ATHENS, Ga. — Jason Aldean admits it was really hard to keep his big announcement a secret. It was a doozy, after all.

The hard-rocking country music star made a whirlwind run around the eastern U.S. on Thursday, announcing shows at Boston's Fenway Park, Chicago's Wrigley Field and on the University of Georgia campus in the space of 12 hours.

"I've known about these shows for a while so it's been hard for me keep quiet, you know?" Aldean said. "I found myself every now and then telling a friend, `You can't tell nobody, but, uh, guess what?'"

Aldean will make the first appearance by a country music performer at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. And the show at Georgia's Sanford Stadium next spring will be the first – and mostly likely the last – between the hedges.

"This was No.1 on my list and to say I'm excited about this show, this is probably the most excited I've ever been about any of my shows," the Macon, Ga., and lifelong Bulldogs fan said.

Aldean managed to keep secret the announcement in Boston, where Red Sox players David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jarrod Saltalamacchia helped announce the show as part of a clip played on the video board. But by the time he took to the air for Chicago, fans were on to him. One tracked his private plane and gave updates along the way. And as sundown came, students and even university officials were tweeting about the impending announcement, made by coach Mark Richt, and a surprise performance.

He played a handful of hits for more than 1,000 enthusiastic fans who turned out to Legion Field before getting aboard his bus to head to out on a short vacation with his family.

It's a well-deserved break. The singer released his fifth album, "Night Train," this week. That title is an apt metaphor for his career, which has been steaming along on a steep trajectory. About the only thing he hadn't attained yet was a series of stadium shows, and he's crossing that goal off the list on the "Night Train" tour in 2013.

Aldean is one of country's top draws, but the stadium appearances will move him into rare company. Currently, only Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney regularly have that kind of drawing power. But Aldean has earned the status, selling more than 1.9 million tickets on his yearlong "My Kinda Party" tour that wraps up in Dallas on Oct. 27.

"You think about how long ago he started, you know, playing the small gigs, holes in the wall and honky-tonks. I mean that's what he did. How do you get here? There's no logical path. It has to consume you," said Chris Parr, one of his managers.

The stadium tour isn't the only sign Aldean's career continues to pick up speed. Billboard predicts "Night Train" will sell more than 400,000 in its first week, which would make it the year's No. 2 debut behind Mumford & Sons' "Babel." That's roughly two times what his multi-platinum fourth album "My Kinda Party" sold in Week 1.

And the 35-year-old singer is up for three awards, including top honor entertainer of the year, at the Country Music Association Awards on Nov. 1. The first single from "Night Train," "Take a Little Ride," had the highest-selling digital debut for a solo male country artist and was the fastest rising No. 1 on the country song charts this year.

"I think the reason is it's been two years since we released an album," he said. "Obviously, the `My Kinda Party" record was a big album, a career-changing album for me. I think it was just that wait, people anticipating the next album. And we put the album up on iTunes so people had a chance to go stream the album live, so I hope that's part of it – they actually like what they're hearing. That'd be nice."

Stardom hasn't been an endless highlight reel, though. He recently endured his first tabloid moment when photos emerged of an apparent kiss with former "American Idol" contestant Brittany Kerr at a trendy Los Angeles bar.

Interviews about his recent successes have been leavened with questions about that encounter. The married father of two apologized to fans in a tweet and asked for privacy for his family. He acknowledged Thursday that fame comes with some drawbacks.

"For me, I think the main thing was it was kind of a learning experience for me and made me realize, I don't know, that maybe I was under the microscope a little more than I thought I was," Aldean said. "But you live and learn, man."

The encounter hasn't dimmed his popularity, however, as his trip and its attendant buzz showed. He's been selling out concerts in minutes, setting sales records at more than 40 venues on his current tour. And that trend is likely to continue as he aims for 2 million in ticket sales and beyond. But it's no longer about the raw numbers.

Brian O'Connell, Live Nation's president of country music touring, said the goal wasn't to fill venues during the 2013 tour, but to make sure Aldean can share special moments with his fans.

"We're trying to find something unique instead of just laying out dates like everybody else," said O'Connell, who said the UGA concert was made possible by "divine intervention." "We really want to think it through, make the right decisions and check some stuff off bucket lists and make some history. That's what we owe him right now."

___

Online:

http://jasonaldean.com

___

For the latest country music news from the Associated Press: . Follow AP Music Writer Chris Talbott: .

