On October 1, 2017, Jason Aldean was onstage in Las Vegas singing “When She Says Baby” when he heard a noise. He thought a guitar amp blew, but it was gunshots. What happened next — the night of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history — and in the months that followed, was the topic of a panel at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville on Friday called “Overcoming Obstacles.”
“It was confusion, more than anything,” Jason told a roomful of seminar attendees. Then, he says, panic set in, because he didn’t know where his wife, who was eight months’ pregnant with their son Memphis, was.
“Scared, nervous, chaotic,” he said of his mindset. “If there’s one word that summed it up, it was chaos, for sure.”
As for the aftermath, Jason says appearing on Saturday Night Live to sing Tom Petty‘s “I Won’t Back Down” was “one of the biggest things we could have done.” He also flew back to Vegas six days later to visit shooting victims in the hospital, which he called “the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
“It was gut-wrenching,” he said. “We were one of the lucky ones to get out of there without a scratch, so I felt a responsibility to have some face time with them.”
But after meeting with the victims, some of whom he still sees, he said, “I left with a whole new feeling about the whole thing, and I was so glad I went. It was one of those eye-opening, life-changing days that I’ll never forget.”
Talking to his two older daughters about the shooting was tough as well; Jason revealed that one of them thought he was the target, and was “freaked out.” He says he sat them both down and simply told them the truth, so they wouldn’t go online and read anything that would upset them.
These days when he plays live, Jason says the shooting is something that will “be forever on our minds.” What helps, he says, is being back onstage, and being able to talk about it with his band mates, who went through the experience with him. He’s also stepped up security tremendously at all his shows, both indoors out.
“We stay on top of it every day,” he says. “We want to make it as safe as we can make it for the fans, and for ourselves.”
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