The country star was performing at the Route 91 Harvest Festival across from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Oct. 1 when a gunman started shooting into the crowd from the hotel — killing 58 people and injuring 489.
“We wear in-ear monitors when we’re on stage,” Aldean, 40, told Today in a sneak peek of an interview airing Tuesday. “And really all you can hear is the music and maybe your guys that can talk to you on microphones that are on side-stage.”
“So when it first happened, I thought a speaker had blown,” he continued. “It just sounded like a crackling something. And so, I’m kind of looking around like, ‘What is that?’ trying to figure out what it is. Then it stopped, so I was like, ‘They must have got it fixed,’ so I kept doing my thing.”
Not long after, the noise kicked in again. “It lasted longer the second time,” Aldean recalled. “I was actually kind of getting aggravated, so I looked over at the monitor guy on the side of the stage, and I was like, ‘What is that? And fix it.’ So when I turned and looked, my guitar player had run behind me and was telling me to move, like, ‘Let’s go,’ and my security guy was running on stage, telling me to run.”
Since the shooting, Aldean has supported the victims by releasing the cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” he performed for his surprise return to the stage on Saturday Night Live, with all proceeds going to the Direct Impact Fund to help survivors. He and his wife Brittany, who are expecting their first child together next month, also visited with victims still recovering in Las Vegas.
After canceling a series of concerts in the wake of the tragedy, Aldean continued his They Don’t Know Tour on Oct. 12 in Tulsa, Oklahoma to perform the show “that the people in Las Vegas came to see and didn’t get a chance to.”
The singer again honored the victims of the shooting at the CMT Artists of the Year special with fellow artists Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line‘s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban.
“We’ve been tested beyond our worst nightmares the past few months. Heartbroken doesn’t even begin to explain how some of us feel,” Aldean said. “But we have proven time and again in this country that we have the power to overcome anything that threatens our way of life or our freedom. We dedicate this night to you and to everyone who’s experienced loss or tragedy in the past few months. Like Keith said, we will get through this together.”
Aldean’s full interview will air on the Today show on NBC Tuesday morning.