Let's Talk About Country: Jake Owen Owns at Pandora Sounds Like Country
The line was wrapped around the block when I arrived at Marathon Music Works for Pandora Sounds Like Country. Today’s Country is the second most played station on Pandora, so it makes sense that Pandora Sounds Like Country would return to Nashville for its third year to kick off the CMA Festival. When the feel-good energy of the excited, boot-wearing crowd hit me, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, this is going to be fun!"
I stood in the press line for about fifteen minutes before the doors opened at 6:30 pm. After being patted down by security, ID checked, I strolled happily into the venue and was immediately greeted by two pretty girls wearing blue-gray shirts with the word “Pandora” in the middle. They handed me two complimentary drink tickets and told me, “Have fun!”
Marathon Music Works is a venue set in an old warehouse so the layout was considerably open and spacious. Upon walking in, there was a bar to my left, and to my right, a large tempered glass prop that had the Pandora logo on it, which I later found out was a photo booth.
Side note: If you took a picture behind the glass prop and posted it to Instagram with the hashtag #soundslikecoutnry, you got a free t-shirt! I got mine. You can check out my Pandora glass photo booth picture on Instagram.
Deeper into the venue was where I found the stage decked out in string lights and heavy equipment. Sponsor members were everywhere, passing out loads of swag. Regions Bank was passing out headphones in cool little green tubes, TitleMax was passing out trucker hats with the word “Ya’ll” on it (the a was replaced by an acoustic guitar—so cool), Advance Auto Parts had a photo booth set up and they were also giving away $5 coupons, Krispy Kreme was passing out doughnuts (I could go for one of those right about now), Budweiser passed out sunglasses, Ashley Furniture Homestore gave away twine cozies, and Lincoln Tech passed out deliciously soft bandannas. If you happened to visit each sponsor booth, Pandora gave you a fanny pack.
Let’s talk about country music! Kicking off the show, at 7:15 pm, was RaeLynn, an up-and-coming southern belle from Baytown, Texas. She graced the stage in a gorgeous diamond-encrusted black corset, but to be honest, it was her knee-high glittered boots that had me drooling. She hit the mic with “Graveyard," one of the tracks on her new album WildHorse.
The twangy, up tune had my boot-covered feet tapping happily to the solid southern beat. “Lonely Call” is RaeLynn’s new hit single and the third song she performed—it was slow and sweet and, of course, tugged on my heartstrings. However, it was her next song that almost brought tears to my eyes (I might be just a little sensitive, just a little), RaeLynn said, “If you had to ask me what my favorite song on my record is, it would definitely have to be this next song…I wrote, it’s actually nominated for a CMT Award tomorrow, I’m super nervous, but I wrote “Love Trinagle” right when I moved to Nashville about my perspective of my parents divorce and how it felt to be stuck in the middle of the two people you love the most, your mom and your dad.”
She spoke with emotion and passion about “Love Triangle” and when the music started I could definitely feel the rawness, so much so that my eyes started tearing up (just a little sensitive). Overall, I was extremely pleased with RaeLynn, as was the crowd.
During the break, there was a lot to do. Titlemax had cornhole set up in a corner, as well as giant Jenga. The Pandora photo booth was popping and so were the bars. Time passed quickly, and it wasn’t long before Old Dominion hit the stage with “Snap Back” and their 2014 single “Shut Me Up." This was a crowd-pleaser for sure, as the progressively gritty country tune had the entire floor of people dancing and singing and raising beers in cheers.
Two songs later, they went on to explain how ecstatic they were to announce that their new album, Happy Endings, would be hitting the market August 25, 2017. That being said, they played their new single “No Such Thing as a Broken Heart." The lyrics were sung in a deep, slow southern draw. They followed with “Be with Me." My favorite part of their performance, perhaps, was when lead singer, Matthew Ramsey, jumped off the stage and went through the crowd, taking selfies and dancing with the fans.
I absolutely love when artists interplay with their fans! Riding the crowd waves wasn’t enough for Matthew Ramsey though, after he returned to his post, he went on to invite a handful of lucky fans to the stage where they were able to take pictures with the band. They get an A++++++ for that, in my opinion. Old Dominion closed with “Song For Another Time," a perfect show closer with a chorus that goes, "Pretty soon you'll be always on my mind/but that's a song for another time."
You are on our minds, Old Dominion, and we hope we’re on yours.
While waiting for Jake Owen I was able to catch a quote from Marathon Music Works General Manager, Henry Pile. “How do you feel about hosting Pandora Sounds Like Country for a third year?” I asked.
He replied happily with, “I think we are—I know we are—really lucky to have Pandora here. They bring in an amazing crowd of people who are huge music vans, they bring in great artist that love being in front of these people. It’s a great experience for everybody.”
Palm trees, cabana-like props, red solo cup, a ukulele—Jake Owens beachfront set definitely had me yearning for white sand, sunshine and the ocean. The loveable country star took to the stage, red solo cup in hand, at 9:47 pm. Accompanying him was the typical drummer, guitar players, and bassist, but what I was surprised to see (and loved) were three “big band” members, blasting magically into their trumpet, saxophone, and trombone.
Everyone went wild when “Beachin” started, "And it's sunshine/ blue eyes, tan lines, slow tide rollin' White sand, cold can/ koozie in my hand, just a summertime strolling Chillin', breezing, sippin', singin' whoa."
The next song was a cover, “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. I noticed the people standing next to me did not know the words(sacrilegious)—they did know the lyrics to “American Country Love Song” though, the smash hit from Owen's American Love album, released on July 29, 2016, through RCA Nashville. With a gorgeous smile, Jake dedicated, “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You," to all the ladies in the crowd.
I have a special place in my heart for heart-wrenching, angsty songs, and "Alone With You” has actually been on my “sad song” list for years now, so when he played it, I was ecstatically pleased, as was the crowd, who, like me, knew every word. Following "Alone With You," Jake Own brought on his favorite band growing up, special guest, Shenandoah, an American country music group founded in 1984 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Together they played one of Jake Owen’s favorite songs, “Sunday in the South”, a track released by Shenandoah in 1989.
Honestly, I don’t look like I belong at a country concert. With my ripped black pants, skull t-shirt, black lipstick and intense eyeliner, I look like I belong in a crypt somewhere (or on a popular teen vampire TV show), but as soon as “The One That Got Away” came on, I was Cowboy Cha Cha’ing my way to the back of the venue where there was more room to dance. “Anywhere With You” was another song I had to Cowboy Cha Cha to!
As the night came to an end, Jake closed with never-heard-before new single "Son of a Beach," another catchy beach inspired melody, and “Barefoot Blue Jean Night," a perfect goodbye song with lyrics that pretty much explain how I feel about life, "(Whoa-oh) Never gonna grow up (Whoa-oh)/ Never gonna slow down (Whoa-oh)/ We were shinin' like lighters in the dark In the middle of a rock show (Whoa-oh)/ We were doin' it right (Whoa-oh)/ We were comin' alive (Whoa-oh)/ Yeah, caught up in a Southern summer, a barefoot, blue jean night."
Pandora rocked this event and I was glad to be a part of it! Until next time, Pandora.
Photos by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Pandora Media