Jake Owen did not grow up working in the corn fields or driving through country roads.
The fast-rising country star spent his youth walking barefoot on Vero Beach in Florida, wakeboarding and playing golf. He’s not a cowboy. But he doesn’t apologize for what some might call a nontraditional country background.
“If I was to record a song like (Jason Aldean’s) ‘Big Green Tractor,’ it just wouldn’t make sense for me,” Owen said in a recent phone interview. “I don’t really know or care what other people think. … I spent a lot of time building what I have right now. I just write about what I know. I think that is the beauty of country music.”
Owen not only refuses to apologize for his beach boy persona, he embraces it. One of Owen’s latest singles, “Beachin’,” is an anthem to hot sand and sunshine, the staples of his hometown. He also points to the fact that he probably doesn’t need a Southern accent to resonate with country fans.
“Chicago is the largest country music market in the country,” Owen said. “I think people tend to recognize and are kind of drawn toward people who are real and sing about what they know about.”
Owen said his music, especially in his latest album, “Days of Gold,” is about the moments that make life worthwhile.
“It’s the times we all remember,” Owen said. “It’s the times with friends and family.”
For Owen, those days kicked off years ago while he was driving through Nashville in his new truck.
Owen heard his own voice singing his first big hit, “Yeehaw,” and looked down at the dash to see his name in neon letters.
“I took a picture of it,” he said.
To preserve similar moments, Owen said he keeps an “old school” Leica camera while on tour.
“Right now is kind of a pretty golden time for me,” he said.
Owen comes to Hartman Arena on Sunday still riding the waves made by his latest album, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” which scored four consecutive No. 1 hits with songs like “Alone With You,” “The One That Got Away” and “Anywhere With You.”
While his career has no doubt been a whirlwind in the last several years, the 32-year-old country pro bristles a little when asked about his quick rise to stardom.
“It’s kind of funny when people say that,” said Owen, who got a record deal almost immediately after he moved to Nashville from Florida. “I had a record deal for seven years. … Some of these young whipper-snappers are getting No. 1 songs with their first songs of the week.”
Owen said waiting for his breakthrough was a good thing – he had seven years to build a foundation that he hopes will support a lifelong career.
“If it wasn’t for all the years of working at it, I wouldn’t be appreciative of all these things I have now,” he said.