one-to-one

jason aldean.

jason aldean.

Jason Aldean is the first to admit that the rural-rooted, retro-fitting single She’s Country shook up his career up but good last spring.

It shot the Georgia singer to No. 1, parked him there for a few weeks and then took a career that had steadily but solemnly gathered steam over the last four years and placed it squarely on the fast track. But She’s Country turned out to be the warm-up act. The followup single, an infectious G-rated romantic yarn called Big Green Tractor is currently finishing up its fourth week atop the Billboard Country Songs chart.

A whole month at No. 1 – now that’s the way to make a return to Lexington as Friday’s opener of the Alltech Fortnight Festival at Applebee’s Park.

“It’s amazing to have just one single come out and change your career,” Aldean said by phone last week. “I’ve heard people say that before but I never really understood it until She’s Country hit. And it did, too. That song changed everything for us. Now we’ve had back-to-back multi-week No. 1 hits. Who could ask for anything more? This has laid the groundwork for the rest of this year and will set us up for the future. We are now at a very good place.”

Aldean’s last Lexington performances – an opening act gig for Rascal Flatts and a headlining New Year’s Eve show at Heritage Hall, both in 2007 – captured a career already on the rise. In fact, the singer already had an initial No. 1 under his belt at the time, the 2005 power ballad Why. But initial inspirations for the then-blooming career came from a childhood spent in the Southern music metropolis of Macon. Ga.

“Being from there definitely helps,” Aldean said. “You already have some pretty big names to draw from – Otis Redding, The Allman Brothers, guys like that. I don’t think you can help but be influenced by all that when it’s right there with you. On the same hand, though, getting out and playing my own shows helped me find my own music.”

Citing ‘80s country hitmakers Alabama and ‘90s cosmopolitan country king Garth Brooks as subsequent influences, a teenaged Aldean used a Macon VFW hall as his first performance venue. By his own estimation he was a hit – meaning, he didn’t want to relinquish the stage once he discovered its allure.

“I got up and did, like, three songs,” Aldean remembered. “Seminole Wind (a 1992 hit for John Anderson) was one of them. Silver Wings by Merle Haggard was another. And I think an Alabama song was in there, too. When I was through, I was like, ‘I could stay up here all night. This is fun.’ And of course the band at the VFW hall is trying to get me off the stage so they can finish their own set. I mean, that was just me being green. But it did give me my first stage experience.”

In the midst of his 2007 concerts here, Aldean’s career was already facing up to the commercial promise suggested by Why and a platinum selling, self-titled debut album. The second album, Relentless, came out in May of that year, scored several Top 10 hits (although no chart-toppers) and matched Jason Aldean‘s platinum status. But there was a key ingredient missing for Aldean from the album – at least, from the process of making it: fun. A massively intensified touring schedule left little time to write, locate and cut material for Relentless – thus zapping much of the thrill of making a record in the first place. It was a situation Aldean was determined not to repeat when work began last year on his third and newest album, Wide Open.

“After the success of the first album, we were playing so many shows that it was really hard to find the time to get into the studio and really settle into that groove of making another record. And also there was just a lot of pressure I was putting on myself at that point. There were certainly parts of the second album that I liked. But the overall process of making that record just wasn’t fun.

“I was a lot more comfortable making the third album. I didn’t worry so much about the songs we had. I didn’t sweat over every detail. We just went in, did what we did on the first album and it worked. For whatever reason, that made a huge difference. Luckily, I started to realize that soon enough while making the second record to know I wanted to do things differently for the third one.

“Back then, it was like, ‘OK, I should be having fun right now making music, but I’m really not. So what’s the deal?’ But we sure have a grasp on that now.”

Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Applebee’s Park as part of the Alltech Fortnight Festival. The concert is sold out.

Profile: Immigration and Naturalization Service detainees

NPR Weekend Edition – Sunday January 11, 2003 | STEVE INSKEEP 00-00-0000 Profile: Immigration and Naturalization Service detainees Host: STEVE INSKEEP Time: 8:00-9:00 PM STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The US government is fingerprinting and photographing thousands of adult foreign men, part of an effort to prevent terrorist attacks. Natives of 13 countries had to register with the government by Friday; people from Afghanistan, North Korea, Yemen and elsewhere. Hundreds of people lined up outside an immigration office in Los Angeles yesterday, and civil liberties activists stood nearby, taking down their names. `Are you from Tunis?’ a monitor asked one man …(unintelligible).

