Set to play the Reno Events Center on Oct. 23, party-minded country singer Jason Aldean is stepping up to headline arenas and amphitheaters for the first time in his career. Aldean’s most recent radio hits have stretched his Nashville twang to visit boundaries of mainstream pop and rural hip-hop. He collaborated with Kelly Clarkson on “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” and Aldean sings and spits rhymes on “Dirt Road Anthem.” At age 34, the Georgia native has racked up 11 Top 10 country singles for Broken Bow Records -- an upstart independent label that issued his debut album in 2005. During a phone interview, Aldean said he’s just getting started.
You’re stepping up to headline at our amphitheater after we’ve seen you open locally for Rascal Flatts in 2007, for Tim McGraw in 2008 and Keith Urban in 2009. What does it mean to be the name at the top of the bill?
This is what we’ve been working toward. I’ve been really fortunate to have a platform for my career, by going out on some great tours like the ones you just mentioned. It’s allowed me to create a fan base for myself.
What’s your favorite part of playing a show?
My favorite part of the night is that initial reaction when you get onstage. You’re sitting around all day, waiting to play and then you hit the stage and the crowd sees you for the first time. The excitement that goes along with that is indescribable.
I have to ask about “Dirt Road Anthem.” Does that song push you a little outside your comfort zone?
I don’t really think so. I grew up listening to all different kinds of music. Country was the big influence for me, but I also grew up listening to a lot of rock, Southern rock, R&B, pop and even rap. Obviously, the song is different, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I knew some traditionalists would hate it, but I like it. Ultimately, I’m the one who’s going to go out and perform it every night.
So you have some hip-hop on your iPod?
Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, definitely some Ludacris.
Broken Bow Records is a great story. Is it rewarding to be the face of an independent label that’s done such big things?
I think it’s been cool for me and the label. It’s kind of been a partnership where we’ve both grown. We’ve experienced some of the same things -- first platinum album, for instance -- at the same time. It’s felt more like a partnership than being an artist signed to a label that calls all the shots. If I want to talk to the president of the label, I don’t have to go through four other people to get to him. I just call his cell phone and have a conversation. I don’t think I could be at a place that fits me any better.
A lot of music coming out of Nashville today seems to have a connecting thread to what Indiana’s John Mellencamp recorded during the 1980s. As a youngster, did you listen to his music?
Absolutely. I am a huge Mellencamp fan, and we’ve played a ton of his songs in our show over the years. I’d put him up there with Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen as people who are true rock ‘n’ roll guys.
Have you ever crossed paths?
I’ve never met him, but I’m sure at some point it will happen.
Jason Aldean headlines at 7:30 p.m. Sunday night, Oct. 23, at the Reno Events Center. Tickets start at $60. On tour with him are Chris Young and Thompson Square.