Luke Bryan says Jason Aldean's terrifying experience at the tragic Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas earlier this month has given him "a whole new level of perspective" on life.
Speaking with ET's Sophie Schillaci on the red carpet at the CMT Artists of the Year celebration at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Wednesday, Bryan reflected on how it felt to see Aldean and his band mates for the first time since the horrific mass shooting.
"[Tonight] is the first time I've gotten to see some of his band members and it's funny, you kinda hug them a little longer now," Bryan shared. "It's an eye-opening thing."
Bryan said that Aldean showed him some photos he took in the aftermath the shooting, and he was shocked at how close Aldean and his band mates came to being seriously hurt, or worse.
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"He showed me some pictures [of] their equipment and the stage, and until you see all that, you don't realize how close they were to, you know, even being one of the injured," Bryan said.
Aldean was performing as the closing act at the open-air music festival on the evening of Oct. 1, when a gunman opened fire on the crowd from the window of a hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, across the street.
The shocking massacre claimed the lives of 58 people, while nearly 500 others were injured in the attack.
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"It’s been an eye-opening experience for, heck, the world, and music and country music," Bryan said. "It puts a whole new level of perspective on everything going forward."
Bryan, who was also named a CMT Artist of the Year at Wednesday's event, introduced Aldean, who was the night's final honoree. Bryan praised the "Dirt Road Anthem" singer's resilience following the mass shooting.
"It could have been any one of us standing on that stage in Las Vegas two weeks ago," a somber Bryan said during the show. "It's a nightmare that nobody should have had to face. Jason Aldean has responded with dignity, care, respect, and in some ways, defiance. And we are all proud of him, especially me."
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Bryan's speech elicited a standing ovation from the audience. Aldean attended the event with his pregnant wife, Brittany Aldean, who was also at the music festival during the shooting. With his wife's encouragement, Aldean graciously stood and waved to show his appreciation for the audience's support.
"We're both Georgia boys who met here in Nashville and came up together in the business," Bryan continued in his introduction. "Along the way, we've become great friends, so trust me when I tell you that the examples he sets as an artist are an inspiration."
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Aldean took the stage to close out the show and was joined by Keith Urban, Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town to help pay tribute to the late Tom Petty with a cover of his iconic hit "I Won't Back Down."
Check out their touching rendition of the beloved tune in the video below.