Unidentified Woman #1: In Tunis?

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken) Unidentified Woman #1: You come from Tunis?

Unidentified Woman #2: I don’t understand him.

INSKEEP: They were asking because of what happened in December. Last month, the Immigration and Naturalization Service called in natives of five countries identified as state sponsors of terrorism, and many abruptly disappeared. They were detained for days or weeks for visa violations. Immigration lawyers and family members report that more were detained this week as they registered.

Unidentified Woman #1: All right. So you’re good?

INSKEEP: We’re going to spend the next few minutes meeting some of the immigrants who are registering and we will also try to learn what this may mean for your security. We’ll start with NPR’s Jennifer Ludden, who’s been following this story and joins us now.

Jennifer, this is the second round of registrations, I know. Is it working any better than the first?

JENNIFER LUDDEN reporting:

It seems to be. First, the INS added hundreds more personnel to cope with this crush of people who have tended to wait till the last day to register. And we seem to be seeing fewer arrests than the first time around. We’re not seeing mass detentions like we did in Los Angeles last month.

INSKEEP: And we’re about to hear some of the stories of people who have been through the system and been detained, but I suppose it’s worth keeping in mind that this is the Immigration and Naturalization Service which has been criticized for being lax in tracking some of the people who turned out to be September 11 hijackers.

LUDDEN: There’s no one who will argue that they do not need to better track immigrants in this country.

INSKEEP: OK. Jennifer, if you can stay with us for a few minutes, we’d like to come back to you in a moment.

LUDDEN: Sure.

INSKEEP: And we’re going next to a lawyer’s office in San Francisco. That’s where several detainees and family members of detainees came to talk with us this week. Though many have been reluctant to describe their experiences in public, this group offered descriptions of what happened to them. On their lawyer’s advice, they are using only their first names.

PAYMON(ph): My name is Paymon. I’m a resident of San Jose and Bay Area. I’ve been in the country for 20 years.

INSKEEP: I’m interested if at this point you think of yourself as an American after 20 years here.

PAYMON: Actually to tell you the truth, yes. I’ve spent more than half of my life here in the United States. This is home. Actually my life has formed here.

INSKEEP: Paymon is trained as a computer technician and he’s worked in Silicon Valley, but the law says he is not American. He was born in Iran. His lawyer admits that Paymon’s visa expired. He’s not a permanent resident, though his lawyer says Paymon has applied. When he registered in December, the INS detained him for five days. this web site immigration and naturalization

PAYMON: They had us in a holding cell shackled and handcuffed. We were sitting there for hours on end, waiting for this flight to take place, and they would take us out of the room, tell us, `OK. Now it’s time for you to go,’ and then they would put us back in the holding cell, take off the handcuffs and the shackles. We would sit there for another 30 or 40 minutes. Then they would call us again outside the room, line us up and shackle us and handcuff us again and tell us, `OK. Now it’s time to go.’ The first time, we said, `We changed our mind.’ I mean, this was constantly going on, making us very disoriented. Even when we asked what time of the day it was, we would not get the right answer.

INSKEEP: Many immigrants who’d been detained complained that they applied for permanent residency, but they’ve been waiting for years for the INS to respond. That’s also the story with another detainee who dropped by this San Francisco law office.

ALI: OK. My name is Ali. I am a native of Syria. I’ve lived in the States for 17 years. I reside in the Bay Area and I’m a research scientist at the research institution here in the biomedical engineering field. I was told that I would be detained for five to seven days until the hearing would take place. I was placed in a holding cell, and around 8:00 at night, they drove us to Yuba county jail which is north of Sacramento. It was raining hard that evening. The truck was very small. And we were bouncing around inside it all shackled up. We eventually reach Yuba county jail. It was very late at night. We were very tired. And at 2:00 at night, they came and they got us out of the cell and they said, `Oh, we have to go back to San Francisco.’ So essentially we had three hours of sleep on cement floor. So we went back to San Francisco and then at night again we went back to Yuba county jail. Then we were shipped off to San Diego.

INSKEEP: You were detained for nine days.

ALI: Yes.

INSKEEP: I want to ask the same question that I asked to Paymon before you. He had been in the United States for something like 20 years. He said he thinks of himself as an American. Do you?

