Jake Owen's gift of song

Country music star Jake Owen plays for fans via social media, keeping the human connection in these days of social distancing.

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It wasn’t your typical country superstar live performance — Jake Owen unshowered, sitting in a small room in his garage, with his guitar and a cup of coffee, about to sing for fans into a cellphone.

“This is me, social distancing,” Owen said the other night via video on Twitter as he played music (his own songs, covers of Merle Haggard and Jimmy Buffett), flashed his bare feet when someone asked if he was wearing shoes (“Shoeless Jake”), and showed off his beloved old truck (“my pride and joy”).

If this is country music in the time of the coronavirus, we could all get used to it. Social distancing — and yet more somehow intimate than a sold-out arena show ever could be.

What is it about country music performers and making that human connection? We know all about it at St. Jude, which counts Owen and other country music stars among its best friends and most dedicated supporters through its Country Cares program.

When Owen visited us in 2019 and received the Randy Owen Angels Among Us Award — named for the Alabama lead singer and Country Cares co-founder — he said country music careers should be about more than greatest hits. They should be about the good you can do.

“It’s not just singing songs for people and entertaining,” he said that night. “It’s what we do with the platform that we’ve so luckily been given, honestly.”

Sometimes, singing songs is the perfect way to give back.

“Everybody’s stressed out, everybody’s freaking out, everybody’s not working, everybody’s worried about money, everybody’s worried about whatever,” Owen said on Twitter, near the end of a 35-minute session that’s been viewed some 95,000 times. “I hope this just made you guys maybe go to bed tonight after this with a little more happiness in your heart.”

The next night, he was playing on Instagram Live.

Country music has famously been described as “three chords and the truth.” In these days of the coronavirus, of social distancing and quarantining, it might also be called “three chords and the human connection.”

Shoes optional.