JAKE OWEN – EVERY REASON I GO BACK – EASY DOES IT
Every Reason I Go Back is available on iTunes: HERE
It’s not Casablanca, but a bar stool, a guitar, and a grilled mahi sandwich marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
When you decide what it is you want to do in life, the first step towards your dream is usually to learn how to do it. For many, it starts with higher education. You can go to college and earn a degree in music or music education. Unfortunately, you can’t take that degree to Nashville, wave it in front of a record label executive and say “I’m ready to headline a major tour now!” After they stop laughing, they’ll tell you “That’s not the way we do things here in Nashville.” Whether you’re education came from Vanderbilt or the school of hard knocks, you’ll likely get to park your butt on a bar stool with a guitar in your hand for a good long while, just like everybody else who dreams of being a headliner someday. It’s called paying your dues. Local bars and restaurants are where you put in those hours for little pay with the hope that eventually this experience will lead you to bigger venues and a bigger paycheck. Jake Owen went the college route and then came back home when he decided what he really wanted to do was pursue a career in music. That headlining tour he dreamed of is now a reality. His journey to the DAYS of GOLD TOUR started on a bar stool, with a guitar in his hand, probably barefoot, at the RIVERSIDE Café in his hometown of Vero Beach, FLorida.
Ellen and David Lane are the owners of RIVERSIDE Café in Vero Beach and Ellen was kind enough to talk to me about the connection they have with Jake and what it’s meant to them having Jake’s support for all these years. She spoke about him as a proud mother would and remembered his early days there when he played for $75 a night and a grilled mahi sandwich. He was always grateful to have a place to play surrounded by family, friends, locals, and tourists who dropped in looking for good food and a good time. She remembers him being a crowd favorite and witnessed the crowds grow larger over the years as his popularity spread. After he moved to Nashville, they wished him well and assumed he’d trade the decorative lights on the nautical rope for bright lights, big city. For a lot of big stars, this is where the hometown story would end, but not for Jake Owen, and not for the RIVERSIDE Cafe.
You wouldn’t expect a local restaurant to factor into an artist’s tour schedule once they’ve been on grander stages, but for Jake, there is no grander stage than the one that launched his career. Ellen said that Jake comes home as often as he can and will often call and ask if he can drop in unannounced and play an acoustic set. Imagine Garth Brooks showing up in his hometown and asking if they mind if he plays a little. Seriously?! Jake, Ellen says you have an open invitation. No RSVP necessary! But that’s what makes Jake a hometown favorite and a crowd pleaser. He doesn’t think of himself as VIP. He thinks everyone he’s playing for is, and that includes his RIVERSIDE Café family. This year will mark the 8th annual benefit concert he’s hosted at RIVERSIDE. The restaurant caters the event and provides the setting for sponsors and special invited guests Jake honors at this time. The last couple of years he’s ended his tour with a show in Vero Beach, and when inclement weather forced him to cancel once, he refused to deny his fans a performance. He showed up at RIVERSIDE and asked if he could play for as many fans as the place could hold. They agreed and watched the place swell with patrons all hoping to hear Jake perform. Ellen says they look forward to this event every year and have seen it grow from a seed of an idea to the much anticipated gathering of friends it has become. I suppose you could call it a fan reunion of sorts!
When Ellen and I started talking, one of the first things she mentioned was the video Jake has on the home page of his website called “The Headliner.” She said she had no idea how much RIVERSIDE meant to Jake until she saw that. She was so touched that Jake thought so much of the place that he would include it in his first headlining tour. In that video, he talks about choosing to build his stage setup to look like RIVERSIDE Cafe because he wants to bring a piece of his hometown, and this special place, with him wherever he plays. Liken it to a 3D postcard from home! He wants to give the feel of the place to fans who’ve never been there, and for those who have, he hopes it shows how far they’ve come from those early acoustic performances. Ellen hasn’t seen Jake’s show yet with the RIVERSIDE setup, but she plans to, and I have no doubt it will be an emotional night for her and for Jake. She went on to say that Jake puts on an amazing live show and assured me she wasn’t just saying that because of her connection to him. She said “I would tell you that even if I didn’t know him personally.”
Every artist who’s ever made it to the big stage started in a place like the RIVERSIDE Cafe. It’s easy to look at the marquee venues that headliners get to play and be awed by the history and the size of these show places. Who doesn’t dream of playing Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl, Red Rocks, AT&T Stadium, the Bridgestone Arena, and the list goes on and on. Jake played Fenway Park and Wrigley Field last year, both groundbreaking events. By any standard, Jake has arrived. Very few in his position look back when they’ve reached this height. Small town gathering places are reminders of things they’d rather forget. To quote a lyric from one of his opening acts: “Catch a couple green lights in those baby blue eyes and leave nothin’ in that rearview, but dust.” Vero Beach isn’t exactly a small town, but it does have that family atmosphere if you’ve ever been to RIVERSIDE Cafe. I went there with my family a few years ago, having never heard of Jake Owen at that time. There was a warmth about it that had nothing to do with the temperature outside. The food was excellent and the surroundings had a familiar and friendly feel to them. I remember walking out of there thinking I wanted to come back some day. There’s a song on one of Jake’s early albums called “Every Reason I Go Back.” Part of the lyric says “It’s every reason that I left and every reason I go back.” Jake has said that the confidence he gained playing at the RIVERSIDE Café gave him the courage to move to Nashville and pursue his dream – the reason he left. On the road, he is reminded of the solid foundation that experience gave him every time he steps onto the replica that surrounds him. He can look out at the audience, feel the support of his RIVERSIDE family, and know that the crowd may be too big for RIVERSIDE, but he’s not. The reason he goes back – a stool, a grilled mahi sandwich, and Ellen and David Lane. Of all the cafes in all the towns in all the world, he walked into this one…and still does. Here’s looking at you, Jake.
Bringing the stories of country music to life!
For the latest happenings at RIVERSIDE Cafe, visit their website:
LIKE them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Riverside-Cafe/116130348085?ref=br_tf
Follow them on Twitter @RiversideVero
When you’re in Vero Beach you can visit them at:
3341 Bridge Plaza Drive
Vero Beach, FL 32963
Call for a reservation at 772-234-5500
The unofficial music video for “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” with footage of the Riverside Cafe!