INTERVIEW WITH SHANE OWENS
THE SOUND EMPORIUM, NASHVILLE, TN
Think Country was so fortunate to interview country music artist Shane Owens at The Sound Emporium Studio, a beautiful building where you can feel the energy of all the greats who have recorded there, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, John Denver, Dolly Parton, Keith Whitley and Kenny Chesney. Newer artists like Cole Swindell, Kacey Musgraves and Dan + Shay have worked there as well. Since 1969, it’s been THE place to make a record in Nashville, and once you’ve been there, you understand why.
Due to an odd set of circumstances on this particular day, I arrived late to the interview, something I never do, and I was generally off my game. The good news was, the publicist didn’t hold it against me (thank you 117 Entertainment Group), and due to my timing being off, I was asked if I wouldn’t mind going in to interview Shane Owens with the very lovely and extremely knowledgeable Shannon McCombs. We were able to tag team the interview, which resulted in some really great information and some fun answers as well. So, sit back and try to imagine yourself in one of the coolest rooms ever. Mood lighting, vintage crystal table lamp, guitars on the wall and comfortable furnishings, and right there in the middle of it all is the biggest cowboy I’ve ever seen.
NOTE: Because Shannon McCombs and I tag teamed this interview, you will see the Questions and Answers marked with both of our names, based upon who asked each question.
Think Country (Patti): I’m Patti with Think Country, we are an international site. We started off in the UK and now here we are in Nashville too. Okay, so you call yourself a traditional guy and I listened to your music and you sound very traditional. Tell me about your humble beginnings. Where are you from?
Shane Owens: I grew up in a small town called Samson, Alabama. We’ve got one red light, if you blink your eyes you’re gonna miss us if you pass through there.
Think Country (Patti): Oh wow, we don’t want to blink then.
Shannon McCombs: Tell me about, I know you’ve been going out to a lot of radio stations lately, going to places that you haven’t been recently. What’s that been like? It looks like people are really loving the new music.
Shane Owens: Yeah, we’re so excited about the single, you know it’s a little bit more uptempo. We didn’t have enough uptempo songs on the first record so we fixed that this time. You know we’ve been in six or seven different climates in the last two weeks, and you know everybody’s really excited about the single everywhere we go and play it for our listeners, and the radio stations are really enjoying it and that’s exciting for us.
Think Country (Patti): “Lie”. Wow, that song is just fun. It’s great fun. Obviously, my first thought was, “This is a guy song.”
Shane Owens: Oh, absolutely.
Think Country (Patti): But I loved it. How are women receiving it?
Shane Owens: Well, you know that’s the big thing. If the women are happy, everybody’s happy, so that’s what we target you know. Everybody at radio so far, we’ve had a lot of listeners at these stations lately, and by the time we get to the first chorus, or through the first chorus, they get it, and all the women are laughing, and they’re probably talking amongst themselves like women do, saying “I knew this guy…” or “I almost married this guy…” or “I felt sorry for him and I went ahead and married him anyway”, it’s great for them, so if it’s great for them, we ain’t worried about the men, they’ll fall into place.
Think Country (Patti): I love it, thanks.
Shannon McCombs: I’ll go right to the total opposite of “Lie”, which is the Sunday morning gospel thing you do.
Shane Owens: Yes!
Shannon McCombs: You know, I look at the shares on that and the people that are liking that and it’s huge.
Shane Owens: It is huge. You know my first two records were straight forward, good ole boy, wholesome, American country music, and the “Lie” was just kind of a step out of something different, but it was such a well written song and something I thought everybody could relate to and it’s funny. I mean, you know, I’m not out there trying to advertise lying but it’s a funny song, and we’ve all told a little white lie to get what we want at one time or another.
Shannon McCombs: Absolutely, tongue in cheek.
Shane Owens: Right, tongue in cheek. We probably got a whooping for it back in the day, but I’m not that guy, I’m just singing the song about that guy.
Shannon McCombs: It shows your versatility.