Links:


Loading Slideshow...
  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Lady Gaga rocked some 80's style while leaving her apartment building in New York City on June 6.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Eva Longoria and Felicity Huffman had a little "Desperate Housewives" reunion at the AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Jane Fonda at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on June 5.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Lindsay Lohan was seen at Chiltern Firehouse in London on June 5.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Scott Disick attended the 2014 FIFA World Cup McDonald's launch party at Pillars 38 on June 5 in New York City.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Lena Dunham was seen rocking a "No Comment" sweater while out and about in New York City on June 5.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Hilary Duff was all smiles as she ran errands on June 5 in Beverly Hills, California.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Channing Tatum has some fun at the "22 Jump Street" premiere at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on June 4 in New York City.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban attended the 2014 CMT Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on June 4 in Nashville, Tennessee.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Carrie Underwood attended the 2014 CMT Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on June 4 in Nashville, Tennessee.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Kendall and Kylie Jenner were seen stepping out in New York City on June 4.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Bradley Cooper got whipped into shape by military personnel while filming scenes for his upcoming movie "American Sniper" in Los Angeles, California on June 4.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Sarah Jessica Parker went for a walk on June 4 in New York City.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Emma Roberts and Evan Peters enjoyed a romantic stroll on the beach together while vacationing in Maui, Hawaii on June 3.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Kim Kardashian stopped by Craig's in West Hollywood, California to have lunch with her mom Kris Jenner on June 3.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Taylor Schilling attended the Glamour Women of the Year Awards at Berkeley Square Gardens on June 3 in London, England.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Miranda Lambert stopped by ABC studios for an appearance on "Good Morning America" in New York Cit on June 3.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Angelina Jolie attended the "Maleficent" photo call at The Bund on June 3 in Shanghai, China.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    John Mayer enjoyed dinner out at Madeo Restaurant on June 2 in West Hollywood, California.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Blake Lively left her hotel with designer Michael Kors and headed to the 2014 CDFA Awards on June 2 in New York City.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Gwen Stefani spotted leaving a skin care clinic while out and about in Beverly Hills, California on June 2.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Katie Holmes spotted picking up Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer in New York City on June 2.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Pete Wentz took a test drive of the new Mario Kart 8 for Wii U in Los Angeles, California on June 2.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Halle Berry attended the Huading Film Awards on June 1 at Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Los Angeles, California.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Kim Kardashian was seen at LAX on June 1 in Los Angeles, California.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Shailene Woodley was seen leaving the Bowery Hotel in New York City on June 1.

  • Celebrity Photos: June 2014

    Marion Cotillard spotted out and about with a friend in New York City on June 1.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Khloe Kardashian chatted away on her cell phone as she arrived on a red eye flight at JFK airport in New York on May 31.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Naomi Watts headed to the gym for a morning workout on May 30 in Brentwood, California

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Jane Lynch signed copies of her book "Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean" at the 2014 Bookexpo America at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on May 29 in New York City.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Taylor Schilling, Jason Biggs and Laura Prepon attended a photo call to launch season 2 of Netflix exclusive series "Orange Is The New Black" on May 29 in London.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Peter Facinelli and Jaimie Alexander shared a kiss after their work out at a gym in West Hollywood, California on May 29.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Mariah Carey at the 2014 Fresh Air Fund Honoring Our American Hero at Pier Sixty in New York City on May 29.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Farrah Abraham spotted posing for cameras in New York City on May 29.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Prince William and Kate Middleton visited Strathearn Community Campus in Crieff, Scotland on May 29.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    "The Bachelorette" Season 1 couple Trista and Ryan Sutter stopped to pose for the cameras while out and about in New York City on May 29.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at the Los Angeles premiere of "Maleficent" at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California on May 28.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Chris Martin and his band Coldplay perform live at the Casino de Paris on May 28 in Paris.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Hilary Duff stopped by a nail salon in Los Angeles, California on May 28.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Scott Disick spotted out and about with a friend in New York City on May 28.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Emily Blunt attended the premiere of "Edge Of Tomorrow" on May 28 in London.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Nina Dobrev wowed at the World Music Awards 2014 at Sporting Monte-Carlo on May 27.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Kristen Stewart departed on a flight at LAX airport in Los Angeles, California with her bodyguard on May 27.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Amanda Seyfried, Charlize Theron and Seth MacFarlane attended a photo call to promote "A Million Ways To Die In The West" on May 27 in London, England.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Jennifer Garner met a friend for lunch at Larchmont Bungalow in Los Angeles, California on May 27.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Tom Cruise attended "Edge Of Tomorrow" photocall at Terrazza Civita on May 27 in Rome, Italy.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Kaley Cuoco and her husband Ryan Sweeting attended Joel Silver's Annual Memorial Day Party at his home in Malibu, California on May 26.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Kris Jenner and baby North West left Florence Airport after Kim Kardashian And Kanye West's wedding on May 25 in Florence, Italy.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Emma Watson, in a cap and gown, attending Brown University’s 2014 Graduation Ceremony in Providence, Rhode Island on May 25.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Eva Longoria had a busy morning in Los Angeles, California on May 25.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Iggy Azalea arrived at The Bank nightclub at the Bellagio on May 24 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

  • Celebrity Photos: May 2014

    Supermodel Hilary Rhoda and her fiance former "DWTS" contestant Sean Avery celebrated Memorial Day with Tequila Don Julio cocktails from the Airstream speakeasy in the Hampton's on May 24.