ALI: I do. Yeah. I do. I mean, it’s funny how the INS officer who interviewed me has even more of a pronounced accent than I do, and so that’s why he sympathized with me. So, you know, we’re all immigrants, and he looks at my story, it’s very similar to his. So…

INSKEEP: As someone who thinks of himself as an American, did you find, even though you had an unhappy experience, that perhaps there was any good reason, any good justification for requiring people on temporary visas to register with the INS for taking this security step?

ALI: Well, in some ways, I was happy to talk to the FBI. I mean, if they have questions for me, I’m more than happy to go over everything. And the thing that was a little bit disappointing was that the actual investigation was very perfunctory. It was barely half an hour. You know, they didn’t even ask me who I associated with or if I went to a mosque or anything like that. I would have been perfectly happy to spend two days answering any questions they had, you know because I’m as concerned about security as everybody else. I have family that live in New York, but it seemed to me this was not the main point at least or–you know, I wish it were.

INSKEEP: Ali’s attorney finally arranged his release. He’s free on bond until a court hearing on his immigration status next month.

INS officials in San Francisco declined to comment for this report, though federal officials elsewhere have tried to explain what they’ re doing. Kris Kobach is counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft, and he spoke to NPR this week.

Mr. KRIS KOBACH (Attorney): Every one of these individuals was guilty of violating the immigration laws of the United States, and so there was no discrimination in terms of which people were detained temporarily and which ones weren’t. Every one of these cases ultimately is going to go before an immigration judge. And that immigration judge will be presented with the facts from lawyers on both side, will be able to weigh the equities, determine what the fairest outcome is in any given case. We are simply enforcing the law and initiating removal proceedings in those cases where there is a potential terrorist threat.

INSKEEP: Kris Kobach is counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft.

NPR’s Jennifer Ludden covers this issue. She actually conducted that interview and she’s still with us here.

Jennifer, what, if anything, does the federal government admit that it did wrong here?

LUDDEN: Well, when I spoke with Mr. Kobach, he admitted there hadn’ t been enough publicity for this program, that there was trouble getting the word out and he said that the INS and Justice Department had redoubled their efforts in that front. There were still a lot of glitches. I can tell you as of this week the Arabic language announcement of this registration on the INS Web site completely mixed up the dates. It said that people had to come if they entered the country after September 30th when, in fact, they need to register if they came in before September 30th. So a lot of confusion among people.

The first time I think a bit of the problem was that the INS was overwhelmed and people were held in some cases simply because the INS didn’t know what else to do with them. And as we heard in the interviews you did, there were some harsh conditions–people with not enough room to sleep. This time around, there were more people put to the task. go to web site immigration and naturalization

INSKEEP: Now in spite of some problems, I gather that a federal judge has ruled that these detentions are legal, right?

LUDDEN: Yes. He has said that the government, as it maintains, has only arrested people who are here illegally.

INSKEEP: So has the Immigration and Naturalization Service caught any terrorists?

LUDDEN: Well, in this latest round, it’s probably too soon to say and it’s not clear to me that from the interviews they’re conducting they’re going to find out if someone is suspicious. This is part, though, of a larger program. Since September 11th last year, the government has been registering thousands and thousands of Arab and Muslim men as they enter the country at airports and other ports of entry. The Justice Department says from that, they have refused entry to 244 people who either had criminal violations in the past or past immigration violations. Kris Kobach of the Justice Department told me there was one person who was found to have a terror connection, but he could not go into details.

INSKEEP: Now they started with people who came from countries that have been declared by the US government to be state sponsors of terrorism: Iraq, Iran and so forth. They’ve broadened that list out now to include most of the Arab world, much of the Arab world anyway. How much broader does this registration program get?

LUDDEN: It’s unclear and they could change it any time. They could take a country off. They could add a country on. Again, the government stresses this is not racial profiling or religious profiling, all of this is coming from intelligence information, but critics have charged that it’s very political. For example, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were not on the list to begin with; Saudi Arabia, of course, home to 15 of the 19 hijackers of September 11th. Both Saudi and Pakistan are big US allies but they were eventually added to the list. Egypt, a very large US ally, the home country of several al-Qaeda leaders, is still not on the list.

INSKEEP: NPR’s Jennifer Ludden. Jennifer, thanks very much for speaking with us.

LUDDEN: Thank you.

STEVE INSKEEP



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