At first, Jason Aldean thought the popping he heard through his in-ear monitor on Oct. 1 was a technical glitch, possibly a blown speaker or faulty amp.
He was tragically mistaken.
“Really, all you can hear is the music and the guys who can talk to you onstage on microphones backstage,” Aldean said Tuesday morning during NBC’s “Today” show in his first interview since he was onstage during the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival. “When it first happened, I thought a speaker had blown. It sounded like a crackling … something, and I’m looking around trying to figure out what it is.”
Then it stopped.
“I thought it got fixed, and I just kept doing my thing,” said Aldean, who was performing the song “When She Says Baby” as gunfire erupted. “Then it started again, and it was longer the second time. Then I was actually kind of getting aggravated. I was looking at the monitor guy, off to the side of the stage, as if to say, ‘Fix it.’ “
Aldean soon realized the bursts were more serious because of the alarming activity onstage.
“When I turned to look, my guitar player had run behind me was telling me to ‘move, let’s go,’ ” Aldean told “Today’s” Sheinelle Jones. “My security guy was running onstage telling me to run.”
Aldean sprinted from the stage, still carrying his acoustic guitar.
“Everybody was scrambling,” Aldean said. “You didn’t know what was going on. Panic was probably the best way I can describe it. You didn’t know where to go, what to do in that situation. I’ve never been in that situation, you know? Obviously nobody else out there had, either.
“It was just crazy. Pandemonium.”
Aldean and his band and crew were unharmed. He left Las Vegas immediately to return to his home in Nashville, Tennessee. He performed Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” to open “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 7, then returned to Las Vegas the next day for a visit to University Medical Center, joined by fellow country star Dierks Bentley.
Aldean was among the star performers Sunday at the Country Rising Concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, which raised more than $4 million to benefit victims of 1 October shootings.
“It’s been a rough couple months for us up here, and it’s a lot of fun to get back out and play for the people who matter, which is you guys,” Aldean told the crowd. “I love getting up every day and playing music, and I’ll be damned if anybody out there will ever stop me from doing that.”
During the “Today” show, Aldean, was joined in the segment by members of Lady Antebellum, who also performed in the Country Rising lineup. Aldean reiterated his resolve to use the event to promote unity.
“I feel like at the end of the day there’s so much focus on you know, politics, and race, and all these other things,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. We spend so much time arguing with each other and not enough time like working on the issue that’s really the problem.”
That night in Las Vegas will always be part of Aldean’s career and life story.
“We have to move on, and I have to do that as well. But it’s something I’ll never forget,” Aldean said. “I just hope everybody can start to heal. Some of this stuff you never get over. But I hope it gets better for everybody as time goes on.”