Jason Aldean, the Academy of Country Music’s reigning entertainer of the year, is back in Las Vegas this weekend for the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards.
The ceremony will take place about a mile from the site of a massacre that killed nearly 60 country music fans in October.
CBS News’ Vladimir Duthiers spoke to the country music star backstage at the MGM Garden Arena, where he was preparing for his performance at Sunday’s show.
"You know I think everybody sort of tried to make this thing about me coming back to Vegas come try to make it a little bigger than it was," Aldean said. "For me, you know, I’ve got a million great memories in Vegas and one horrible one."
It’s been just over six months since Aldean’s performance at a music festival was tragically cut short, when a gunman opened fire on the crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel.
"I love this town. I mean, I love Las Vegas, I love this city. Was looking forward to coming back out here and I think this is the right setting for me. To be out here with the country music family, my friends and people in the country music world," he said.
The shooting last October was the country’s deadliest mass shooting. Fifty-eight people were killed and hundreds injured. Aldean invited some of those survivors to watch his rehearsal Friday afternoon.
"I think more than anything just kind of glad to see them here. … I just think we’re, everybody that was there we’re all kind of forever bonded. … So it’s always cool to see those people and sort of catch up because people don’t get it unless they were actually there and so … I think it’s therapeutic for everybody to talk about it," Aldean said.
The healing process began less than a week after the shooting, when Aldean performed the Tom Petty song "I Won’t Back Down" on "Saturday Night Live."
"I think we knew that us performing on that show and if we did it the right way would be a big thing for everybody. … I felt that was sort of a, not only a healing moment for me but it was also a chance for me to sort of tell everybody else this is horrible but its okay to start the healing process and start to pick up the pieces and move on," Aldean said.
Over the past 13 years, Aldean has become one of country music’s biggest stars, selling more than 10 million albums. His eighth, "Rearview Town, was released on Friday.
"To be honest, pretty much the whole album was done maybe other than four songs or something by the time the shooting happened. But for me … It’s about putting things that have sort of held you down, things that have been a black cloud hanging over you sort of putting that in the past and looking down the road to better days."
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