The much-anticipated new album American Love represents the best of Jake Owen both musically and personally, and that’s because the project is the result of a soul-searching journey that led him to explore the meaning of life and music. While recording the album, he ventured down some enticing new musical paths, but eventually decided to return home to his Florida-inspired roots, embracing the unique sound for which he is popular. Personally, he worked through the pain and healing of a divorce and renewed his commitment to what really matters in life–hope, optimism and the power of love. American Love is a new beginning for Owen, who has become a beacon of positive vibes through his uplifting lyrics and melodies, optimism, love of the beach and his youthful spontaneity. This begins the exciting new chapter in his award-winning career that has earned five number one hits– “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” “Beachin,” “The One That Got Away,” “Alone with You” and “Anywhere with You.” “This record has been very enlightening because I found myself through the songs. I got back to basics with American Love,” he says of the project co-produced by award-winning songwriters and producers Shane McAnally and Ross Copperman with three tracks co-produced Lukas Bracewell and Owen, “This is me, this is what I want to say and this is what I want people to remember me for. These songs promote positivity and love.
“There are a lot of things on this record that have been said before, but it is the feeling of the songs, the sonic nature of them and the lyrics that will make it different than what people have heard before. I feel a real connection to these songs.” The debut single, “American Country Love Song,” is emerging as this year’s summer anthem. It perfectly captures the anticipation, freedom and hope that is brought on the feeling of summer. The song describes “a couple of kids living that American country love song,” but it’s a much larger celebration of the universal love story that is America itself. “It’s the thought of, ‘Hey, let’s raise our glasses to the fact that we are all one in the same,’” Owen says. “We are basically living one big American country love song.”
All of the songs on American Love have the common thread of wanting to feel happy and peaceful and accepting the need to move on with life. The title track takes the Vero Beach, Fla., native back to some of the best years of his life– those butterfly-inducing high school dates. “It captures that freedom of young love that keeps showing its face in my music. He drops his girlfriend off and wonders, ‘Should I kiss her?’ As you get older, you get so jaded by little things that happen that you forget what it feels like to be excited by what is next. I gravitate to songs that give me that feeling of excitement.” That youthful feeling of freedom and excitement continues on “After Midnight.” “The song says, ‘If nothing good happens after midnight, why did it always feel so good?’” he says. “I think everyone has thought about that at some point in their life.”
“Everybody Dies Young” embraces Owen’s philosophy of seizing the moment, noting that whether you are 18, 45 or 91, “while we are here, this is our moment in the sun.” He’s joined by Grammy-awardwinning songwriter Hillary Lindsey singing on the romantic “Where I Am” and “When You Love Someone,” which is perhaps the best showcase of his impressive vocal abilities of his career. And what a career it has been. This year marks Owen’s tenth anniversary, a track record that is increasingly becoming a rarity in today’s popular music landscape. Since releasing his debut album on RCA Records in 2006, Startin’ with Me, he has become one of today’s most popular male country singers for his irresistible melodies, smooth vocals and laid-back attitude.
His second album, 2009’s Easy Does It, contained the singles “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You” and “Eight Second Ride” and led to him receiving the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Male Vocalist Award. He landed his first No. 1 hit (and double platinum-selling single) with the title track of his third studio album, Barefoot Blue Jean Night, in 2011. That album also produced three more No. 1s—the platinum-selling “Alone with You,” the gold-selling “The One That Got Away,” and “Anywhere with You.” With the success of that album, he won Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the 2012 American Country Awards.
His fourth studio album, Days of Gold, was released in 2014 and contained the No. 1 hit “Beachin.” Along the way, he toured with artists including Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Little Big Town and Sugarland. “When you look at my first album, I am the same in the kind of guy that I am and the kind of songs that I love,” he says. “But I am different in the sense that I know who I am now, as opposed to who I was on my first album. I was 24-years-old and just excited to have a record deal and be on tour with Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn. I don’t think I put as much emphasis on what my music meant.
Now, it isn’t just about making music anymore; it is about recording songs that mean not only a lot to me, but to my fans, who are expecting a lot of me. I have put a lot of thought into each of these songs and why they hit me the way they do and why I get excited when it comes up next on my set list. This is music I am honestly fired up to play for people. I don’t ever want to lose that excitement in my music.“ When he began working on his fifth album, he initially felt compelled to attempt to make what he thought would be a cooler, hipper sound, as evidenced by the song “Real Life,” which was released to radio. However, he soon discovered that cool and trendy aren’t what matters; authenticity and truth are.
“There is no reason to break the mold of what brought me to the party,” he explains. “What brought me to the party is what I do. Anytime I try to do something that isn’t me, it hasn’t worked so well. When I do what is the most comfortable and natural, it has done well.” That’s why he has been truthful about the fact that the last few years haven’t always been easy for the good-time guru. He launched his first headlining tour and reach new career heights, got married and had a daughter, Pearl. But then, his father received a cancer diagnosis, he went through a divorce and the head of his record label was fired.
“I couldn’t pretend like bad things weren’t happening because everybody knew and I’m pretty transparent,” he says. “For the 90 minutes that I got to be on stage performing, I got a lot of pleasure and relief and escape from all of the things that were going on in my life. It was therapy for me. Music heals and not just for the fans and listeners. Most artists will tell you that the reason we became artists is because we need the healing process in our lives. I’m learning that others relate to what you are going through, coming to terms with the fact that life didn’t turn out the way you planned.”
During some of his dark times, he was inspired by a quote that said, “Be kind and gentle and loving to everyone because everyone is fighting their own kind of battle.” He says, “You can feel sorry for yourself, but everybody has something they are going through. Music truly seems to be the one thing that is the healing factor in a lot of people’s lives. I will always be grateful for music, whether I’m performing or listening.”