“[I] dare Aldean to write his next single himself. That’s what we try in my small town,” Isbell, 44, wrote via Twitter on Thursday, July 20, one week after Aldean, 46, made headlines on July 14 for his track “Try That In a Small Town.”
While the song was originally released in May, its new music video brought the controversial lyrics back to the surface among fans. “Got a gun that my granddad gave me / They say one day they’re gonna round up / Well, that s–t might fly in the city, good luck / Try that in a small town / See how far ya make it down the road,” Aldean sings.
Isbell doubled down on his declaration on Thursday. “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,” he quipped.
Calling out Aldean, however, didn’t sit well with Owen, 41, who fired back at Isbell the same day. “Jason, you’re always the first to get behind your keyboard and spout off with this stupid s—t,” Owen tweeted. “In ‘my small town’ you just walk up to the guy and be a man to his face if you want the smoke … not tweet it at him … Tough guy.”
Isbell didn’t seem phased by Owen’s message, revealing, “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.’ What does that say to the people in your life who aren’t big strong boys? They just have to shut up?”
Owen didn’t directly respond to Isbell’s last tweet, but he did clarify why Isbell’s dig at Aldean’s inability to write his own songs hit home.
“I’ve spent my entire career trying to promote positivity. At my shows, off the stage, wherever I am. I don’t like division or hate. That’s why I responded to the previous tweet,” Owen told his followers on Thursday. “Being crass, I replied bc I was offended by @JasonIsbell insinuation that ‘if you don’t write your own songs, you’re less than or not a real artist …’”
The “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” singer noted that although he’s written “a lot of songs” and recorded “many of them” throughout his career, writing doesn’t mean he’s a “real artist.” Owen then thanked all the “incredible songwriters” who have helped make music for decades.
“I am a @JasonIsbell music fan. Always have been. I understand his takes on things can be polarizing. I chime in when I feel like there’s a low blow being thrown,” Owen clarified. “The ‘write your own songs’ dagger cuts me deep because I think that is the wrong way to encourage artists trying to make it, and quite frankly Jason Isbell has a large voice. He IS respected.”
He confessed: “I came in hot on the conversation because I’m passionate about it. I listen to @JasonIsbell and @Jason_Aldean. In retrospect, I should of clarified from the jump, but my human emotions got in the way. I’m sure some won’t see my point, but this is my attempt at clarity. 🤙🏽.”
Aldean, for his part, denied on Tuesday, July 18, that “Try That In a Small Town” was a racially charged song written to incite violence.
“In the past 24 hours I have been accused of releasing a pro-lynching song (a song that has been out since May) and was subject to the comparison that I (direct quote) was not too pleased with the nationwide BLM protests. These references are not only meritless, but dangerous,” he wrote via social media. “There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it — and there isn’t a single video clip that isn’t real news footage -and while I can try and respect others to have their own interpretation of a song with music — this one goes too far.”
Aldean’s comments came after some fans revealed they were surprised he’d be associated with guns after Las Vegas’ 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting. At the time, Aldean was performing when a gunman opened fire, killing 58 and injuring 546 more.
Isbell isn’t the only one who has reacted to Aldean’s eye-raising lyrics. Sheryl Crowe tweeted her disappointment over the song’s alleged message on Tuesday, writing, “@Jason_Aldean I’m from a small town. Even people in small towns are sick of violence. There’s nothing small-town or American about promoting violence. You should know that better than anyone having survived a mass shooting.”
Rising star Parker McCollum, on the other hand, retweeted a message in support of Aldean on Tuesday.
“Hilarious to hear the media accuse Jason Aldean of writing a song that ‘promotes violence’ when nearly every rap song for the past 30 years has directly and enthusiastically glorified murder, drug dealing, robbery and every other violent crime, and these people say nothing,” read a tweet initially penned by author Matt Walsh which McCollum, 31, reposted.