Shane Owens: It does. You know, we were so blessed to have that range. You know, we could go in and cut a sad, old tearjerkin’, heartbreak country song or we could go in and cut a song like “Lie”. I love the gospel music, that’s what I grew up on. My Grandmother played piano in church, so anytime you sing for the good Lord above it’s a good thing.
Think Country (Patti): So, we have “Lie”. What about a whole album? What’s going on?
Shane Owens”: The album. I’m so excited about the brand new album. There’s so much variety on here. Like I said a while ago, we didn’t have enough uptempo songs on the first record and we fixed that with this record, but you’ll get a song like “Lie” then you’ll get a song, we’ve got a song on there, it’s called “It’s a Southern Thing” that I believe may be one of the best songs on the record, and it’s one of those songs you just gotta hear, written by Bob DiPiero, and that’s the thing about this record, we had so many songwriters that believed in what I was doing.
Think Country (Patti): You have some, wow, that’s a big songwriter.
Shane Owens: Absolutely. We’ve got people like Bruce Burch I’ve had the opportunity to write with and I haven’t written with Bob yet, but I’m looking forward to try to make that happen. We cut some of Jeffrey Steele’s songs on the last album, and Brian Callihan, Trent (Willmon) and Ashe Underwood wrote “Lie” so, I mean, you know, in this business, all the spokes in the wheel have to turn at the same time and I feel like that’s happening now.
Think Country (Patti): I like the way that sounds, all the spokes.
Shane Owens: It makes sense.
Think Country (Patti): It sure does. Southern guys have great analogies for things.
Shannon McCombs: Speaking of having all the spokes lined up there, you’ve got family. When you’re off on the road you’re leaving family at home, but I know that you spend a lot of time with your family when you’re there and you’ve got kids, how do you deal with that? How do you deal with the balance?
Shane Owens: Well, you know I get a phone call everyday from my baby boy. He’s a Daddy’s boy, and my older son, he’s moved out and he’s doing his thing, you know, he thinks he’s grown. You know, when they get to 18 they think they’re grown and he’s figuring it out and I’m proud of him, but you know it’s tough being away from your family, ‘cause I’m definitely, it’s family first with me. God first, family first, then country music. Then it’s tough after you’ve been gone two or three weeks to get a call, “Daddy, are you comin’ home today?” He’s sittin’ there anticipating me comin’ home, so I’m like, “Son, it’s tough out here, I’ll be home in a couple weeks, you know, just hang in there, we’ll get on them 4-wheelers and sling some mud, or go campin’, or do what rednecks do when I get to the house.”
Shannon McCombs: You know that’s lyrics to a song right there.
Shane Owens: Absolutely. We’ll write it together.
Think Country (Patti): Speaking of writing together, do you have anybody that you would love, love, love to write a song, collaborate, or do a duet with?
Shane Owens: Well, you know if I had my choice it would be with Randy Travis, but we all know he can’t do that right now, that’s always been a dream of mine, either him or Keith Whitley. That’s the kind of music I grew up with and I idolized those guys and it’s such an honor to call Randy a friend now. He was executive producer on the last record and that’s my kind of music. That’s what I call country music.
Shannon McCombs: Let me ask you about the building that we’re in, because this studio, this whole building is pretty historic. The last time I was in here, it was with Alabama, they were doing an event in here and interviews. Do you get inspired when you’re in places like this when you know so much history has happened?
Shane Owens: Absolutely. You know, we cut this record here, and I can remember walking in the studio that day and just watching the musicians and knowing who they played with and you know, they’re called “The A Team” here in Nashville for a reason. They’re some of the best musicians on the planet. I remember sneaking off in the lobby and calling my Mama and saying, “Listen, you ain’t gonna believe where we’re recording today. We’re at The Sound Emporium. Keith Whitley’s picture is on the wall. Johnny Cash’s picture is on the wall!” So many people that I just, it’s amazing the people that have come through here and recorded, and for us to be able to come in here and record a record, it’s just a great feeling.
Think Country (Patti): So, on the road, where are you going to be going next?
