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What's up with Jason Aldean

Hit man: His fourth and latest album, My Kinda Party, has sold a million-plus copies.

Country kudos: Up for top country artist and album at Billboard Music Awards next Sunday; and for four CMT Music Awards in June, more than any other artist.

Baseball buddy: Aldean takes annual deer-hunting trips with Atlanta Braves' Chipper Jones and Washington Nationals' Adam LaRoche.

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It's getting harder and harder these days for Jason Aldean — to claim he's an underdog, that is.

“I love for people to underestimate me,” says the sturdy but scruffy country singer from Macon, Ga. Now that Don't You Wanna Stay, his hit duet with Kelly Clarkson, is crossing over to the pop charts, people won't be able to underestimate one of country music's best-kept secrets much longer.

Aldean's high-profile duet with the former American Idol champ has helped fuel the most recent surge in popularity and is shaping up as the biggest hit of an already impressive career.

“This duet may bring us a lot of fans that wouldn't normally hear our music,” says Aldean, 34, who performed the tune with Clarkson on Idol last month.

Since breaking out in 2005 with debut single Hicktown, Aldean has quietly and determinedly built a career that now rivals those of superstars such as Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Tim McGraw.

But the earrings he sports in each ear are about as glitzy as he gets. Rarely seen without his Wrangler jeans, cowboy hat and boots, Aldean is a laid-back family guy who exudes an easy confidence. In August, he will celebrate 10 years of marriage to his high school sweetheart, Jessica. The two live on 20 acres just south of Nashville, where Aldean can be seen at the softball games of daughter Keeley, 8, or eating popcorn at Target with daughter Kendyl, 3.

Onstage, it's a different story: He rocks out guitar-driven country tunes for an audience that works hard and plays harder. Aldean doesn't expect his riff-heavy brand of country to cross over to the pop charts too often. Still, he says, “you want as many people as possible hearing your songs.”

His album My Kinda Party recently became the third million-seller of his career and has made him one of country radio's five most-played acts in 2011. He'll kick off the next leg of his My Kinda Party tour July 8 at Milwaukee's SummerFest, with Chris Young and duo Thompson Square as opening acts.

“You've got to do what makes you happy, things you enjoy doing,” Aldean says. “You just hope there's a lot of people out there that dig what you do and want to come along for the ride.”

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