Sixteen years ago today, on May 13, 2005, Jason Aldean fulfilled a childhood dream when he gave his debut performance on the Grand Ole Opry. The singer performed "Hicktown" and "Why," both from his then-upcoming eponymous freshman album.

"I'm excited to be able to perform on the same stage that so many artists who I look up to have played on before," Aldean said at the time of his debut. "It's an honor to have been asked to play on the Grand Ole Opry."

Aldean was in good company that night: The Georgia native shared the stage with John Conlee, Jean Shepard and Diamond Rio, among others. But his mind was also on many of his own musical heroes, whose legacy he was continuing.

“It makes you feel good to go out and stand in that little circle [taken from the Ryman Auditorium] on the stage,” Aldean tells CMT. “You feel a lot of ghosts in that building. It’s got a certain vibe about it ... It’s a good vibe.”

While Aldean maintains a busy touring schedule, he still returns to the Opry as often as his schedule allows. “I think it’s important for us younger artists to ... bridge the gap a little bit between what it was and let all the younger fans know what it means,” Aldean tells “If not for that, there wouldn’t be country music."

“It’s still a cool thing to go and do. Anytime you’re up there on that stage and you’re in that circle, you start thinking about everybody that’s been there," he continues. "It’s definitely something that’s still relevant and something I think that’s important for us to keep that tradition going.

"You never know, at some point that will probably be home to a lot of us, where we’ll be playing there a lot," Aldean adds. "Hopefully at the end of our careers, later on down the road, there’ll be a few of us over there still carrying the torch.”

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