A beaming Jake Owen gathered hundreds of friends and business associates into the trendy Nashville restaurant Cabana on Tuesday afternoon to toast his No. 1 single, "Alone With You."
Everyone stood shoulder to shoulder, including the ever-growing cluster of industry insiders accepting and presenting numerous awards, cups and plaques. Although Owen was the biggest star in the room, most of the attention was showered upon the song's writers -- JT Harding, Catt Gravitt and Shane McAnally. With Harding, Gravitt and McAnally representing each of Nashville's three prominent performing rights organizations (BMI, SESAC and ASCAP, respectively), it felt like the city's entire music publishing community showed up to share the love and, if they could get to it, an open bar.
Onstage, Owen and the songwriters teased each other with private remarks, causing lots of whispering, blushing and teasing. Yet at times, Gravitt and McAnally welled up with tears. And when it was his turn to speak publicly, Owen drew on his own relationships in Nashville.
"I want to say first of all, it took a while to get here. It took a lot of people to help me get here. A lot of them are in this room. I'm looking around, and I can't believe to see you guys sitting out here. I really appreciate all the support over all the years," he noted.
Giving a shout-out to his band and road manager, Owen added, "When we got a No. 1 song, we had been working on this for a while. So it's not just me that goes home and lays his head down at night and smiles. Every guy in my band realizes the future for us. It's an amazing feeling."
He also praised former Sony Music Nashville A&R executive Renee Bell, who brought the song to him two and a-half years ago, as well as his producers, Joey Moi and Rodney Clawson. More kinds words were sent to the RCA promotion staff who "plugged away at radio and fought to the death every single day to get this thing played," Owen said.
"I'm just at a place in life that I feel comfortable with who I am and what I'm saying and my truth," he said. "I have an amazing, beautiful wife. ... I didn't really tell her what we were doing today. I was like, 'I have to go to this party thing.' And that's why I think I married her -- none of this matters. She loves me for me. We walked in, and she was like, 'What is this? What's going on?'"
All in all, the acceptance speeches took about 45 minutes to get through, although Owen's remarks were among the shortest of the day.
"There have been a lot of people that have been in my life for a long time, and I don't get to see you guys enough on a daily basis, but I can't thank you enough," he concluded. "Just to see your face here means the world to me and I really appreciate it. Every person on the stage that made this possible ... you're allowing me to have a pretty awesome life. And everybody else out there that sings along, they're loving it, as well. Thanks to all y'all. I really appreciate it."