Jason Aldean is finally speaking out about the controversy surrounding pictures that surfaced online last year depicting him in blackface.

The superstar took intense criticism after pictures of his Halloween costume were published online in 2015. Aldean wore a bandana, sunglasses, chains, dreadlocks and dark makeup, and a representative for the singer confirmed his identity in the photo, telling the Guardian that Aldean was dressed as rapper Lil Wayne.

Aldean addresses the uproar that resulted for the first time in a new interview with Billboard, saying that he found the costume in a store and asked his wife, Brittany Kerr, to paint his face so they could hang out with friends and he could go unrecognized.

“In this day and age people are so sensitive that no matter what you do, somebody is going to make a big deal out of it,” he says. “Me doing that had zero malicious intent … I get that race is a touchy subject, but not everybody is that way. Media tends to make a big deal out of things. If that was disrespectful to anyone, I by all means apologize. That was never my intention. It never crossed my mind.”

Aldean is a native of Georgia, and the title song of his new album, They Don’t Know, addresses what he feels are misperceptions about the rural south. The song’s message resonated with him.

“Don’t talk down about things you’ve never experienced. I’ve traveled the world, and you go to a place like Los Angeles and people assume you just sit around on a hay bale and live in a trailer,” he explains. “Whenever the south is portrayed in a movie, it’s seldom flattering. It’s a song I could relate to.”