Detroit's Downtown Hoedown has a history of showcasing future country music superstars -- including Garth Brooks, the Judds, the Dixie Chicks, Rascal Flatts and many others before they broke big.
Jake Owen isn't one of them, however.
The Florida-born comes to his first Hoedown as a bona fide headliner, riding the wave of three Top 10 albums -- including the 2011 chart-topper "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" -- and eight Top 20 country singles. But he acknowledges that the Hoedown is a notch his been missing from his belt in the seven years since he signed his recording contract.
"I've been offered a few times but couldn't 'cause of my scheduling," says Owen, 31. "I'm excited about (the Hoedown). It's one of those rite of passage kinda shows I've never been album to do. This is going to be fun."
This weekend's stop finds Owen straddling a line between his present and the future. "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" is still going strong, after all; Owen recently released a fourth single form the set, "Anywhere With You," a rare achievement that he's not taking lightly.
"When I heard it the first time, I thought it felt awesome," Owen -- who also released Top 10 EP. "Endless Summer," in 2012 -- says of the song, which was written by Ben Hayslip, David Lee Murphy and Jimmy Yeary. "The minute it came on the speakers I wanted to get in my jeep and put the top down and just roll, let the wind blow through my face and hair. That's what I dig, man. I like a song that makes me feel good."
"I've been real fortunate. The first three singles off this (album) went No. 1, and we were debating on whether to release a fourth or put out new music. I have so many great songs on this record we decided to put out (the fourth single). We figured after three No. 1's in a row, we had some momentum going and people would want to hear what's next."
What's really next, however, is Owen's fourth album, which he says he's "in the middle of almost wrapping up." A first single is slated for July, while the album itself is planned for December.
"It's kind of the same thing I do, man -- just feel-good, good-time, good-feeling songs that make you feel something," says Owen, who's again working with producer Joey Moi and "a crazy mix" of sonwgwriters who have been contributing material to him.
"I wrote everything on my first two albums, and on 'Barefoot' I pretty much chose a lot of stuff I liked, whether I wrote it or not, and that's what I'm doing on this (new) record," Owen explains. "I've been fortunate with songwriters giving me great songs. It's hard to turn down awesome songs by other people.
"Most of the songs I recorded are songs I found from outside, in fact. I'm not at the point where I care anymore if I wrote 'em or not. It's really about the song, now who writes it."
Owen plans to be "hitting it pretty hard" in the studio in order to finish the album during the summer and he's previewing some of the new material live, including songs such as "Beachin'," which Owen describes as "a 'Barefoot Blue Jean' sister track," and "Days of Gold," which he says may be the album's title. Owen has plenty of live work lined up as well, including an opening stint for Jason Aldean, but he's looking forward to getting some new music out and maintaining the impressive roll he's on.
"This is my eighth year of touring on a tour bus and playing shows and shows and shows," Owen notes. "When it starts paying off and people start seeing you've put a lot of time and effort an growth into what you're doing, you get a lot more respect and things start happening.
"So, God, I've got to tell you it feels good now to be at a place in my life where people are paying attention and out there crankin' my tunes and using them to have a good time. That's pretty special."
The 31st Annual WYCD Downtown Hoedown takes place Friday through Sunday, May 31-June 2, outside Comerica Park, 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Headliners include Jake Owen, Uncle Kracker, Joe Nichols, Phil Vassar, Craig Morgan and Drake White. Individual day tickets are $20; a portion goes to the charity Defeat The Label. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.wycd.cbslocal.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to