If the last time you listened to country star Jake Owen was circa July 2014 when “Good Timing” and “Tipsy” still reigned as your summertime anthems, you’re missing out.
His latest single “I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” combines strumming bass licks and Owen’s smooth baritone shellacked by samples from John Mellencamp‘s timeless “Jack & Diane.” But don’t let the slick production fool you, Owen is a country boy at heart. From the head-bopping “Beachin’” to getting caught up in a “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” the small-town Florida native is all about spending time in the great outdoors. Which is why he recently teamed up with Polaris to celebrate the crowning of Pinedale, Wyoming, a sprawling utopia for outdoor recreation, as “Ranger Country USA,” as determined in a public vote. On Thursday, the singer played a free concert in the “very large playground” that is rural Pinedale, to toast the win.
“I’ve never been to Pinedale,” Owen, 36, tells PEOPLE. “I’ve been to a lot of places but never Pinedale, so I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing music.”
Owen is certainly no stranger to rural life, given that he lives in the one-stoplight town of Kingston Springs, Tennessee. “I love where I am in life right now. I’m finally back in a place where I’m in a small town with a pretty piece of property and really great down-to-earth friends that have kids. And we all have a really nice time hanging out with each other… that’s really what I try to build my life around,” he explains, reflecting on how happy he is enjoying life’s simple pleasures like hanging out on the river banks or having group cookouts.
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Of course, a big part of his happiness is his 5-year-old daughter, Pearl, who will start kindergarten next fall. One of his favorite recent memories? Daddy-daughter doughnut day.
“I flew down to go have some doughnuts with her,” he shares. “I went down and hung out with her and she was pretty excited to show me her teachers and all the stuff she’s learning. She’s learning Spanish and reading right now. It was a super big deal to me, but it’s so fulfilling to see her be so excited to show people her daddy. To her, I’m not the singer Jake Owen, I’m just …
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