Eight years into his career, Jake Owen seems poised to earn country music's most sacred status: Household name.
In that time, many artists have come, gone and flown by night. Owen, in fact, barely scratched the surface of success with his early singles, "Yee Haw" and "Startin' With Me," catchy enough singles that nevertheless bore a certain generic Nashville stamp.
The ruggedly handsome 30-year-old native of Vero Beach, Fla. broke ahead of the hat pack around this time in 2011, when his third album, Barefoot Blue Jean Night, entered the Billboard County Albums chart at Number One.
The title song and "Alone With You" each spent multiple weeks at the top of the singles chart, and went platinum and gold, respectively.
The tour that brings Owen to the Savannah Civic Center Nov. 10 is his first as a headliner, after many a trip around the States as somebody's opening act. Many of the shows have been sellouts.
The day we spoke on the phone, "The One That Got Away" was in the Top Ten with a bullet, zeroing in on Number One.
In May, Owen married his girlfriend, model Lacey Buchannan, in a sunrise ceremony on Vero Beach. The couple's first child is due in two weeks (it's a girl, they've announced, and they plan to name her Pearl).
Two weeks! It has been a good year for Jake Owen.
It took a while. Did you wonder if this day was ever going to come?
Jake Owen: I don't think you can think like that; you have to appreciate everything as it happens. Yeah, I used to sit at award shows and wish, you know, "I'd like to do that." But there's nothing you can do about it. All I can do about it is do what I've been doing - treating people well, making great music and putting on the best show I can. And letting all those things take me to where I need to be. I read this thing a while ago that stuck in my mind, about how the world's plans are indifferent to all mice and men. And if everybody would just approach each day as a surfer does a wave, all their needs would be eventually satisfied.
So I just kind of ride every day's wave wherever it takes me, and I'll paddle back out, dude, and hop on the next one. I've been fortunate with a lot of the rides I've been on recently, but I'm gonna keep on paddling.
Do you get back to Vero Beach at all?
Jake Owen: I'd like to every now and then, but life's really changed for me. It's real hard for me to go back to Vero now. There's a lot of people there that are very, very proud of what I've done. And then there's also the other side of it, as well. Someone told me a long time ago that would happen, and I never believed it.
Do you mean there are people stalking your parents?
Jake Owen: Oh, yeah. It's something that I wasn't ready for, but I don't think my family realized it either. Everybody's very proud, my brother, my sister, my mom and dad, but when it got to where they were going out to eat and people would come up to them, and all they want to do is talk about me ... I realized that I kind of put something on my family that I never intended to.
I still love my hometown, it's so great to me. I go back there every year - I'll go back in December and do my charity event - but I try to pick my times to go back there.
Is it all what you thought it would be, now that you have it?
Jake Owen: It's more, and it's more fulfilling than I ever thought it could be. First and foremost, outside of the music, this career has brought me some of the greatest friends I've ever made in my life. With guys that travel with me on my bus, that have seen the same things that I've seen, that understand what I'm going through - because they're going through it as well. It's brought me a beautiful wife that's giving me a beautiful child. It's brought me a great life and the ability to afford a nice home. And things that I enjoy doing, I can now just pick up and go do. There's a lot of very big, awesome perks to this, and they far outweigh the small, minute things that may tend to sometimes get frustrating.
What's it like when you get your first Number One single?
Jake Owen: I think it's not so much the Number One single as three in a row. With all due respect to all the artists who are out there on the charts, who well deserve the things they've got. Because it's very hard to get a record deal, and it's even harder to keep one. It's even harder to get on the radio to reach the public so they can hear what it is you're doing and saying. They have many options.
But I speak the truth: Any label can spend an exorbitant amount of money to shove songs down people's throats, and push them to the top of the charts. I've seen it happen for artists.
People figure that out; just because that person got to the top of the charts doesn't mean that person, all of a sudden, is a superstar. I had songs four or five years ago that got to Number Two that I still play in my set, like "Don't Think I Don't Love You," which is a great song.
But at the time, people still weren't sure what I was, or who I am. To them, I was just a song on the radio that a dude was singing. They didn't buy into me, they bought into the song. Once I kept working and established my identity and my brand, to where people knew what they were getting when they heard my song, It wasn't just "Oh, I like that song," it was "Hey, this is Jake Owen's new song."
Having one Number One song was pretty cool. That meant that I hit my stride. When that happened I said to myself "Now it's time to work harder and get another one. And then another one." To have three Number Ones in a row, that means to me that we're starting to do it. That we've made a name for ourselves.
Do you ever find songwriting and performing has become just a job?
Jake Owen: My dad always said if you find something you love to do, you'll never feel like you're working. So I don't feel like that. Honestly, I wake up every day and I look forward to soundcheck. Like "How soon can we start plugging our instruments in and play?" And after that, my tour manager telling me to go offstage because they've got to open the doors. I can't wait until the show starts.
This is eight years into my career, and it's just what I like to do. It'd rather do this than sit behind a desk and deal with people's complaining. That's not to put down anyone's profession, but I'm just lucky enough to do a job where I can be creative and make something up out of nothing. And then present it to people. It's pretty awesome to get paid for creativity.
With Love & Theft, Florida Georgia Line
Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave.
When: At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10
Tickets: $25-$30 at etix.com