Following up an album that produced four No. 1 singles might make some artists a little nervous. Jake Owen isn’t one of them.
“If anything it made me excited to make a new record, because I knew I had people’s attention,” says Owen, whose new RCA release, “Days of Gold,” arrives Dec. 3. “Sometimes you put a lot of pressure on yourself to re-create something that you know people are going to buy and enjoy. But at this point in my life I’m very confident of where I am and how hard I’ve worked to get here. I built an audience that enjoys what I do, so it’s important for me to put out the best songs possible.”
Owen has had a lot of practice doing just that. He signed with RCA in 2006 and debuted with the single “Yee Haw,” which peaked at No. 16 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, and followed up with the No. 6 hit “Startin’ With Me,” both from “Startin’ With Me,” which reached No. 8 on Top Country Albums and has sold 416,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Sophomore set “Easy Does It” (2009) peaked at No. 2 and has sold 218,000.
Then came 2011’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” which debuted at No. 1 on Top Country Albums and spawned four chart-topping singles — the title track, “Alone With You,” “The One That Got Away” and “Anywhere With You.” (Owen also released an EP, “Endless Summer,” in 2012, which bowed at No. 2.)
Now, on “Days of Gold,” with production from frequent collaborator (and Florida Georgia Line producer) Joey Moi, Owen has crafted a 12-song set that he describes as “a little journey through a bunch of emotions. People see me as a guy from Florida that does fun songs, which is a great thing. I’m happy to have that little niche in the format, but with this album I want to make sure that it isn’t the only thing I’m known for.”
Owen went through some major life changes and struggles in the last few years. He got married in May 2012 and now has a daughter, and his father successfully fought a battle with cancer last year. Material like that would fuel most songwriters, but Owen, who’s penned his own songs in the past, didn’t write any of “Days of Gold.”
“I said, ‘I don’t care if I wrote it. I’m going to pick the best songs,” he says. “When I picked these songs, they had to relate to me and my life in some way or another. I’ve been through a lot.”
“Life of the Party,” for example, is “about a guy who is pretending to be happy to fool people into thinking he’s just fine,” Owen says. “Meanwhile there’s a lot going on in his life. There were so many nights out on the road that I was thinking about my dad being in the Mayo Clinic. I’d be rocking the crowd, everybody singing along to my songs, but I was thinking about my dad. I don’t want to be out there, all happy-go-lucky all the time, but you have to. Songs like that are really reflective of my life.”
“Jake is all about connection and making people feel good,” Sony Music Nashville senior VP Paul Barnabee says. “He wants to throw a party, but also provide fans with important songs that mean something.”
Owen has a reputation for taking audience interaction to a higher level, often tweeting for fans to meet him for pizza and beer. He’s even invited fans on his tour bus to hear the new album. “He genuinely wants to get to know the fans and have a good time with them — those things are authentic to Jake,” Barnabee says. “There’s no one at the label or management telling him to do those things.”
During street week, Owen is set to do radio and print interviews as well as appear on “Good Morning America” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Meanwhile, the label is pushing lead single “Days of Gold,” which is No. 15 on the Country Airplay chart, and an iTunes pre-order that provides a variety of instant-gratification tracks. “Fans don’t have to wait until street date to get all the music,” Barnabee says. “They can purchase it now and get a chance to preview the different sides of the album.”
Next up on Owen’s agenda is another big tour, and then an old-school “Don Williams-sounding” record. “I headlined the CMT tour last year, which was a big deal for me,” Owen says. “I’ve never really been in a hurry. I wanted to make sure all my ducks were in a row, but I’m ready though. I put together a lot of hits, so we’re ready to go out there and do this.”