No, Willie Nelson Did Not Call Out Jason Aldean at FairWell Fest

Willie Nelson at FairWell Fest (photo: Kyle “Trigger” Coroneos)

Breaking the moratorium on posts about the controversy surrounding Jason Aldean’s new song and video, “Try That in a Small Town” to dispel some misinformation that Saving Country Music has intimate knowledge of.

Many pieces of false information have gone viral surrounding the Jason Aldean story as individuals and some members of the media attempt to sow clout and exploit the situation for attention. One such piece of false information is that Willie Nelson called out Jason Aldean, or dedicated a song to him when he performed Sunday, July 23rd at the FairWell Fest in Central Oregon.

During Willie Nelson’s headlining set, he played his infamous song from 1982 called “Write Your Own Songs,” which calls out music executives and country purists. A Twitter user named Trey Warren took a 45 second clip of the performance and posted it on Twitter with the caption, “A ode to Jason Aldean.” Jason Aldean did not write “Try That in a Small Town.” It was written by Neil Thrasher, Kurt Allison, Tully Kennedy, and Kelley Lovelace.

But Willie Nelson did not mention Jason Aldean in relation to this song, either before or after the clip, or at any other time during the performance. “Write Your Own Songs” is part of Willie’s regular set list. Saving Country Music was in attendance at FairWell Fest (recap coming), was within feet of whomever took the video, and can confirm that Jason Aldean’s name never came up. There is a good chance Willie Nelson doesn’t know who Jason Aldean is, nor is aware of the controversy.

Even the caption of the tweet does not expressly state that Willie Nelson was directly addressing Jason Aldean, though that is how the majority of people have taken it. Popular Twitter account “Wu Tang is For The Children” with its nearly 200,000 followers retweeted the video saying, “Willie Nelson is 90 years young and is the absolute GOAT….Jason Aldean should just retire after this.”

The video has now been viewed over 2 million times, and retweeted thousands of times. It also caused Willie Nelson’s name to trend on Twitter, making some skip a heartbeat Monday evening into Tuesday, worried about what the news on the 90-year-old could be.

Despite the virality of the misinformation surrounding this story, the media has been decent at vetting through it. Other bits of false information include that Hank Williams Jr. resigned from the CMT Board of Directors after the cable channel pulled the video for “Try That in a Small Town.” Similar to Willie Nelson knowing about Jason Aldean, it was just as improbable that Hank Williams Jr. was serving on CMT’s board. But the push and pull of this culture war issue has people buying in and sharing the false information by the millions on both sides of the political divide.

Rumors also attributed to Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton either resigning from the CMT Board or asking the cable channel to pull their videos are also false. Neal McCoy has asked for CMT to pull his videos from the format, but it’s unlikely CMT was airing any of his videos at this point anyway.

As Saving Country Music predicted, due to the controversy, “Try That in a Small Town” has shot to #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It’s also #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the 2nd most popular song in all of music behind “Seven” by Jung Kook.

Streams of the song went from less than 1 million the previous week to 11.7 million after the controversy. Views on the video went from 350,000 to 16.6 million after outlets such as The Daily Beast and The Nashville Scene declared the track and video were “pro-lynching.” The song also became the 4th best-selling song in 2023 just off of one week’s worth of consumption.

When the dust settles from this controversy, there will be more time to dispassionately asses exactly what has happened. But for now, the public should remain very wary of information they read online about the reactions to “Try That in a Small Town.” Unless you see the information from a reputable source, it’s more than likely false, potentially causing the reputations of individuals who either don’t have an opinion on the matter or actively have recused themselves from speaking on it to be misrepresented.

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