Jason Aldean Opens Up About His ACM Awards Toby Keith Tribute: ‘I Just Didn’t Want to Mess It Up’

In May, Jason Aldean took the stage at the Academy of Country Music Awards to honor the legacy of the late singer-songwriter Toby Keith with a version of Keith’s breakthrough hit “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” Keith died in February at age 62, following a battle with stomach cancer. During a Monday (July 1) interview on The Bobby Bones Show, Aldean opened up about his tribute performance.


iHeartRadio personality Bobby Bones noted, “A lot of us knew Toby [Keith] in different ways, and you had a relationship with Toby. Do you want to actually be feeling [the sadness over his loss]? Or do you want to not feel it so you can pull off a performance?”

Aldean replied, “Yeah, I think it was a little bit more of that. I felt like Toby deserved a great tribute for the career he had. I knew it was going to be a big night for his family and people that were going to be out there. To be honest, I just didn’t want to mess it up. I wanted to go out and give him a send-off that he deserved.” During the ACM Awards, Aldean sat on a stool and was flanked by two additional guitar players as he offered up an earnest, slowed-down version of the Keith hit.

“Especially with us kind of changing the song up, you just don’t know how people are going to take that. You know what I mean?” Aldean said. “If they’re going to like it, not like it, or whatever. So for us, it was trying to do something cool and different and something to honor him and his family. His wife texted me that night after the show, which was really the icing on the cake for me if [she] approved, I’m cool.”

Following the performance, Keith’s family publicly praised Aldean’s performance, posting on Keith’s official X account, “The Covel family would like to thank Jason Aldean for the wonderfully touching performance at the ACM Awards tonight. It was the perfect tribute to Toby Keith.”

Watch Aldean’s interview on The Bobby Bones Show below:

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