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Why Jake Owen Is Confident 'Homemade' Is 'Just the Beginning' of Another Career Hot Streak

Jake Owen
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for ACM

Jake Owen performs onstage at ACM: Stories, Songs & Stars: A Songwriter's Event Benefiting ACM Lifting Lives on April 5, 2019 in Las Vegas.

Almost exactly a year after Jake Owen signed with Big Loud Records in fall 2017, the country star heard a song called “Homemade” and immediately knew he had to record it. Now, it’s Owen’s eighth No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart.

“Homemade,” an evocative ode to the comforts of home (written by Ben Goldsmith, Bobby Pinson, Drew Parker and Jared Mullins), is the third single from Owen’s first album on Big Loud, 2019’s Greetings From… Jake. The lead single from the LP, “I Was Jack (You Were Diane),” earned Owen his seventh No. 1 in 2018, and the boot-stomping follow-up “Down to the Honkytonk” reached No. 7. Needless to say, switching labels has served Owen well so far.

“I was in a dark, angry place being over at that other label,” Owen tells Billboard (he was previously at RCA Nashville, with whom he signed in 2005). “To be on the other side of that and blossoming, [thinking] it worked out the way we all wanted it to, that is something that I'm really, really, really thankful for.”

Along with topping Country Airplay, “Homemade” is Owen’s highest-charting Billboard Hot 100 hit from Greetings, currently sitting at No. 39 (chart dated March 28). Owen chatted with Billboard about what his latest feat means to him -- and why he’s confident this No. 1 won’t be his last.

How did you come across “Homemade,” and what made you think, “This has to be my song”?

My friend Jared Mullins called me, and he goes, “Man, I just need to come out to your place and have a beer, talk to you about some things.” He didn't have a [record] deal at the time, and I wanted to help him, I just didn’t know that I was at a place to do that. The one thing that I said to him that night is, “Why don't you play me your best songs that you wish somebody would hear and cut.”

He played “Homemade,” and when he got to the chorus, I was like, “That's my life!” My mom made the greatest sweet tea ever growing up, so did my grandma. And I'm just a homemade guy: I have a twin brother, my parents have been married for 40 years. My grandparents are still married; that's why I depicted the whole video around my grandparents’ love story.

Why did you pick “Homemade” to be the third single as opposed to other Greetings From… Jake tracks?

We were actually going to release a song called “Drink All Day,” because it was going to be the summer months [when we sent it to radio]. “Homemade” wasn't something we'd been promoting, but the [streaming] numbers were just through the roof. You can't deny real-time numbers and people basically telling you what they like.

Here we are not only with another No. 1, but my buddy Jared, [who] was struggling at the time, he has his first number one. And my buddy [Ben] Goldsmith's a writer on it, he's never had a No. 1. Drew Parker, who’s on tour right now with Luke Combs, he's never had a No. 1.

It has to be cool for you to continue to have No. 1 hits yourself, but also get to help guys out that are still on the rise.

I really hope that's my legacy going forward: No matter where I was in my career, I was always trying to help other people. That's when I find I get the most pleasure, when one of my friends gets to benefit the same way I did. 

Back in 2011, I was headlining the CMT tour, they asked me who I wanted to take on tour. I was like, “I want to take this group called Florida Georgia Line out -- they don't even have a record deal yet, but they're going to be huge.” I took them out, I had to lease them some lights. And I remember taking them on my boat and making them jump in the freezing cold river in Nashville, just to see if we could get them 5,000 followers on Twitter. Isn’t that crazy? And now to think what those guys have done. Those are the things that I hang my hat on.

I noticed that the second and third singles from your last album, American Love, only peaked in the top 40 of the country airplay chart. And now all three singles off of Greetings have gone top 10, including two No. 1s. What do you think happened that allowed you to get your groove back, so to speak?

I mean, it's not about thinking what happened, I know what happened: I didn't have the support system at Sony from the new regime that came in, and if you feel like you’re not getting taken care of, then you need to make a change. We found a great home at Big Loud Records. [Big Loud co-founder] Joey Moi produced my first No. 1, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” and [co-founder] Seth England would send me the greatest songs before I was at their label. I knew these guys were going to get behind me. The people they have there -- their radio team, their songwriters -- it's like they have pride and a chip on their shoulder, too. They want to prove to everybody, “You guys messed up by letting Jake go.” 

“Homemade” is your first charting single of 2020, meaning you now have hits in three consecutive decades. How have you achieved such longevity?

In my early years, I [had] the same manager as Kenny Chesney, and he kind of took me under his wing. Kenny told me, “Just put out good songs, and stay on the radio. They're not going to always go No. 1, but if you put out the best song that you know, whether you wrote it or not, you just put the best song out there. That's what will keep your career going.” I always took that to heart.

[Kenny] said it took him 12 years before people took him seriously as an artist. He said, “All that time I was doing nothing different than I'm doing right now. I was working just as hard as I work now, but I was kinda sneaking up on people and they didn't see me coming.” I feel like that now, like I'm just about to hit a really good stride of mounting these No. 1 singles back to back to back. This is my eighth No. 1, but I'm far from done. This is just the beginning.

A version of this article originally appeared in the March 28, 2020 issue of Billboard.

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