Shane Owens: Well, we’re hoping this calendar will fill up off the brand new single. We’re going to head out to where they’ve had some Nor’easter weather, and from a country boy from Alabama, when you get in 18 to 24 inches of snow, you’re kind of out of your element. So, I’m gonna grab a leather jacket and go out there and look forward to hittin’ these radio stations, but we’ve been all over the place and it’s one of those things you’ve gotta do, you’ve gotta get out there and let everybody at radio know how much you appreciate them for believing in you and playing the songs.
Think Country (Patti): Yeah, because I’ve got to tell you, I’m from Buffalo, New York originally and they love country music.
Shane Owens: Well, I’ll tell you, we just come through there…
(Bill interjected here and mentioned The Sportsmen’s Tavern in Buffalo as a great venue for country artists to play)
Think Country (Patti): Yeah, The Sportsmen’s, that’s absolutely the place to go. They fill ‘em up.
Shane Owens: We’ll be in Houston tomorrow night.
Think Country (Patti): My daughter lives in Houston! Where are you playing in Houston?
Shane Owens: Firehouse Saloon. We’re going to be there with a good friend of ours, Bubba T, which he’s what we call in Alabama a “good ole trip”, and we’re gonna be having a good time down there. I always look forward to gettin’ out and doing shows, you know. I tell everybody, when you take a guy like me that loves traditional country music and loves being in front of a crowd and sharing our music with people, if I ever had that taken away from me I wouldn’t know what to do. I love to entertain and love people and love to put smiles on peoples’ faces through music. Music is powerful.
Shannon McCombs: All these places that you’re going right now, the show that you’re playing this weekend, and I know that you’re in and out of town so quick, and some of these places that I know you’d probably like to stay a little longer. Any of them jump to mind that you’d like to take your family to when you do have time off?
Shane Owens: Oh, absolutely. I hadn’t spent a lot of time on the west coast until the last couple years and it’s so beautiful out there in California on the beaches and I was telling my wife the other day, “You know, if we ever go on vacation, we gotta go…” I had a list of places, right off the top of my head there was like ten of ‘em so it was hard to remember it all, but I made the note, “We gotta go here, we gotta go here, we gotta go here.” There’s so much to see. You know, we live in a great big world and there’s so much to see and it’s so beautiful out there, and to be able to do this for a living, it’s just a dream come true for me.
Think Country (Patti): I’m going to ask you a crazy question now. If for one day, you could switch genres and get out of country and be the lead singer for a different type of band, what band would it be and why?
Shane Owens: First and foremost, I could never see myself getting out of country music (laughs).
Think Country (Patti): But if you HAD to…
Shane Owens: But if I had to, I’m gettin’ there… I’d probably want to go out and be one of the Van Zant brothers and sing for Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Think Country (Patti): That’s cool, and why?
Shane Owens: They recorded “Sweet Home Alabama” and that’s where I’m from.
Think Country (Patti): That’s perfect.
Shannon McCombs: That’s a good lead in to this because you know Lynyrd Skynyrd is kind of country now, because you look back into what they were recording, that’s considered country music now.
Shane Owens: Absolutely.
Shannon McCombs: When you listen to music, are you listening to any classic rock, I mean, stuff other than country?
Shane Owens: Well, some of the best rock and roll music I think, was made in the 80’s. Even though I love country music I love Journey and Boston and Foreigner, and I gotta be honest, even a little Def Leppard. You know, so I’m a country boy, but I can rock out every now and then.
Shannon McCombs: Well, Def Leppard will never be country, but Lynyrd Skynyrd will be.
Shane Owens: Lynyrd Skynyrd always, Southern rock and country go hand in hand.
Shannon McCombs: Good answer, thank you.
Think Country (Patti): If you had to open your own country bar on Broadway, what would the theme be and what would you call it?
Shane Owens: It would definitely be country, and you probably couldn’t play anything that didn’t sound like 90’s country in my bar. If it didn’t sound something like George Strait or Alan Jackson or Haggard or Jones or Randy, I’d be like, you know, keep it country in here.
