When Shane Owens released his debut album Where I'm Comin' From last year, he knew one of the tracks would resonate especially around the patriotic holidays: his latest single, the ballad "19."
Written by Jeffrey Steele, Tom Hambridge and Gary Nicholson, the song chronicles an all-American boy's decision to enlist in the service – where he eventually, as Owens says, "pays the ultimate sacrifice."
"It was influenced by the Pat Tillman story. Jeffrey was thinking of Pat Tillman, who left the NFL to go fight for our country and was killed in friendly fire, when he wrote it," says the Alabama native, who cites the singing style of Randy Travis as a chief influence. "Like many people that hear it for the first time, I wiped a tear from my eye."
And those emotions only intensified when he began receiving letters from families who lost sons and daughters in combat. "I get messages daily about how the song affects them and what it means to them. Even those who actually lost a 19-year-old son at war," he says.
A Gold Star widow living in Germany shared her own story, sending Owens a lengthy note thanking him for recording "19" and shining a light on the selflessness of those who enlist. "As a person living overseas in a U.S. Army community and the widow of a fallen soldier, I have daily reminders of the fine folks who serve and the families who sacrifice everyday in the service of our nation and her people," wrote Nickayla Myers-Garner. "Your song reminds the high percentage of other Americans, who sometimes don't have the daily reminder, to remember and be thankful."
Owens, who regularly performs for servicemen and women at Fort Rucker in his home state, admits to being taken aback when he received the praise.
"I'm just a singer – they're the real heroes," he says. "But it's a wonderful song and it's the right message for Veterans Day."
One of Rolling Stone Country's artists you need to know, Owens is currently on the road. He'll perform a special Veterans Day show on November 11th in Medina, Ohio.