By all appearances, Jake Owen is an easygoing guy. That much was obvious from the moment he appeared on the country charts in 2006 with his debut single, “Yee Haw.” Plus, you have to roll with the flow when you’re suddenly crisscrossing the country as an opening act for the likes of Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.
The friendly Florida native returns with Tuesday’s (Feb. 24) release of a new album, Easy Does It, which includes his current hit, “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You.” In this interview with CMT.com, Owen, 27, explains why his friends can’t handle bus trips, where he goes for live music in Nashville and how he’s educating new country fans about his heroes.
CMT: You sound very relaxed on this album. Can you trace that back to having the luxury of recording in a home studio?
Owen: I totally think so. We did it at my producer’s house. Yeah, I think the luxury of being able to take our time and do it at our own speed definitely was something that made this record come across as more laidback than maybe something where I would’ve felt a little more “at work” or something. This just felt like I was making music and loving it.
How much time did you have to make that first album?
Well, I got a record deal in October, and the record was out by June. But we had about two months to record it, and we recorded it actually in two days, whereas this record was put together over a few months. Any time you get to make a record, it’s a really creative experience. I wish I could give that opportunity to a lot of people to see what it feels like.
How fast did you acclimate to life on the road?
I think it was pretty quickly. I’ve got friends of mine that I’ve tried to bring out on the road before and hang out for a few days, and they weren’t digging bus life too much.
I think you can get kind of carsick — I guess you would say “bus sick” on a bus — because it’s rolling down the road. If you’re not looking out the window and you just feel the bus bumping along, moving back and forth, that might get to you a little bit. I think part of it has to do with to the fact that there are 11 guys living in a 52-foot bus. That’s a lot of dudes.
What’s a typical night for you in Nashville when you’re in town?
I like to eat to really well, so I’ll go to a nice dinner somewhere. I’ve found a few restaurants in town that I’m really fond of recently. I may go to a movie. Every now and then I’ll cruise down to Broadway and go to Robert’s Western World to see some good old country music. But I pretty much lay low. I just like to take it easy. For me, I really enjoy just sitting at the house, playing with my dog and not really going anywhere.
I like Robert’s, too. When you say “old country,” it’s like ’50s and ’60s stuff.
Yeah, it’s ’40s, ’50s, ’60s. You know, a lot of Marty Robbins, Ernest Tubb, a lot of stuff that like that. I love hearing that as opposed to where a lot of the other bars on Broadway have really gone towards playing modern country covers. … I’d rather go hear something like (sings) “Out in the West Texas town of El Paso … .” Brazilbilly [a Nashville-based band] plays there, and the Don Kelley Band plays there at Robert’s. I highly recommend anybody that’s never been to Nashville to go. You hear a lot about Tootsie’s, which is a great place, and Legends Corner, but I think you truly get the full experience of seeing traditional country music at Robert’s.
I think the first song on your album, “Tell Me,” has an “El Paso” feel to it.
Yeah, it’s got a Western feel to it. That’s the thing with this new record. I really wanted to make a sound that takes you some place when you listen to it. Whether it’s a happy mood or a dark mood, I think that it’s really important to create a sound.
If you listen to my record, there are a lot of ’70s influences on it. Eddie Rabbitt and Waylon, I just love that sound. I love that era, love the honesty of the music. I love the different artists of the time. Waylon is completely different than Rabbitt. They were around somewhat of the same era, but Waylon obviously made it a little before that. I just like paying tribute to the people that I look up to.
For new listeners who don’t know much about that era of country music, do you have any advice on how to educate themselves?
Right now there are people getting into basketball that love to play basketball, but it’s the players that they look up to, like Kobe Bryant, that they’ll say, “Hey, where did you learn to play basketball?” “Well, from watching Michael Jordan.” You tend to find them through others, I think. And that’s my job. That’s what I try to do. That’s why I wear those T-shirts and why I try to promote those guys. If people like my music that are just getting into country, I want them to know where I draw from. The same way when a child goes to school, one of their main classes is taking American history. You need to know what got you to where you are now and the people that laid their lives down on the line. It’s the same way for music and the people that paved the way for us to be here now.