Janis Fontaine

Jake Owen’s road from Tallahassee to Nashville
By Janis Fontaine - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Jake Owen says the road to country stardom has been full of potholes and detours, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Owen, on his way to Plymouth, Ind., for the Marshall County Blueberry Festival, called to talk about his new album, married life and his baby girl, Olive Pearl, born Thanksgiving Day. Owen is opening for Jason Aldean at Cruzan Amphitheatre on Saturday.

“I look at it as a blessing in a way,” Owen says of the eight years of hard work since he moved to Nashville. “I think if I would have come out of the box with a big huge number one hit, I would have had no chance to learn what I needed to learn. Once I did get that first number one, I had a foundation.”

Owen, a native of Vero Beach who left FSU for a career in Nashville, has been a presence on country radio since his first song, “Yee Haw,” hit in 2006. The party anthem cracked the Top 20, a respectable debut, and the title cut, “Starting With Me,” a song about regrets and putting them behind you, did better. Some people are out of the box like fireworks, and others are methodical, like Owen.

“Sometimes I look around at my peers and I look at what their record sales are, who is doing what, not really who they are as a person, but if somebody sells ‘x’ amount of records, I know that’s attainable. I should be able to do that or more. But, most importantly, it’s measuring myself,” he said.

“I just want to always better myself; I want to feel like I’m growing as not only a human being but as a person. That I’m pushing my creativity further. When I left that barstool in Tallahassee, and made it up here to Nashville, I felt like I’d become more successful. So I think my measure of success tends to grow each day, and every day I learn a little more about myself.”

Owen’s music is a mix of songs about having a good time, love songs and songs that make him think.

“I have a very big respect for the music of ’80s and ’90s,” Owen said. “Especially songs that meant something. The songs that drew me into this format were songs that pulled at your heartstrings, like “Forever and Ever Amen” by Randy Travis, and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” I still enjoy recording those kinds of songs.

“But I understand why the fun party songs work and why people want to hear uptempo, rocking songs, but I think as an artist in this format, it’s our responsibility to record (meaningful) songs too. Ballads don’t necessarily get the respect they deserve because they don’t get played live and a lot of music is driven to the live show.”

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, “Anywhere With You.” Normally those parties are arranged and attended by music execs and radio people. This time, Owen decided that the fans who had catapulted him to the head of the class should come too. He sent out a tweet and posted the free show on Facebook, and 20,000 fans showed up.

“If 100 people would have showed up, that would have been pretty cool to me,” Owen said. “Someone asked me once when I felt like I’d made it and that goes back to sitting on that bar stool in college with a beer I got for free and a tip jar with maybe 20 or 30 bucks in it from playing cover songs that I would have played anyway, sitting on my couch in my college apartment. Except now I was getting paid for it and getting free beer and getting to do what I love; I felt like I’d made it at that point. And I’m the same person.”

Owen’s making progress professionally, and his personal life went through some big changes in the last year as well.

He became a husband in May, 2012, and a father in November to Olive Pearl Owen, and he owes it all to music, he says. He met Lacey Buchanan when she appeared in his music video for “Eight Second Ride,” and says they both knew from the moment they met that they had a connection. But they were both dating other people so it was months before he asked her to come back and appear on the video for “Barefoot Blue Jean Night.” This time, they were both ready and available.

“My parents always told me when you meet someone you’re meant to be with you can’t deny it,” Owen said. “Every day I get to see the effects my music is having on people. That sense of purpose is just one of the beautiful things music has brought me in my life. Now I have a wife and a daughter, and it’s fulfilling.”

Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013