EXCLUSIVE: Jake Owen Steps Outside His Comfort Zone with Emotional 'What We Ain't Got' Video

by Sophie Schillaci 8:00 AM PST, November 24, 2014
Photo: Getty Images

Jake Owen is raising the bar with his new single.

The country star calls "What We Ain't Got" "one of the greatest songs I've ever recorded," as he branches out from the party-ready anthems -- including "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" and the smash hit "Beachin'" – that we've come to know and love him for. Now the heartfelt ballad has a fittingly emotional video. ETonline exclusively debuts the clip below.

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Directed by longtime collaborator Mason Dixon, the video pushed Owen outside his comfort zone.

"It's such an important song in my career," Owen tells ETonline, "so we put a lot of effort into making the video as good as the song."

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In an interview with the singer, we grill the 33-year-old on everything from his next album and going back on tour with Kenny Chesney, to hot topics including Spotify and sexism in country music. (And yes, he's just as kind and down to earth as you imagined!)

ETonline: Let's talk about the video. What was the inspiration there?

Jake Owen: This song is such a special song and an important song in my career. It's really hard sometimes to create a visual depiction of something that’s so well written as a song, and I've never made a video for a serious song before. It was a lot harder to work on than others.

Who directed it?

Mason Dixon, who's done all of my other videos. I think it was good for both of us to step outside our comfort zones and it's a pretty real-to-life video. The people in the video are real characters and once you listen to the lyrics and the video together, you'll see it's very real.

Who came up with the concept?

It was a group effort on my part, his part and my creative team at the label. It's such an important song in my career and one of the greatest songs I've ever recorded, so we put a lot of effort into making the video as good as the song.

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You've said many times that this is the best song you've ever recorded. Tell me why you feel that way.

I grew up listening to country music and one of the reasons I love it, have always loved it and wanted to pursue it, is because the songs meant a lot to me as a kid. They made me think about stuff and music has its way of touching people in different ways. I’ve put out songs before like "Barefoot Blue Jean Night," which is about having a good time with your friends and never growing up. Those videos are easy to make, and they do touch people, but not on this level. This relates to people going through a whole lot of things in their life and I was eager to try and be the messenger of this song. [Editor's note: the song was written by Travis Meadows and Travis Jerome Goff.]

How excited are you to be going back on tour with Kenny Chesney?

It's pretty exciting. It's my third trip out with him and we've always had a really good time on tour. He's been a great mentor to me.

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Is touring a family affair for you? Do the wife and daughter come along?

They do when they can. When my daughter was younger, the first year was easier because she was immobile. Now, she's on the move a lot and she’s got little friends. It's hard for her to be on the road with school starting, but they'll come out when they can.

Days of Gold is almost a year old now. Is it too soon to talk about what's next?

Never too soon! I'm always working on something. I was in the studio last night and I'll probably have a new record coming this year.

What can we expect from the next album?

I'm gonna try to better -- you probably hear this from every artist, but I want it to be better than what I did last time. With "What We Ain't Got" being the closing song [on Days of Gold], I'm gonna have to work really hard to beat it.

Are you feeling pressured?

Not so much. I definitely have to balance my life a whole lot more now that I have a child, a wife and my career is really starting to blossom. There's a lot on my shoulders that I’m maintaining, but I enjoy that challenge.

Can you tell us about any upcoming collaborations?

I've collaborated with some random people, actually. I [previously] did a remix of "Beachin'" with T-Pain, which was interesting. I just got out of the studio on Thursday -- I’m gonna feature on one of Owl City's new tracks.

How did that come about?

Adam [Young] wrote me an email and said that he enjoyed what I did, and asked if I'd be interested in being a part of something. It just kinda worked out.

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Who are you still hoping to collaborate with?

I'd like to do a duet Ronnie Dunn – actually, it’d be a trio with Brooks & Dunn. That'd be cool.

I want to touch on a few hot topics with you. First, Ty Herndon recently came out on our show and Billy Gilman followed suit on YouTube. Is Nashville finally ready to support gay stars?

I hope so! I think they'll support anyone who wants to fulfill a dream. That's the beautiful thing about music and the way that music is being heard by people -- it's open to whoever wants to listen. I think that’s great what they're doing.

We're also starting to see male country stars – including Kenny Chesney -- acknowledging that country music is sexist and objectifies women. Do you agree?

I definitely think that there have been songs that reference those sorts of things, where women would feel subjected. But I think it's a product of 2014 and our times. If you look around, it's not just music [objectifying women]. I think that as music evolves we always go through changes.

Is that something you think about when writing and selecting songs to record?

Of course! I've got a daughter, I’m married and I love my mom. You never want to do anything that would humiliate or make a woman feel bad, or put some sort of insecurities on them. I was raised better than that. I can't say that I’ve never recorded a song [that could be perceived that way]. That's the dangerous double edged sword of making music, but I know where my morals are.

Lastly, the Spotify debate is huge right now after Taylor Swift pulled her music. Are you pro- or anti-streaming?

I'm all about getting the most people to hear your music. The wider the audience base, the better. I'm a Spotify member, I pay for Spotify to listen to other artists. I’ve been so pleased and refreshed to hear new music on there. I think certain people have their reasons for pulling off, but from the time I started on a barstool I was never driven by money. I just wanted to reach fans. Spotify is an awesome way to reach the fans.

Need a laugh after those "What We Ain't Got" tears? Florida Georgia Line took ETonline behind the scenes of their recent cruise and things got, um, interesting. Watch below.

Follow Sophie on Twitter: @SophieSchillaci