Jake Owen Follows “Night” With “Days of Gold”

The affable star talks new music, fatherhood and wardrobe malfunctions.

Jake Owen performs at LP Field in Downtown Nashville on Sunday, June 9 during the 2013 CMA Music Festival.
John Russell/CMA

Sometimes it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road ahead of you when your rear-view mirror has such an awesome view. For Jake Owen, the past two years have seen his career skyrocket and his personal life fill with the kind of elation he’s never known before. So moving on to a new album and headlining tour is kind of like watching his baby daughter grow up—exciting, but bittersweet.

Country Weekly talked to the Florida native about his new music, which he’s already testing out on Jason Aldean’s Night Train Tour. Plus, we shared some laughs over the most embarrassing moment he’s ever had onstage and discussed why country music inspired him to share so much of his blissful home life with fans.

“Anywhere With You” is your fourth consecutive No. 1 hit. With as much as people love it, you didn’t see the controversy coming in a certain state, did you?
No! I saw someone on Twitter say something about that line [I’ll go anywhere / West Virginia baby, I don’t care], but I never thought twice about that when we recorded it. I’ve had people say, “Oh, you don’t even care if you have to go to West Virginia, huh? Is it that bad?” I’m like, “You are reading way too much into this!” This song just felt good and I wanted to play it in my truck, drive around and sing it for the rest of my life. There’s nothing against double-wides or West Virginia. If that’s where she wants to go, that’s where we’re going!

“Anywhere With You” is the final radio single from Barefoot Blue Jean Night. Given how the album really boosted your career, is it a little sad to move on to a new set of tunes now?
It is, definitely. It’s really flattering when I play songs like “Heaven” or “Journey of Your Life,” and people are singing every word. That means they’ve bought my record and are fans. With iTunes and Spotify, people can cherry-pick songs to make their own album. People don’t want the full record anymore. So these songs that didn’t make it on the radio, it’s good to hear that people know them. Still, I’m really looking forward to getting the new music out.

You’re in the middle of Jason Aldean’s Night Train Tour. What’s been the most surreal experience on the trip so far?
Playing Madison Square Garden was really cool and went by way too fast. Sometimes you have shows where things are going wrong and it seems like you’re up there forever, trying to fight your way out of it. And then there’s nights like Madison Square Garden . . . just the building itself and the history behind it, you really want to soak that in. I was playing on a barstool not that long ago. Ten years later, I’m playing a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden.

Playing with guys like Jason and Luke [Bryan], and then Miranda [Lambert] is joining at Fenway Park . . . These are the guys who are the new era of country music. When you look back at people who are the artists of their time, it will be them. To think I was a part of that country music history, it’s cool. It flows back into your music and what you leave behind.

Jake Owen at home with wife Lacey and daughter Olive Pearl in 2013
photos by Nicole Kopperud/Country Weekly

You’ve discovered a new talent on the road: taking great pictures. How did you become interested in photography?
I was looking on my hard drive the other night with my wife and I have thousands and thousands of photos. I didn’t realize how long I’d been doing this; I didn’t even realize it was a hobby. I have photos of me on radio tours back at the start, and I was this green, wide-eyed kid. And then I have photos from touring with guys like Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw—guys I idolize. I think it’s so important to document my experiences. It helps me remember how lucky I am.

Another talent you didn’t know you had is thinking on your feet. When your pants ripped onstage in Charleston, South Carolina, what went through your mind?
I’ve always been the guy you could throw in a room full of people I don’t know, and I can make friends. I never really feel uncomfortable. That was the only moment in my life that I felt uncomfortable. I stood there with my jeans ripped and my hands down there covering everything, and I’m staring at the crowd thinking, “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do! Do I run offstage? Do I play it off like it’s no big deal?” I stood there for what felt like 30 minutes and finally got the courage to run off and deal with it.

It was embarrassing, but at the same time it was a reality check. You can play a show full of music that people love, and you have their attention for a full hour. My wife has made me aware of how big of a responsibility putting on a show like that is. Well, it’s also your responsibility when your pants are wide open to know what to do!

So maybe you’ll take a seamstress with you on your headlining tour next year. Have you already started planning for it?
We’re in the middle of all that right now. We’ll pick supporting acts soon. But being a dad and a new husband . . . I have the worst attention deficit disorder ever, so when I have all these things going on, it’s hard to compartmentalize each thing. But I’m excited about it.

I’ve had a record deal since 2006 and have had all these hits on the radio. So at one point, I was thinking, “Why is my career not blossoming more?” A lot of people said, “Man, you just need that one hit that really connects with people and identifies who you are. That will move you forward.” And that’s what “Barefoot” did. It changed my career. Now I actually like the pressure of putting out a record and going on a headlining tour. I’ve waited my whole career to be a headliner, and that’s good pressure.

What can you tell us about your next album’s first single, which should hit country radio by early August?
It’s a happy song called “Days of Gold.” When I played it for my brother, he was like, “Dude, what are days of gold?” I said, “Are you kidding me? They’re the good times, the times we all remember!” Whether it’s hanging with friends or the sun beating down on your skin . . . You’ve heard songs with that same sentiment, but musically and production-wise, this song is really aggressive and different. I really wanted the first single to get people talking. The album will probably be named Days of Gold, too. Ever since Barefoot Blue Jean Night, these are the “Days of Gold” for me.

What’s the overall vibe of the new album?
There are a lot of feel-good songs on there, but you can’t just do one thing. I love that guys like Merle Haggard will do “Mama Tried” and “Sing Me Back Home,” but he also did “Rainbow Stew.” It’s about having an eclectic mix. On this record, there are songs that are way deeper. I was so lucky to be able to choose from great writers who help show another side of me. It’s not just about the fun, party songs. It’s important to have depth.

Jake Owen, fiance Lacey and Merle the dog in 2012
photo by Justin Wysong / Sony Music Nashville

Happy belated anniversary to you and your wife, Lacey! How did you celebrate your first year of marriage?
We went to the driving range and hit golf balls. [Laughs] I love playing golf, and it’s usually a solitary thing. But my wife said one day, “I’d like to play with you sometime.” So I bought her some golf clubs for our anniversary. We love to sneak away and play together, then have a little dinner afterwards.

You also just had your first Father’s Day. Your adorable daughter, Pearl, is about 7 months old now.
It was pretty awesome to celebrate my first Father’s Day. I have so many feelings now that I’ve never felt before. Now that I’m a dad, I get what everyone is talking about. My friends who have kids were like, “Dude, there’s nothing you can read; there’s no manual for having kids.” Where I am in my life, I’m really comfortable but I still felt scared. But once the baby got here, you’re in the hospital with random people all around you, seeing you in this crazy time that you’ve never experienced before. All of a sudden, they hand you this baby and they leave the room. It’s a feeling you’ll never feel ever again, and it’s so awesome.

A lot of celebrities like to keep their kids out of the public eye, but you share a lot of pictures of Pearl with your fans. Was there ever a question of whether or not you would do that?
I thought about that a lot before she was even born. My life is pretty exploited on a daily basis, but because our format is so genuine, so real, I want to be real, too. People already know about Pearl and care about her. So I like to share my life and let people know it’s real.

Marriage and fatherhood have changed your personal life 180 degrees, but how has your new family life changed your career?
Every day I feel like I’m working harder, because I have a responsibility to my wife and little girl. I want my little girl to watch my career grow and show her pictures of places she went with me.  Once you’ve toured with people who headline stadiums, you want the same for yourself and your family. I won’t be happy until I get to that point. It has encouraged me to work harder and then have the ability to take time off and watch my little girl grow up, because it’s most important to me to be a great dad.

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