Jake Owen says the road to country stardom has been full ofpotholes and detours, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
Owen, on his way to Plymouth, Ind., for the Marshall CountyBlueberry Festival, called to talk about his new album, marriedlife and his baby girl, Olive Pearl, born Thanksgiving Day. Owen isopening for Jason Aldean at Cruzan Amphitheatre on Saturday.
"I look at it as a blessing in a way," Owen says of the eight yearsof hard work since he moved to Nashville. "I think if I would havecome out of the box with a big huge number one hit, I would havehad no chance to learn what I needed to learn. Once I did get thatfirst number one, I had a foundation."
Owen, a native of Vero Beach who left FSU for a career inNashville, has been a presence on country radio since his firstsong, "Yee Haw," hit in 2006. The party anthem cracked the Top 20,a respectable debut, and the title cut, "Starting With Me," a songabout regrets and putting them behind you, did better. Some peopleare out of the box like fireworks, and others are methodical, likeOwen.
"Sometimes I look around at my peers and I look at what theirrecord sales are, who is doing what, not really who they are as aperson, but if somebody sells 'x' amount of records, I know that'sattainable. I should be able to do that or more. But, mostimportantly, it's measuring myself," he said.
"I just want to always better myself; I want to feel like I'mgrowing as not only a human being but as a person. That I'm pushingmy creativity further. When I left that barstool in Tallahassee,and made it up here to Nashville, I felt like I'd become moresuccessful. So I think my measure of success tends to grow eachday, and every day I learn a little more about myself."
Owen's music is a mix of songs about having a good time, love songsand songs that make him think.
"I have a very big respect for the music of '80s and '90s," Owensaid. "Especially songs that meant something. The songs that drewme into this format were songs that pulled at your heartstrings,like "Forever and Ever Amen" by Randy Travis, and George Jones' "HeStopped Loving Her Today." I still enjoy recording those kinds ofsongs.
"But I understand why the fun party songs work and why people wantto hear uptempo, rocking songs, but I think as an artist in thisformat, it's our responsibility to record (meaningful) songs too.Ballads don't necessarily get the respect they deserve because theydon't get played live and a lot of music is driven to the liveshow."
And Owen's fans proved they love his live show. A few weeks ago,Owen decided to throw a No. 1 party for his latest hit, "AnywhereWith You." Normally those parties are arranged and attended bymusic execs and radio people. This time, Owen decided that the fanswho had catapulted him to the head of the class should come too. Hesent out a tweet and posted the free show on Facebook, and 20,000fans showed up.
"If 100 people would have showed up, that would have been prettycool to me," Owen said. "Someone asked me once when I felt like I'dmade it and that goes back to sitting on that bar stool in collegewith a beer I got for free and a tip jar with maybe 20 or 30 bucksin it from playing cover songs that I would have played anyway,sitting on my couch in my college apartment. Except now I wasgetting paid for it and getting free beer and getting to do what Ilove; I felt like I'd made it at that point. And I'm the sameperson."
Owen's making progress professionally, and his personal life wentthrough some big changes in the last year as well.
He became a husband in May, 2012, and a father in November to OlivePearl Owen, and he owes it all to music, he says. He met LaceyBuchanan when she appeared in his music video for "Eight SecondRide," and says they both knew from the moment they met that theyhad a connection. But they were both dating other people so it wasmonths before he asked her to come back and appear on the video for"Barefoot Blue Jean Night." This time, they were both ready andavailable.
"My parents always told me when you meet someone you're meant to bewith you can't deny it," Owen said. "Every day I get to see theeffects my music is having on people. That sense of purpose is justone of the beautiful things music has brought me in my life. Now Ihave a wife and a daughter, and it's fulfilling."
email@example.com Twitter: @janisfontaine
IF YOU GO
Jason Aldean with Jake Owen and Thomas Rhett
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Cruzan Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansburys Way, West Palm Beach
Tickets: $25.50 to $55.25
Info: www.ticketmaster.com; 800-745-3000.
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