Interview: Jake Owen Reintroduces Himself on New Album, ‘Greetings From … Jake’
For the past two and a half years, Jake Owen has been busy. Following the release of 2016's American Love, fans didn't hear from the country singer, musically speaking, for a while -- because he was signing to his new label, Big Loud Records, judging the TV singing competition Real Country, making a home with girlfriend Erica Hartlein (with whom he's now expecting a baby), acting in a movie and working on a new record. Silence no more, though, as that record is out now.
Greetings From ... Jake is a reintroduction from Owen, and signifies the new direction in which his career is headed. His smiling face graces a tropical postcard-inspired album cover, a sort of hello from this new side of his life. Produced by Joey Moi, the man behind Owen's breakthrough album Barefoot Blue Jean Night, it's his most country record yet while still paying homage to his Florida roots.
For the project, Owen enlisted guests including Kid Rock, Venezuelan-American actress, model and singer Lele Pons and an all-star cast of co-writers. Overall, it's a feel-good record, chock full of summertime day-drinking anthems and positivity, every song sounding as though it could be a radio single.
"I believe any time in an artist’s career when they put an album out, it’s a different point in their life," Owen tells The Boot. "For me, the last time I put an album out was two or three years ago. I was at a way different point in my life than I am now.
"To me, our careers and our lives, whether we play music or not, is a bit of a journey," he continues. "Throughout that journey, it’s nice to check in with people from time to time, and the purpose for that [album] cover, for me, was kind of like ... 'Hey, I’m in this really awesome new place in life: new label, back with my producer I worked with on Barefoot Blue Jean Night,' which was an epic record for me."
Owen took his time on Greetings, and the proof is in the pudding. It's personal, vulnerable, true to brand and, like the title of the sixth track on the album, homemade.
"This time around, I did take my time. I told everyone [at Big Loud] when I came to make this record, let’s just not put a precedent on when the record comes out, but how it sounds, how quality it is. Let’s just take our time and put these songs out when we can," Owen says. "It feels good to be able to finally put this album out because it was something that we took our time, and now we all feel, walking forward, this is it, this is right."
It felt right because Owen approached the making of this album with intention: Using the lessons he learned over the past few years, he says he was able to "work backward this time around." By releasing songs when they were ready, he ended up with more radio success, including a No. 1 hit in "I Was Jack (You Were Diane)," than if the timing had been forced.
"You learn a little bit every time you make a record. I think if I learned anything the most, [it's that] it’s a business. People have their deadlines that they need to meet. If you never set those deadlines and those boundaries, then they get blurred and it’ll never happen," Owen says. "So I think what I’ve learned over all these years is, understanding that there is gonna come a time to turn the record in, so you better have your mind right as far as to what you wanna do before you’re backing yourself into the corner."
Owen went in with goals. That determination paid off with an ACM Awards nomination for Single of the Year, for Greetings From ... Jake's opening track, "Down to the Honkytonk." While Owen says he's finally at a place where he's content with his career, some intentions run deeper than the business side.
"I had goals, especially, just to get back on the radar of folks in this town that know that what we’re doing is taking it seriously and working hard. When it comes down to the fans ... I just wanna give them music that they expect to hear from me," Owen says. "Goals for me, really, were more personal, being super happy with this piece of work I made in a place in my life where I have a lot of great things going on."
When choosing which songs to cut for Greetings, Owen focused largely on building a cohesive storyline. He wanted to balance classic country sounds and songs laced with pedal steel based on the momentum from "Down to the Honkytonk," but still give fans the familiar music that made his career with tracks such as "Señorita" and "Drink All Day." The record has an A side / B side element to it: Halfway through listening, Owen says, "You kind of start dipping your toes in the water a little bit."
"I may not go down in the hall of fame, but I’m gonna enjoy my life. I’m gonna enjoy it for what it is."
The credit for that goes to Moi. Though Owen was the first country artist for whom Moi produced, back in 2011, he now has credits with everyone from Nickelback to Florida Georgia Line. Being back with Moi, for Owen, was a golden ticket to getting back on top.
"It’s really amazing [and] it’s really frustrating at the same time to work with Joey. That’s what makes it great, because when you have two people that completely agree on anything that are in business together, you never challenge each other to take the next step or the risk. When I left to go work with other people is kind of when I had some ebbs and flows -- ebbs more than flows," Owen says. "It’s like having a friggin’ magic wand sometimes. He just has a knack for making music sound better than it sounded than when you originally conceptualized it."
While catering to Owen's sonic senses, Moi also produced commercially appealing singles -- so many, in fact, that Owen hasn't chosen which one to put out next.
"That’s why I love working with Joey. He likes and understands recording music because it can just be an album song," Owen says. "He also will always question that: 'Why? Why don’t we just fill this album with singles that can be on the radio?'"
Greetings From ... Jake is a magic formula made from all of the components that led Owen to this point in his career so far. When all was said and done, he was proud to lie this completed record down on the table and walk away with a product he feels is a good representation of himself musically. He now has the stability to take some time off touring to be a father to the new baby coming in May and his 6-year-old daughter Pearl. While there's likely plenty in store for Owen after this career re-ignition, he's basking in the moment for now, and sending some of that peacefulness along to fans with this record.
"With music, I’ve always liked songs that seem to empower happiness," Owen says. "I may not go down in the hall of fame, but I’m gonna enjoy my life. I’m gonna enjoy it for what it is."
All of Jake Owen's Singles, Ranked