For Shane Owens, third time really is the charm. After years of hard work and experiencing roadblocks that cripple most artists, the Alabama native finally gets his chance to shine.
And his specific brand of traditionally tinged country is hitting the spot for thousands of new fans.
Shane Owens grew up in a Southern Baptist family surrounded by music. As he puts it, "Daddy sang, momma sang, grandma played piano and we all sang in the choir." Though his first loves may have been football and baseball, country music quickly gripped Owens.
"I always had this real passion for music — traditional country music," Owens says. "Merle Haggard, George Jones, Keith Whitley, Randy Travis; and the good Lord give me the talent to sing it."
One of Owens' biggest influences was Keith Whitley, the passionate singer whose heart-wrenching ballads gripped the country audience in the 1980s. "He was absolutely one of my heroes," Owens says. But he was 16 years old when Whitley passed away.
That influence shines through in Owens' own vocal style, too. You can almost hear Whitley's trebly timber in Owens' higher register. When he hits words that begin with "h" and hits the vowels in words like "call," you'd swear the ghost of Whitley takes over for a brief second.
And his classic twang captured the attention of adoring fans in bars and clubs all across the Southeast, to the point of receiving a record label offer. But Owens graciously declined, because the label only wanted to work in singles — a concept foreign and nearly blasphemous to such a staunch country traditionalist.
The Industry Does Its Best to Beat Him Down
Shane Owens did eventually land a recording contract he thought may serve his career better. And in fact, he let out a record in 2005 called Let's Get It On. The album featured notably less traditional sounds on songs like "Redneck," but still showed a lot of potential for what Owens could achieve. The label smartly chased Texas radio, and then eventually national radio, where single "Bottom of the Fifth" started climbing the charts.
But 2005 did not treat the music industry kindly. And Owens' label at the time, Rust Records Nashville, folded. Which means Owens' debut record lasted fewer than 100 days on the market before going out of circulation.
Losing all that time, effort and money hurts in a big way. It could be enough to undo many artists. "After I lost my first deal, I thought, 'Man I really believed in those songs,'" Owens said. "I thought they wasted them."
Owens bounced back though to produce a second record with James Shroud (Clint Black, Chris Young) in 2009. And then that label folded, this time before the music ever saw the light of day. "After that second deal felt like, it was like, 'Good Lord is this really what I'm supposed to do?'" Owens says.
The only silver lining: he got to keep a lot of those tunes from the second record, which formed the basis of his eventual "real" debut album, Where I'm Comin' From.
Bringing Country Back
Would you believe it only took another seven years to get a third shot? Even though his first record label folded, he managed to build upon his loyal fan base and carry that for years. And though he had some tough nights questioning what's going wrong, he never lost sight of the big picture — which includes his wife and two boys.
"I love hitting the road, but I'm a family man too," Owens says. "Still, if you're not out there working, that's a bad sign. It's a daily grind, and you can't do this job from the house."
Along the way, he kept honing his craft as a writer and a singer. "I've been so blessed to be able to write with some of the biggest songwriters in Nashville, so that always helps," Owens says.
Then, at one of his shows, a small label called AmeriMonte records approached Owens about a new deal. After 15 years, the offer sure sounded enticing. "It all fell into place," Owens says. "The songs, the freedom to pick the songs, the freedom to be myself."
AmeriMonte also brought Randy Travis and John Anderson to the table through close personal friendships. Travis loved what Owens did on his record so much he agreed to be in the music video for lead single, 2015's "Country Never Goes Out Of Style." It was among his first notable appearances after suffering a struck in 2013.
"To have Randy be a part of the record is overwhelming," Owens says. "That's a once-in-a-lifetime thing. For him to be a part of the record and be in the video is just surreal." Add on top of that an appearance from John Anderson on Owens' cover of Anderson's "Chicken Truck" and you've got the foundations of a great traditional country revival.
Finally Making Moves
Now, nearly two decades into his career, Owens finally has a "debut album" in Where I'm Comin' From that has a chance to take him somewhere. "It feels like it's really starting to take off," he says. "This feels different than in the past."
He owes much of that to staying true to his roots and avoiding the trends of time. (You know, like "loud guitars and rapping"). Instead, Owens doubles down on his believe that traditional country still has a very strong presence in the hearts of millions of Americans.
"I've been fortunate to build a big traditional fan base," Owens says. "And a lot of people that love traditional country music. A lot of people in the world and in Nashville, me included, believe the pendulum is swinging back that way." And it's actually showing, too. "Both singles are doing well and we're actually selling a lot of records," Owens says.
With songs on this album like second single "All The Beer In Alabama" and standout "God And The Ground She Walks On," Shane Owens has himself a strong argument for reintroducing the sounds of 1980s and earlier back into the mainstream.
Check out his website to buy the record and find out where he's playing next.
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