Jake Owen Gets Funky for Babies

Country’s king of chill raises money for newborns in need.

photo by Ivor Karabatkovic

Four days ago, Jake Owen wrapped up a 10-month tour with Jason Aldean. Five weeks from now, he’ll release his fourth album, Days of Gold, his first as a leading man of modern country music. And sometime in early 2014, he’ll hit the road again, this time headlining his own arena shows.

In other words, it’s been a busy year.

Last night (Oct. 29) at the Loveless Barn, though, Jake smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. “The Aldean tour is over,” he explained from backstage, “and I have some time right now to give back. So that’s why I’m here. As a musician and as a father, that’s why I’m doing this.”

He was talking about Rock the Cradle, an annual charity event aimed at raising money for newborns at Nashville hospitals. Last year, Ronnie Milsap provided the entertainment. This year, Jake—a dad himself to daughter Olive Pearl—stepped up to the plate, crooning and wisecracking his way through a loose, stripped-down set for a roomful of donors.

“I don’t know what we’re gonna play,” he admitted a few minutes before showtime. “We were out all year with Jason Aldean. We had an hour-long set, and we couldn’t really change things up. Every night, it was ‘lights, camera, action.’ But with these acoustic events . . . we just break it down, dude. We get funky. We’ll do some new songs, and I think there’s a lot of people here tonight who are old-school Nashvillians, and they’ll appreciate some of my respect for classic country. I wanna play some classic stuff tonight. You never know, though. I might pull out some Snoop Dogg. It depends on what the crowd’s like.”

For better or worse, he didn’t wind up playing any Snoop Dogg. His six-piece band did tackle Conway Twitty’s “Crazy in Love,” though, sandwiching the song between an improvised tune about the Loveless Cafe’s blackberry jam and a fiery version of Jake’s own hit “Days of Gold.” Jake even took a minute to direct everyone’s attention to Jaren Johnston, co-writer of “Days of Gold,” who was seated up front and sporting a baseball cap.

“Jaren’s publisher didn’t tell him to take off his hat at a nice dinner party,” he joked, “so I’m gonna do it for him.”

The barefoot blue jean boy giving someone else fashion advice? Jake really must’ve been feeling charitable.

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