song, while Blanco Brown had mixed feelings, saying in a since-deleted tweet that he doesn’t believe Aldean “is a racist,” but said “Try That in a Small Town” was “just bad songwriting.” He shared a follow-up tweet after deleting his first statement, saying “I believe the timing and visual don’t align with positivity so [there will] always be backlash” and wondered if the song’s writers — Aldean not among them — might be able to provide “clarity.”
Americana stalwart Jason Isbell also had strong feelings on the song, tweeting, “Dare Aldean to write his next single himself. That’s what we try in my small town.” Jake Owen then shot back, replying, “Jason [Isbell], you’re always the first to get behind your keyboard and spout off with this stupid s–t,” and also sharing a multi-tweet tirade explaining why he was “offended by [Isbell]’s insinuation that ‘if you don’t write your own songs, you’re less than or not a real artist.'”