Pop Culture

Jason Aldean recalls panicked first moments after Las Vegas gunman opened fire

When a sudden popping noise started in the middle of his performance at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas last month, Jason Aldean thought there was a technical glitch.

Soon, though, people on stage around him were signaling to run.

“I though a speaker had blown. It just sounded like a crackling something,” the country music star told TODAY’s Sheinelle Jones in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

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Jason Aldean speaks out for the first time since Las Vegas shooting

Play Video - 4:37

Jason Aldean speaks out for the first time since Las Vegas shooting

Play Video - 4:37

After the noise stopped, Aldean figured the problem got fixed — so he kept performing.

“Then it happened again. And it lasted longer the second time. And so then I was actually kind of getting aggravated. So I looked over at my monitor guys that's on the side of the stage as if to say 'What is that?' and 'Fix it,'" he recalled.

"And so when I turned to look, 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."

Aldean and everyone with him managed to escape the stage unharmed, but gunman Steven Paddock continued to spray the concert venue with bullets from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 others before taking his own life.

“Everybody just kind of panicked, and didn't really know where to go, or what to do,” he said. “It was just kind of crazy, pandemonium."

Jason said he didn’t have a lot of time to process what happened. He immediately flew home to see his family. He paid tribute to the victims in a Saturday Night Live performance, and then returned to Las Vegas a week after the shooting to visit injured fans.

After initially canceling performances in the wake of the tragedy, Aldean soon resumed his concert tour, saying he was committed to be there for his fans.

"Honestly, being back on stage probably helped us more than anything, which is crazy,” he said.

Aldean was among the performers Sunday at the Country Rising Concert that raised more than $4 million to benefit victims of the Las Vegas massacre and hurricane relief efforts.

His country comrades Dierks Bentley and Lady Antebellum, who joined him on TODAY, also performed at the all-star benefit in Nashville.

"No one can take away the fact that music is such an escape, and such a therapeutic, and healing thing," Lady Antebellum's Dave Haywood said.

Aldean said he hopes the unity being shown among country musicians will inspire others to do the same to help the nation recover from the rash of recent tragedies.

"I feel like at the end of the day there's so much focus on you know, politics, and race, and all these other things,” he said. “At the end of the day, we're all in this together. We spend so much time arguing with each other, and not enough time like working on the issue that's really the problem."

Aldean said he hopes the nation will be able to heal and "move on."

"I have to do that as well. But it's something I'll never forget. I just hope everybody can start to heal," he said. "Some of this stuff you never get over. But I hope it gets better for everybody as time goes on."

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