A year ago, new music from Jake Owen sounded a lot like the pop-funk flare up, “Real Life.” But that single’s chart life proved short and fans didn’t hear anything else until he dropped “American Country Love Song,” a sharp pivot back toward the music from earlier in his decade-long career, this spring. In the months after “Real Life” stalled, he’d started over—and when the 34-year-old releases his fifth LP this summer, it won’t be the collection he originally intended to put out.
“I was at a different place when I was making that record,” he tells EW of ditching the material. “I was still married, and all of the sudden that ended, and I had to find a way to feel good again.” (Owen and his wife of three years, Lacey Buchanan, split up last August.) But American Love isn’t full of break-up songs. “I started down that path and then I realized that, for me, making music is as about feeling good as the listeners that gets to hear it,” he says. “I have to make an album that I enjoy singing every night.”
It turns out Jake Owen enjoys singing about love on tour. The subject is all over the album’s 11 tracks — new love, young love, breaking up, and sticking it out. It wasn’t intentional but, “I kept noticing this reoccurring theme. The word kept appearing, but it was said in such different ways. I’m really proud that I got to encompass how love can be felt different ways but still remain the same, if that makes sense.”
And while, to your delight or dismay, there is still some of the rap-style speak-singing that Owen has helped popularize in the genre over the last couple albums, he also wanted to return to just singing. “Sometimes my voice gets hidden,” he admits. “People don’t even have the opportunity to know that I love to sing.” His voice, a honey-bourboned baritone, is joined by two others at different points on the set. Hillary Lindsey adds smokey harmonies on two of the songs, while Chris Stapleton adds fiery back-up on “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You,” which he penned.
The album is slated to release at the end of July, and while Owen hopes the songs find their way into everyone’s summer soundtracks, he’s currently content just cruising around and jamming to the songs solo. “It’s been a long time since I made a record that I put on in my car and listen to on my own—but I can’t stop. It makes me happy, and I know how much work I put into it.”
American Love is due out July 29 via Sony Music Nashville. Album artwork and full track listing is below.
1. American Love
2. After Midnight
3. Where I Am
4. Everybody Dies Young
5. VW Van
6. Good Company
8. If He Ain’t Gonna Love You
9. When You Love Someone
10. You Ain’t Going Nowhere
11. American Country Love Song