Jason AldeanWhen Jason Aldean was 14, he performed his first gig in his hometown of Macon, Ga., at the local VFW hall for an audience of ten. When he finished singing, all ten applauded. From that moment on, Jason was hooked. He began playing talent contests and local fairs, joined a 'house band' at Macon's nightspot, Nashville South, then moved to Music City in 1998 to chase his country music dream.

Like most new artists, over the next few years, Jason would struggle. At a certain point he gave himself six more months to get a record deal before throwing in the towel and returning home to Macon. Five weeks after making that decision, Jason was discovered at a showcase at Nashville's Wildhorse Saloon showcase and signed to Broken Bow Records.

Today, when Jason goes home to Macon, he returns a multi-platinum superstar. But it's still just home.

"I was born and raised here, so it's the same to me now as it always was," Jason tells CMT. "Living in Nashville, I actually got tired of living in the city, so we moved about 30 or 40 miles south to the country, to get away from it for more of a vibe that reminded me of here. [Macon] is the way I always remember it. I get to see family and friends, and it's fun. I don't get to come back here as much as I'd like to. So I kind of block time off for family, and make sure I get a chance to spend some time with them."

Something else Jason enjoyed doing on his recent trip home was a visit to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, where he's honored to be mentioned along with other southern musical icons such as the Allman Brothers, Little Richard and Otis Redding.

"This is the first chance I've really had to come here and see what it's all about," Jason reflects. "Macon has such a rich musical history -- and the state of Georgia, as well. And to see what kind of musical icons came out of this city is pretty amazing.

"Otis Redding is probably my favorite singer of all time. I didn't get turned on to him until I was a teenager. He's one of the most soulful singers there's ever been. I think that's the one thing that influenced me about him -- hearing somebody sing like that, with that kind of passion and that kind of feeling. It was something you still don't hear a lot of."

Each time Jason has played in Macon over the past years since he left it, he's heard a distinct, underlying emotion in the crowd's response.

"They're a lot more rabid here in your hometown, which is great," he notes. "I think it's one of those things where hopefully, I represent my hometown well, and make people proud here. I love the fact that I come back and there are people from my high school coming back and giving me shout-outs ... I love it, man. I love being here."

Thinking back to the time he left for Nashville to pursue his dream, Jason marvels at how much has changed, when it comes to performing in his hometown.

"The first year we came here and played, we played a bar," he recalls. "The next year, a little auditorium ... and then we sold out one of the arenas in Perry, which isn't too far from here, a couple of years ago. The last time we played the Macon Coliseum, we had three or four thousand, maybe. But this is the first time we've ever sold out the Coliseum ... which is where I saw my first concert. To come back and sell it out is pretty special. It feels good when your hometown supports you, and Macon's always done that. We travel around so much, and you're in places you really don't know anything about. You don't really know any of the people. I mean, it's great ... you go out and play the show. But when you're in your hometown, you look out and know some of the people. You're familiar with the area. It's a really comfortable vibe for me."

Jason's current single, 'The Truth,' became the singer's third consecutive multi-week No. 1 from his platinum album, 'Wide Open.' After the winter leg of his Wide Open tour, Jason will join Brooks & Dunn for a portion of their 'Last Rodeo' tour in the spring.