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Artist of the Week Archives for 2017-09

Brantley Gilbert

Although it's tempting to call Brantley Gilbert a country artist -- he certainly embraces the outlaw country side of things -- in many ways his music is closer to the heartland sentiments of artists like John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, and perhaps most apt, Steve Earle. Gilbert was born in the small town of Jefferson, Georgia, just outside of Athens. He grew up hearing country music, but he also listened to a lot of Athens rock bands like R.E.M. and the B-52's, plus the swaggering Southern rock of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd; at his best, Gilbert blends all of these various strains together in his music. It was a near-fatal car accident when he was 19 years old that spurred him to give music his all, and he started writing songs in earnest, playing mostly solo acoustic gigs before forming a band that could bring his vision of a hard-stomping country/rock/soul show to fruition.

 

A  Modern Day Prodigal Son Moving to Nashville, he signed with Warner Chappell Publishing (his songs have been recorded by the likes of Jason Aldean and Colt Ford) and began working toward completing an album. Modern Day Prodigal Son finally appeared in 2009 from Average Joe's, which also released the follow-up, Halfway to Heaven, in 2010. Gilbert signed with Big Machine's Valory Music imprint in 2011 and the label reissued Halfway to Heaven. With Valory's support, the album took off: "Country Must Be Country Wide" and "You Don't Know Her Like I Do" both topped the U.S. country chart on their way to being certified platinum. Two other singles were pulled from the record in 2012 -- "Kick It in the Sticks" and "More Than Miles," both peaking in the country Top 20 -- and then in 2013, Gilbert began working on a new studio project with producer Dann Huff.

Just as I Am "Bottoms Up," the first single issued from these sessions, turned into Gilbert's biggest hit to date in early 2014, reaching number one on the charts on its way to selling over a million copies. Its success whetted the appetite for Just as I Am, which saw release in May 2014. Just as I Am went to number one on the Billboard country chart and number two on the Top 200, eventually getting certified platinum thanks to the hit singles "Small Town Throwdown," "One Hell of an Amen," and "Stone Cold Sober." In the summer of 2016 he released "The Weekend," the first taste from his third major-label album, The Devil Don't Sleep. After "The Weekend" made it into the Billboard country Top 20, The Devil Don't Sleep followed in January of 2017.

 

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Jake Owen

When plans for a professional golfing career were derailed by an injury, country songwriter Jake Owen picked up a guitar and never looked back. A native of Vero Beach, Florida, Owen and his fraternal twin Jarrod grew up in the Florida sun playing sports like baseball and football before Jake turned to golf and Jarrod to tennis. They continued their respective sports together as students at Florida State University, until a water-skiing accident resulted in reconstructive surgery for Jake. Off the golf team and struggling with depression, he borrowed a neighbor's guitar and passed the time teaching himself to play by listening to childhood favorites like Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Vern Gosdin, and Keith Whitley.

 

Ambitious but inexperienced, with good looks and a smooth baritone, Owen was soon to be found playing country covers in campus bars for free beer and a few bucks. Growing tired of covers, he began penning his own songs, which were met with a positive response. This motivated him even more to follow his new dream of becoming a singer, eventually causing him to skip out on his remaining college classes -- only nine credit hours remained on his English and political science degree -- and head to Nashville. He constantly wrote songs in his Bellevue apartment, and a chance lunch meeting found producer Jimmy Ritchey (Clay Walker, Mark Chesnutt) befriending the young musician. For over a year, the two wrote songs together, including a track called "Ghost" (also co-written by Chuck Jones) that Kenny Chesney almost wound up recording -- the track would later be included on Owen's own album.

 

Startin' with Me Eventually, his friendship with Ritchey led to a meeting with Sony/BMG Nashville and resulted in a record contract for the determined 24-year-old, who already had his album basically finished. His debut, Startin' with Me, appeared in summer 2006 on RCA, spearheaded by the single "Yee Haw." As the song climbed higher in the charts, Owen supported the record on the road by opening for Kenny Chesney. In 2007, the title track ballad became the album's second single, reaching number six and spending a whopping 35-plus weeks on the Billboard country chart. "Don't Think I Can't Love You" appeared in the summer of 2008, heralding the release of his second full-length, Easy Does It, in February of 2009. Easy Does It spawned a number two hit in "Don't Think I Can't Love You," and "Eight Second Ride" peaked at number 11 in early 2010.

Barefoot Blue Jean Night He delivered his third album, Barefoot Blue Jean Night, in the summer of 2011. Barefoot Blue Jean Night was his biggest hit to date, launching number one country singles in its title track and "Alone with You." As the summer of 2012 wound to its end, he released the Endless Summer EP; the collection of four new songs came out that September. Owen returned in December of 2013 with his fourth studio album, the Joey Moi-produced Days of Gold; it was preceded by its title track lead single, which only reached 19 on the charts. The album's next single, "Beachin'," did much better, reaching number one on Billboard's country chart and earning a platinum certification; "What We Ain't Got" closed out the album's cycle by making it to 19.

American LoveOwen started to unveil new material in the summer of 2015 with "Real Life," a single that went to 17 on Billboard. This single didn't appear on Owen's fifth full-length album but his next single, "American Country Love Song," came out in early 2016 and provided the anchor for American Love, which arrived in July of that year.

 

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