With an opening slot on Keith Urban's Get Closer tour and a hot single in hand, Jake Owen is well-primed for the Aug. 29 release of his third RCA album, "Barefoot Blue Jean Night," out today (Aug. 30).
"It's a huge platform for me to launch from," Owen says of the lead single, which is also the album's title track and currently sits at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100. "'Barefoot and Blue Jean Night' is really the driving force behind all of this. I've never had a gold record before and we're almost up to around 700,000 downloads on the single. I'm hoping that it will be around platinum by the time the record comes out."
Written by Dylan Altman, Terry Sawchuk and Capitol Records newcomer Eric Paslay, "Barefoot and Blue Jean Night" signals a different approach for Owen, who wrote or co-wrote everything on his first two albums -- 2006's "Startin' With Me" and 2009's "Easy Does It," which peaked at No. 2 on the Top Country Albums chart.
Video: "Barefoot and Blue Jean Night," Jake Owen
"I really wanted to sit back this time around and find songs and take that pressure off of having to write," says Owen, who only wrote on one song on the new album, "The One That Got Away," which he penned with Dallas Davidson and Jimmy Ritchey. "I realized, too, that I wasn't using the tools that this town gives you with all these amazing songwriters. By recording all of these outside songs, people feel like they have a vested interest and they are pulling for me. I don't know if I had that before because I was keeping everything in-house."
"Barefoot Blue Jean Night" also finds Owen working with a new set of producers. Gone is Jimmy Ritchey, who produced Owen's first two albums and who Owen credits with helping him get a deal. In come Tony Brown (George Strait, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill), songwriter Rodney Clawson (Strait's "I Saw God Today," Big & Rich's "Lost in This Moment" and Jason Aldean's "Amarillo Sky," "Johnny Cash" and "Crazy Town") and Joey Moi (Nickelback, Hinder).
"It was really hard for me to venture away from Jimmy Ritchey," says Owen, a Vero Beach, Fla., native who took up guitar while recovering from shoulder surgery following a wake boarding accident in college. "My whole life has been going with my gut instinct. My gut told me to drop out of college and move to Nashville. It was the same feeling I got when I felt like I might need to move on and find someone else to help me speak my truth."
Sony Music Nashville CEO Gary Overton says that once again, Owen's gut steered him right. "The producers did such a wonderful job of capturing Jake's voice," Overton says. "I'm very, very happy with this record, and for him to be out in front of Keith Urban right now, it's a perfect crowd. He's done a phenomenal job and the reaction is wonderful. We're selling 65,000 downloads of the single every week."
Owen has also taken advantage of social media, especially Twitter, to develop a strong rapport with his fans. In the past, he's used Twitter to spontaneously invite Nashville fans to ride on his boat and extend a free dinner offer to one lucky Dallas fan.
"I'll say, 'Hey, I'm going to be at this bar, if anyone wants to come and join me,'" Owen says of his tweets. "Someone will walk in and you can tell they are looking at you like, "Holy cow! He is here.' I've had more and more people tell me, 'Jake, you need to have some sort of mystique and mysteriousness to you.' I've never had that. I like being in the bar with people having beers. I don't want to be the guy hiding on the bus."