Jason Aldean always wanted to play at Fenway Park, maybe first base or elsewhere in the infield. That’s finally going to happen, but with a twist. He’ll be there this summer at a microphone with a guitar slung around his shoulder wearing a cowboy hat and boots.
“I always hoped I’d play at Fenway,” he says. “I kind of meant playing baseball, but I’ll take this instead.”
The country superstar certainly never figured he’d have the distinction of selling out two shows at the ballpark in record time — seven minutes for the first one, 45 for the second — besting the likes of heavy hitters like Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and the upcoming (Aug. 10 and 11) bill of Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z.
When Aldean comes to Fenway Park, July 12-13, he arrives as one of the summer’s most hotly anticipated acts. He’s so big, in fact, that he’s also part of the Boston Strong concert set for May 30 at TD Garden, featuring Aerosmith, J. Geils Band, James Taylor, Carole King, New Kids on the Block, Jimmy Buffett, and a host of others. That show, too, is long sold out. When asked to join the roster, Aldean didn’t think twice.
“I’ve got some friends there in Boston, and I love the city,” he says. “Like everybody else, you’re watching TV and hearing all the news about the bombings, and you’re thinking, ‘I wish I could do something.’ So when something comes up and you get called to do it, you’re like, ‘Yeah, no doubt!’ That’s the good thing about what we do — you’re in a position to help out. I think that’s part of what we’re put here to do.”
Any collaborations planned for the Boston Strong show? “Hey, Joe Perry has come out and played with us before, so you never know,” he says.
His Fenway shows make perfect sense for anyone who knows Aldean’s back story. He’s a self-described baseball nut who played first base in high school but was going to play middle infield in college. (“A first baseman with no power and speed was not a good combination,” he says.)
‘I always hoped I’d play at Fenway. I kind of meant playing baseball, but I’ll take this instead.’
A Georgia native, he grew up as a fan of the Atlanta Braves but considers the Red Sox his “American League team.” He first started coming to Sox games around five or six years ago and has a number of friends who play or have played with the Sox over the years, including David Ross and Josh Beckett.
Anyone shocked that a country artist could sell out Fenway clearly hasn’t kept up with the genre’s popularity. Particularly as country has buffered its twangy origins with pop and rock polish, it has cast an even wider net, and New England is no exception.
“Being a fan of country music, I think it’s been cool for years,” Aldean says. “There’s a ton of energy right now in country music. It ain’t your grandpa’s country music anymore, you know what I’m saying? You’ve got Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and myself and Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan. There’s a ton of acts who all hit the scene around the same time, and it’s a shot in the arm [for country].”
He sees its success as a greater commodity for the music industry, too.
“I think it’s great for not only country, but all genres. The days of going out and selling 10 million records every time are long gone,” he says. “If you have any form of music that’s doing well — that’s selling records and tickets to a show — that’s good for everybody.”
His Boston-area performances add to the impressive momentum Aldean has maintained since his latest album, “Night Train,” debuted at No. 1 on both the pop and country Billboard charts in October. Last week he snagged three nominations for the CMT Music Awards, which he’ll also cohost with Kristen Bell. He’s still shocked by his good fortune.
“I had no idea [my career would go this way]. I just wanted to be able to make a living playing music,” he adds. “That was my main goal. I wanted to be able to wake up and enjoy what I did for a living every day. All this other stuff that’s happened is crazy. I think we’ve exceeded way more than I ever thought we could.”
Not bad for someone who is putting food on the table with his Plan B.
“Originally I thought I was going to play baseball. I had a chance to go to college and play baseball, but just couldn’t bring myself to go to school,” he says. “So music was my backup plan — and obviously a good choice for me.”