Jake Owen

Jake Owen

Sara Kauss

After a winter that could be called downright brutal in many parts of the United States, Jake Owen is glad that spring is here -- and summer is just around the corner.

“Anytime the sun is shining, I feel pretty comfortable,” he tells Billboard in an exclusive interview to announce his partnership with Discover Boating, the boating awareness campaign powered by the North American recreational boating industry. Owen says he’s worked with them before, and it’s definitely a great fit.

“It’s a pretty awesome partnership for me, being a guy who has grown up on the water all my life,” he said. “I remember being on the boat since the time I was a little kid. Working with them on the past couple of tours has worked out perfectly. They’re a great company that encourages the boating lifestyle and works with a lot of boating companies and marinas. It’s great. Each town we play, there are people from the marinas coming out. It’s just spreading the word about the boating lifestyle, and with that being so near and dear to my heart, it feels like a fitting partnership.”

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When asked about some of his earliest memories on the water, the platinum-selling superstar didn’t hesitate. “More than anything, there was that feeling of freedom as a kid,” he recalled. “I remember when I was 12 years old, my brother and I got this boat that my dad got us for Christmas. I remember being able to come home from school, hop in the boat, and fly around the river in Florida and go fishing. It taught me a feeling of independence that I’ll never forget.”

Has that affection trickled down to his daughter yet? He says he’s working on it. “Pearl will be 3 in November. We had her out on the boat last weekend. We haven’t put her in skis on the water yet, but I can tell by the way she watches Dad, that she’s excited about getting out there,” he says.                                

As part of the association with Discover Boating, Owen will be featured in a Stories of Discovery documentary, a behind-the-scenes look at why boating is a meaningful part of his life and an influence on his music. Fans will be able to watch the video before his appearances this summer with Kenny Chesney on the singer’s Big Revival tour.

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“That was really cool,” Owen says. “There’s a guy named Justin featured on the video who lost a leg, but he still gets out there and finds a way to wakeboard. That’s really neat to me. There’s something about boating that gives you a feeling of being free, and letting go. I think that’s what people use getting on a boat for -- as a release, and for healing. It’s relaxing, and I think there’s a therapy that goes along with boating, and being able to tell those stories through Discover Boating is going to be pretty cool.”

Since the release of his debut single, “Yee Haw,” back in 2006, Owen has earned one of the most devoted fanbases in the country genre -- with well over 1.6 million followers on Facebook and Twitter. "I think that with all the ways that we are able to connect with people out there, you’d be crazy not to take advantage of it. I grew up loving to see people smile and happy. I think that’s what makes me an entertainer. Being able to make someone’s day by replying to something or wishing them a happy birthday that they might not be expecting -- or invite some folks out to a restaurant to hang out, it means the world to them. And, to the ones that couldn’t make it who see that it was happening, they appreciate it as well.”

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Owen is currently putting the final touches on his fifth disc for RCA, set for release later this year. Shane McAnally is co-producing the project. “Shane is an amazing songwriter and has done some great records like Kacey Musgraves. I enjoy working with him and Ross Copperman. We’ve got some exciting things up our sleeve. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and to be still passionate about making music is something I’m very proud of.” The set’s first single will be out in just a few weeks.

As of late, the singer has been in the news for a definite change of style -- in terms of hair. After having long hair since his debut, Owen recently adopted a shorter ‘do, which got a lot of attention. “That was kind of wild. I never imagined that cutting my hair would create such a stir. I like it, so that’s all that really matters. Well, my mom said she likes it. I just thought it was time to take it off. I feel good. It’s summertime, and a little less hair means it’s not as hot. I’m good with that. It’s funny to watch people spend that much time thinking or commenting about someone’s hair, but I got them talking, so that’s a good thing.”