Life's changed a lot the last couple years for Jake Owen. He scored his first No. 1 single, got married, and had his first child all within 18 months of his 30th birthday. Now he's readying a follow-up to 2011's very successful Barefoot Blue Jean Night.
So is this new life going to change a guy whose country-rock tales typically involve chasing women, drinking, and "keepin' it country"? You can't imagine how often he's been asked that exact same question lately.
"'Oh, so you're going to start writing about babies and little girls?'" Owens says from a tour stop in Tulsa. "No, I'm going to keep doing what I do. I've always been real about my music and with how I feel at the time and what the message is I want to portray."
He adds, "Right now, it's definitely not all about babies. We're only five months in so I'm still learning. I'm sure it will come out in my music at some point."
These days, Owen has modified his tour bus to accommodate his family, so he's actually never far from home. "It's definitely weird, but my wife and my little girl are out here with me and I still feel like me. It's not changed me at all," he says. "I stay really grounded out here, and it's great. I'm looking at my little girl right now, just chilling out. It's pretty cool."
Owen grew up in Vero Beach, Fla., and for a while he seemed destined to play golf for a living. He won tournaments as a teen, was on the golf team at Florida State, and had his life mapped out when he suffered a career-ending shoulder injury while waterskiing. Depressed, he borrowed a guitar from a neighbor and wiled away the hours learning classic country songs by Waylon, Merle, and Johnny.
This led to a gig at a bar near campus, and ultimately to Nashville. There he met fellow songwriters Jimmy Ritchey and Chuck Jones. Together they co-wrote the song "Ghosts," a tale told from perspective of a recovering alcoholic and the specter of all he's lost."That's kind of what helped me get the ball rolling a little bit," says Owen. Kenny Chesney considered covering the song, but ultimately chose not to. However, that coulda-been moment got Music City's attention. "[Chesney's] interest in that song in turn gave people an interest in me because they didn't know who I was," he adds.
Owen signed with RCA Records in 2005 and released his debut, Startin' with Me a year later. After that, he supported big name acts like Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Alan Jackson, and Brooks & Dunn. He followed with 2009's Easy Does It, which debuted at No. 2 on the album charts, and then with Barefoot Blue Jean Night, which produced three No. 1 singles — the title track, "Alone With You," and "The One That Got Away."
"When 'Barefoot Blue Jean Night' went to No. 1, that got the ball rolling for me pretty well and changed a lot of things for me. Since then we've followed that No. 1 with three others. That's a big stepping stone in your career when you can start putting those things back-to-back like that," Owen says.
He's been working for the last eight months with hit-making producer Tony Brown (George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire) on a new record. Brown also produced Barefoot Blue Jean Night.
"We had pretty good success with that one. So we'll stick with what works," Owen says. "There's a lot of differences [between the two albums], but the quality of the songs is the same. They're great songs that will help with my live show and my branding — the whole 'who I am' and 'where I'm from.' There's a lot of great songs and I'm looking forward to people hearing it."