Jake Owen previewed tracks from his upcoming fifth album aboard his tricked-out ski boat Tuesday, showing that even though he’s experimenting with new sounds, it’s not like he’ll never sing about the beach again.
Famous for hits like “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and “Beachin’,” Owen recently released the decidedly Nineties rock-influenced “Real Life” as the yet untitled album’s debut single.
“It’s like if you paint a picture and it’s a sunset scene, why paint another sunset scene the next time?” Owen tells Rolling Stone Country. “Do something a little different, because you can always go back and paint the sunset again.”
During the trip up and down Nashville’s stretch of the Cumberland River — which also helped showcase Owen’s commitment to the boating lifestyle and the Discover Boating organization — the Florida native revealed that his new album starts off with “We Call It Music.” It’s an aptly titled heavy rocker (with a few well-placed metal screams) that explains exactly how he feels about the endless debate over what is and is not “country.”
Another song, “LAX,” is a clever modern-country-meets-R&B track, turning the airport code for Los Angeles’s major hub into a steel-guitar wielding steamer about an ex-girlfriend in the City of Angels. “Put a Song in Your Pocket,” meanwhile, evokes “All About That Bass” with an old-school bass line and a bouncy “hey hey hey” refrain. Owen says it’s already daughter Pearl’s favorite.
“None of them sound anything like each other,” he says proudly of the songs.
Still, there are others that lead back to the sand and Owen’s sunset painting metaphor, including a full-bodied mid-tempo track with the on-the-nose title “We Went to the Beach.”
While Owen admits he tried to avoid beach-themed songs on the new album, he says this one spoke to him so much that he “had to give in.” Taking a nostalgic point of view, the tune follows a group of friends who grow up near the water and reunite there every year.
And then there’s “Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian,” a John Prine cover featuring surf-rock steel guitar and a laid-back groove.
“I didn’t put any songs on this record other than ‘We Went to the Beach’ that say anything about the beach,” Owen says, “but there are songs in there that sonically feel like the beach. They feel like something you’d play if you were sitting there.”
So the album does boast a bold new musical direction — that’s just not all there is. Owen says Dierks Bentley gave him some good advice in that regard.
“He was like ‘Jake, you have a lifestyle to your music and that whole beach thing. You own it because you’re from there and it’s believable,'” Owen recalls. “He’s like, ‘Don’t ever worry about that and get too far away from that, because that’s what you do, that’s what people love you for.’ And he’s got a really good point about that.”
Owen is currently on the road with Kenny Chesney on the Big Revival Tour. He’ll play Canandaigua, New York, on July 8th.