Jake Owen became a star so quickly that he didnt have time to memorize any Country Music Rule Book which made it that much easier to toss it out the window.
Guided by sheer musical instinct, a drive for self-improvement and a willingness to experiment, the singer-songwriter has crafted Barefoot Blue Jean Night. as one of the most innovative and refreshing country collections of the year. The CDs title tune is already exploding as the biggest hit of Owens career to date.
"I never wanted to be the guy that did everything the way youre supposed to do it," says the candid and outgoing music maker. "And that led me to make this record, which I think really represents who I am more than anything I've ever recorded. If nothing else happens after this, I can honestly say that I did the absolute best that I can do. Ive never felt this good about music, or anything in my career, as I do right now."
His buoyant optimism is justified. Barefoot Blue Jean Night brims with vocal self-confidence and a superbly chosen stack of songs. The pumping energy in such country rockers as "Anywhere with You," "Apple Pie Moonshine," "The One That Got Away" and "Nobody Feelin No Pain" contrasts dramatically with the feverish thumper "Wide Awake" or the crunchy, edgy and atmospheric "Alone with You."
"Keepin it Country" is a Jake Owen statement of purpose. "Heaven" is a smiling, seductive come-on. On the other hand, theres the touching, lovely and philosophical acoustic ballad "The Journey of Your Life." The frothing power, cascading rhythm and head-to-the-sky vocal shout of "Settin the World on Fire" mark it as a blue-chip, blue-collar rocker. And what more can be said of "Barefoot Blue Jean Night," surely the most joyous Southern celebration on disc today?
All of these sounds mean a new beginning for the hit maker. Jake has previously enjoyed major-league success with such performances as 2006s "Startin with Me," 2008s "Dont Think I Cant Love You," and 2009s "Eight Second Ride." His revival of "Life in a Northern Town" with Sugarland and Little Big Town in 2008 earned him Grammy and CMA Award nominations. Owen was named 2009s Top New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music. But nothing, he says, compares to the impact his new music is making.
"Everything is amazing right now. I have other artists, song publishers, promotion reps, people at other record labels coming up to me and saying, Jake, I really like your new song. Were pulling for you, dude. That validates everything Ive ever done up to this point. Now, I have people cheering for me and that is an awesome feeling."
In 2005, Jake went from performing in Florida bars to moving to Nashville and within months he had a Music Row song-publishing contract. Less than a year later, he was signed by RCA Records and was on the charts with his first two singles, "Yee Haw" and "Startin with Me." He went from being a speck in a stadium crowd at a Kenny Chesney concert to opening shows for the superstar. Then Brad Paisley took him on the road as Owen scored his third hit, 2007s "Something About a Woman." In 2008, Owen opened shows for Sugarland and this year, Keith Urban asked Jake to be his touring partner on the Get Closer 2011 World tour.
"I would say I have had a pretty great life," he admits. "As far as me struggling in Nashville, I cant say that I did that. A lot of singer/songwriters come to town and play all the honky-tonks and bars, hoping to meet someone and worrying and struggling. Mines not that story.
"For a long time, I tried not to really tell my story, because I felt like everybody thought, Look at this lucky kid. So Ive always been a little hesitant to talk about that, even to be a little ashamed of it.
"Then I started thinking. This is my story. This is what I did so I should be proud, not ashamed. Yes, I feel like I was very, very fortunate but I am also extremely grateful that everything happened the way it did. I truly believe that everything always works out the way it is supposed to."