Jason Aldean will never be the same after the tragic mass shooting that occurred during his set at the Route 91 Harvest festival last October. But, in an interview with ET, the country star shared that he’s in a much better place now — and he’s looking forward to returning (for the first time) to attend the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday.
Aldean, who won Entertainer of the Year in 2017, is up for Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year at this year’s ACMs.
“I think every time I go to Vegas from here on out it’ll be a little bit different. I have just a little bit of a weird feeling. But I think I’ve experienced a lot of great things out there, a lot of big times in my career, really career-defining moments for me in Vegas, so I love the city,” Aldean told ET‘s Sophie Schillaci.
The “Make It Easy” singer will be drawing strength in large part from the country music community. Although understandably rattled in the wake of the senseless attack at Route 91, artists and fans came together to comfort each other and honor the 58 concertgoers who were killed that devastating day.
“I’m excited that I’m going out there with the country music family, I’m going to be surrounded by a lot of people out there, friends and just people in the business,” explained Aldean. “A lot of them were there, you know?”
Several of the artists who will be attending the ACM Awards performed at the Route 91 festival prior to Aldean’s set, when the shooter started firing. “So I think for me to go back in this way, with all those people, is kind of the perfect way to really go back and do it for the first time,” Aldean said.
ln fact, Aldean and his country cohorts have already found a way to honor the people affected at Route 91 with their return to Vegas. During rehearsals for the ACMs, Aldean and Thomas Rhett hosted 100 survivors of the shooting, who joined the country superstars at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“What happened here in October… will bond all of us forever.” Watch as @Jason_Aldean and @ThomasRhett spend some special moments with survivors of Route 91 at #ACMawards rehearsals. pic.twitter.com/SHArOlNW9l
— ACM Awards (@ACMawards) April 14, 2018
While it’s hard to imagine exactly what Aldean must have felt in those harrowing moments on stage last October, the country star has clearly worked hard to create something positive out of that terrible day. If his poignant performance of Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” in the aftermath of the shooting is any indication, we’re sure Aldean has something heartfelt and beautiful up his sleeve for the ACM Awards.
Tune in to the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.