Right before Jake Owen took the stage at Chicago’s Windy City Smokeout on Friday (July 14), he told me the next time he tours, it might be a very stripped-down kind of show.
“Just me and a guitar and stories and no set list,” Owen said. “Just wherever the night leads me, then that’s where I’ll go.”
Owen’s Smokeout show was packed with his big hits and summertime anthems and full of the kind of energy the fans needed to close out the first night of the country music festival. But Owen knows that that’s only one way to entertain.
“Some of my fans don’t know me other than ’Beachin” and ’Barefoot Blue Jean Night.’ And it’s important to me to show fans the other side of me,” he said. “I have a fond respect and such reverence for classic country.”
To prove his point, Owen invited newcomer Jackie Lee onto his bus during our interview, pulled out an old guitar, and together they sang songwriter Whitey Shafer’s “I Never Go Around Mirrors,” a Lefty Frizzell hit later recorded by Merle Haggard.
“That is what I used to do,” he said of his first gigs when he’d play for whatever tips accumulated in the jar after playing classic country songs from Haggard, Don Williams, Vern Gosdin and others. And Owen thinks it would be cool to go back to that once in a while.
“It’s special to give people something they can’t get somewhere else,” he said, “and to go back to what made you who you are.”