Think Country (Patti): You could call it that, “Keep It Country”.
Shane Owens: Yeah, or “The Dew Drop In”, country only. (Laughing)
Think Country (Patti): I would go there.
Shannon McCombs: I want to go back to “Lie” for a second. You were talking about the release of this song and when you go out to sing it for the first time, I felt like when I heard it that people would get to see the funny side of you, you know, your personality. Are you gathering that too when you’re getting to know people that when they hear that song it’s like they’re getting to know you a little bit better?
Shane Owens: Absolutely.
Shannon McCombs: Although we know you’re not the liar.
Shane Owens: Right, right, I mean, absolutely. Like I say, the song is just one of those songs that’s exciting to get out there and perform, and there’s always going to be that girl and guy in the crowd and they’ve been married probably 30 years, and she’s reminiscing about, you know, “I got a good buddy of mine that accidentally told a little lie about his age to get a girl” (we won’t mention any names), but they sit there, and you can wonder what’s goin’ on in their mind, “You know, you lied to me about that brand new truck you had when you know you had a Volkswagen, but you hooked me anyway, you know, I kind of felt sorry for you.” So, everybody’s got a story. That’s the cool thing about it. Once you get into that first verse and the first chorus, they’re already tappin’ their feet and havin’ fun with it.
Shannon McCombs: Hey, we girls lie too.
Shane Owens: Yeah.
Think Country (Patti): There was song like that I think once.
Shane Owens: Yeah, I used to tell people all the time, I played a lot of nightclubs, and I always knew girls were lyin’ when they’d go to the bathroom three or four at a time, to talk about how sorry the men were.
Think Country (Patti): Yeah, there’s a little bit of chat goin’ on.
Shane Owens: It’s true! It’s true! It’s not a lie!
Think Country (Patti): You co-wrote that with Brian Callihan? Who came up with the idea?
Shane Owens: Well, actually I did not co-write that. Brian wrote it with Trent (Willmon) and Ashe Underwood, which are good friends of ours. Brian’s a lot like me. He grew up in Georgia, so he’s backwoods country and he’s got a sense of humor. We were talkin’ and it’s one of those songs I could have written. We’ve all been there. One of those songs that I’m thinking, “Why didn’t I write that?”
Think Country (Patti): So, it wasn’t your idea then?
Shane Owens: It wasn’t my idea. It was Brian and Trent’s, but it was one of those songs I could have written, and Brian and I actually sat down and did an interview for the single a couple weeks ago and he’s my kind of people. He’s a country boy from Georgia. We’ve got a lot of the same similarities, we like to hunt and fish and sing country music, and every now and then tell a lie about how big the fish was.
Think Country (Patti): I think all guys do that.
Shannon McCombs: I have one more question before I wrap up. Just wanted to talk to you about this coming year, of course we’re barely into Spring, even though it snowed the first day of Spring here in Nashville. As you look on to this year, what are you really looking forward to? This record’s just getting started and things are rolling a little faster for you than they were last year at this time, so what are you looking forward to most this year?
Shane Owens: I’m just looking forward to seeing that calendar fill up and getting out to do what I love with a great band. We’ve got a great team at Amerimonte Records, you know, Joe, Steve, Allie, Daniel, Dana, everybody’s believing, and that makes me want to go out and do the best I can do. You know, when you’ve got people like you and her taking time out of the day to do this, that believe in what we’re doing, it gives me the inspiration to want to go out and fill that calendar up and show everybody what traditional country music’s all about.
Think Country (Patti): Well, it’s been such a pleasure, I have one last question too, because we are Think Country, when you Think Country, what do you think?
Shane Owens: I think of cornbread, eatin’ cornbread at my Grandmama’s house after church on Sunday. Drivin’ down a red clay dirt road in an old Ford pickup with a boat behind it, killin’ a big ole eight point,, and singin’ a few gospel songs along the way.
SHANE OWENS can be found: