Golfing career detours into country music

Jake Owen always dreamed he would succeed in a high-profile job in which he would be adored by the masses.

The affable entertainer, who will perform Saturday at the Wichita River Festival, is well on his way to accomplishing those goals. But he's not taking the route that he imagined.

Owen, 28, thought that he would become a golf star or at least a professional since he won a number of tournaments as a teen. However, a waterskiing accident that damaged his shoulder during his late teens derailed his plans.

A new career landed in his lap, literally. While convalescing in 2001, Owen grabbed a guitar and found that he couldn't put it down.

"I never dreamed that I could make a career out of it (playing music)," Owen said. "Picking up the guitar after my surgery was something I did to pass the time. Then I realized that girls liked guys who played the guitar, so I started playing in clubs around Florida State, where I went to college."

Owen discovered that playing music was natural for him.

"It was pretty clear early on that singing and writing was what I was supposed to be doing because I love it so much," he said. "Even if I never made a penny, music was what I was going to do forever."

Just a half semester short of earning his English and political science degree, Owen dropped out of Florida State University to carve out a career as a country recording artist and writer in Nashville.

Within months, he received a break, albeit an unlikely one. "I gave a demo of mine to a lady who was setting up my checking account," Owen said. "She gave it to someone and I got a call from RCA Records. You just never know who people might know in Nashville. I carried a demo CD and I just got lucky."

Owen signed a deal at 24. His debut disc, 2006's "Startin' With Me," became a hit thanks to the infectious single "Yee Haw."

While on tour in support of the disc, he was tabbed to open for country superstar Kenny Chesney. That's when he caught the big stage bug.

"I want to headline stadiums," Owen said. "I really respect Kenny Chesney's career not only because he is one of the only acts in music who can headline a stadium, he has remained true to who he is."

As Owen has climbed the ladder, his music hasn't changed. His latest album, "Easy Does It," is cut from the same cloth as "Startin' With Me." It's another collection of earnest, personal songs from Owen.

"I can't sing songs that I can't relate to or believe it myself," Owen said. "I have to know what something is like to sing about it. That's why there's a connection with my two albums and everything I've done so far."

If you go

jake owen

What: Up-and-coming country singer/songwriter in concert with opening acts David Holland Band and Annie Up

Where: West Bank Stage

When: Owen performs at 8:15 p.m. Saturday. Gates open at 3 and the concert begins at 4.

How much: $10 plus a festival button