When Michael Ray and Carly Pearce tied the knot on Oct. 6, 2019, they persuaded Jake Owen to play wedding singer for the day.
Owen delivered “Made for You,” a ballad contained in his album Greetings From… Jake, for the couple’s first dance. The song was not a single at the time, but Owen recognized the moment as another confirmation of something he already felt: “Made for You” was special.
“They’re both artists. They could choose any song. He could have sang his song to his wife,” he notes. “But for some reason, Michael heard me play that at a songwriter’s round and he related to it so much. He said, ‘We’ve been trying to find a song for our wedding. Will you please do this for us?’ And he’s one of many people that have asked for this song.”
Owen asked for it, too, when he received an email from Mojo Music song plugger Courtney Crist. She didn’t know him, but she thought “Made for You” suited him, and he agreed with that assessment on that first listen. Once he claimed it, Owen began playing it fairly often during his live shows, eager to share it with the fan base.
“Each line — ‘Water towers are made for hearts and names/Friday nights are made for football games’ — is really powerful, and it hits everybody in a unique way,” says Owen. “And everyone has somebody that they feel like they were made for.”
Owen heard it exactly as intended. Songwriter Benjy Davis (“Break It In”) had toyed with a descending guitar melody for several months, and on May 24, 2017 — the night before a writing session in Nashville’s Berry Hill neighborhood — he started to attach some words to it.
“I was just thinking like, ‘This was made for that, and I was made for you,’ ” he says. In fact, he conceived those “water towers” and “football games” lines before his writing appointment, and when he presented them along with “Made for You” as the title, his co-writers — Joey Hyde (“Later On”) and Neil Medley — were all in on a song with a simple, straight-forward message.
“When you read the title, ‘Made for You,’ the first way it could be written that pops in your head is the way we wrote it,” says Hyde. “There’s no smoke and mirrors, there’s no surprise in the hook. We put the surprises in the lines leading up to it.”
Still, as each “This was made for that” sequence arrived — “Early curfews are made for sneakin’ past/Two a.m. was made for pissed-off dads” — the verses built a storyline. The first two stanzas captured a high-school romance, while verses three and four followed the singer past graduation into more adult scenarios. Davis seemed to feed the bulk of those lines.
“Benjy definitely saw the light through the trees,” observes Hyde. “It felt like all three of us were really on that day, and for me, a big part of being on that day was just continuing to say, ‘Hell, yeah, Benjy. Keep going, dude.’ ”
They were mostly finished with verse three before they addressed a chorus. Hyde and Medley took the lead in fashioning a section that transitions from “This was made for that” life moments into a more poetic approach: “Like a ship without a sea/Or a song without a melody.” But the chorus cements the verses’ sentiment, ending with that same pledge: “I was made for you.”
By the time verse three was completed, the song’s biggest surprise emerged. After a line about young love in a back seat, Davis served up a whopper: “Two pink lines are made for growin’ up.” It’s a clear reference to a pregnancy test, and that development also becomes a test for the relationship.
The opening lines to the last stanza, “Tiny shoes are made for tiny feet/My two arms are made for where you sleep,” suggest the couple passed the test. They can be taken as sign that Dad is holding his little one or that there’s a crib in the house and he’s spooning his wife.
“We tried to keep it as open to interpretation as possible,” says Davis.
The writers felt good about the song when they left the office, though around 11 p.m. that night, he reconvened on the phone with his co-writers to smooth out a couple more issues.
“That rings a bell with every song I write with Benjy,” notes Hyde. “Me and him are both tinkerers, but late night is when he tinkers. Like he’ll be at the bar hanging out at midnight, and he’ll be texting me, ‘Hey, on verse two, it needs to be more this kind of thing.’ ”
When the demo made its way to Owen’s email, he related to it on a personal level as a father who sees some of his own history in a new light. “I love the line about ‘Two a.m. was made for pissed-off dads,’ ” he says. “I was a kid growing up who would piss off a dad because I probably brought his daughter home too late, and I’m going to be a pissed-off dad one day soon when my beautiful little girl will grow up and some kid brings her home late.”
Owen performed “Made for You” at shows for roughly a year before he recorded it at Ocean Way Studios, just across the street from Big Loud. The demo — featuring Davis, a guitar and light percussion — provided a sparse outline. Producer Joey Moi (Florida Georgia Line, Morgan Wallen) similarly gave it a light touch, using only a handful of instruments to frame the guitar pattern at the song’s musical core.
“If you just get out of the way and not hype a track up, it makes people listen to the vocal,” reasons Moi. “The lyric is so good and deep on it that it doesn’t need any additional layering or distraction or any additional hooks. You just need to hear that vocal and hear the story of the song.”
Owen gives it the appropriate vocal treatment. He sings each of those “This was made for that” lines as if he’s a third-person narrator, then turns to the audience at the end of each section to address it face-to-face: “I was made for you.” He wrapped his vocal performance in just a handful of takes.
“When he’s passionate with a song, he will sing it like nobody else, and he was deeply passionate about this one from day one,” says Moi. “This was kind of one of those [where] you just hit Record and let him sing.”
“Made for You” got plenty of attention before it was a single. In addition to the Ray/Pearce wedding performance, Owen delivered it on an episode of ABC’s The Bachelorette that aired in June 2019. Numerous fans also have made videos that used it as background music on social media. Big Loud released it to terrestrial radio via PlayMPE on April 14.
“It kind of is coming at a very timely moment, with everything going on in the world and people really realizing how important it is to be there for people,” he says.
And Owen hopes that when “Made for You” completes its run that it will bring major attention to its songwriters on the awards circuit. After all, making a universal, big-picture statement out of a series of small images is an accomplishment.
“Songs like ‘Made for You’ stand up as a song-of-the-year type song,” he says. “We’re all really excited about it, and we’ll see where it goes.”