Jake Owen’s New Normal After Route 91

Refusing to Let the “What Ifs” Take Over

If you look at a calendar, you’ll see that it’s been almost a year since the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. And yet, in some ways, it feels like it just happened last night.

It was that unthinkable that not a day goes by that we all don’t think about it.

And Jake Owen told me he thinks about it every time he looks around a venue he’s about to play and wonders, “What if?”

“I played a show in El Paso, Texas less than four days after Vegas,” Owen said. “and my first thought was, ‘I’ve never walked into a venue I was playing, seen buildings around it, and thought, man, there could be a guy in those buildings shooting at us tonight.’ I even walked in here today and thought, ‘There are a lot of people here, and there are rooftops all around us.'”

“No matter what we do, someone can create their own world of destruction,” he said, recalling the 58 people who were killed and the hundreds who were wounded when gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on the festival from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay on Oct. 1, 2017.

It’s tragic that it’s come to this, but Owen also feels a responsibility to his fans. He owes it to them to not let the “what ifs” in his head keep him from performing.

“These people are here to have a good time and it’s up to us to give it to them and not be scared,” he said. “So that’s what we’ve done since then. The fans are not going to let someone deter them from having a good time. The same way us artists aren’t going to let someone deter us from having a good time. I think we all have that special bond together, and we’ll never forget the way it felt and how that night changed our perception of the way we appreciate our freedom.”

At the end of the day, Owen said, he has to keep living his life and singing his songs. “And the fans are gonna keep coming to shows,” he said.

Owen’s next stop is in Missouri on Saturday night (Aug. 4).

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.