By Joe Southern
Jake Owen headlines a star-studded line-up for the second annual Country at the Ballpark concert Nov. 5 at Constellation Field.
“I love it. A major part of going out on a tour is connecting with the fans,” he said in an interview with the Fort Bend Star.
Owen is headlining the concert with Aaron Watson, Frankie Ballard, LANco and Runaway June.
Owen, who hails from Vero Beach, Fla., is known for his high-energy performances and his laid-back style. He said he is looking forward to returning to the Houston area and connecting with his fans. He is on the back end of a tour in support of his fifth album, “American Love.” The first single from the album, American County Love Song, and its accompanying video were huge hits for Owen.
“The first song off my new album went to No. 1 and for me that’s kind of a big deal,” he said.
To make the video for the single, he took a road trip in his 1966 Volkswagen van and doing impromptu performances for fans along the way.
“We took a little road trip around the country; it was really cool,” he said.
The van has become an icon of his and fans will be able to see it at Country at the Ballpark.
“I take it pretty much everywhere with me,” he said. “We pull it behind the tour bus.”
Owen said once his current tour concludes he will work on new music and gearing up a new tour for next year.
“I’ve worked hard to get to this point in my life and I don’t take it for granted,” he said.
When asked which of his songs he most enjoys performing, the answer was quick in coming.
“The song ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night’ has one of the biggest reactions we get when we do it live,” he said.
“Barefoot Blue Jean Night” is Owen’s biggest hit. He is also known for songs such as “Beachin’,” “Anywhere With You,” “Alone With You” and “The One That Got Away.”
Owen said he hopes concertgoers will get their money’s worth from the show.
“It’s important for me that people have a good time,” he said.
Also headlining the event is Texas native Aaron Watson, an independent label artist who last year cracked into the country charts with a pair of singles off his most recent album, “The Underdog,” which came out in 2015 and has become his first No. 1 Country Billboard album in his 16-year career.
Texas is his home. He was born and currently lives in Abilene but grew up in Amarillo.
“I thought my new record would do really well, but I didn’t think it would do what it’s done,” he said in an interview last year.
The single “That Look” has been his highest-charting single at 41 and has been getting significant air time despite his old school style of music not blending as well with modern Top 40 country music.
“It’s a testament to all the great fans God has blessed me with,” he said.
After 16 years and 12 albums, Watson is comfortable with who he is and what he does.
“That skinny jean, bro country thing is not my cup of tea,” he said.
He said it’s not a reflection on modern country music; it just isn’t his style. His West Texas roots better reflect the acts that inspired him like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, George Strait and Merle Haggard.
“I realized that I’m at a point in my career where I’ve figured out who I am and the songs I like to sing,” he said.
Watson is a man of deep Christian faith and strong family values. He isn’t hesitant to talk about Jesus or his wife and kids. He said his kids are the ones who decide what music plays back home on the ranch.
“I listen to whatever my little girl wants to listen to when we’re in the truck,” he said.
That could range from Maroon 5’s newest hit to classics by Michael Jackson, who his daughter referred to as “Uncle” because she could not pronounce Michael.
“My little girl listens to daddy all of the time but it wears me out. I don’t like listening to myself,” Watson said.
Still, it could be worse.
“As long as I don’t have to listen to the ‘Frozen’ soundtrack anymore,” he said.
Watson said he is proud to be a country music traditionalist.
“I’m putting the cowboy back in country music,” he said. “And God has really blessed me.”
The acclaimed singer-songwriter and guitarist Frankie Ballard is fresh off the Nashville scene with his latest and highly anticipated album, El Rio. Songs off his newest album include “Good as Gold”, “It All Started with a Beer” and what Ballard describes as experimental songs “Cigarette” and “L.A.Woman.” Ballard is known for his love and lust songwriting style and quickly gathered followers in 2013 with his first number one hit “Helluva Life.”
LANco is breaking through the country music mold with a distinctive style that is all their own. “Long Live Tonight” from their self-titled EP is gaining speed for this five-piece band. In February, LANco was spotlighted in Rolling Stone Country as one of their “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know.” Formed in 2012, the band is comprised of: Brandon Lancaster (lead vocals), Chandler Baldwin (bass), Jared Hampton (keyboards, banjo) Tripp Howell (drums), and Eric Steedly (lead guitar).
Runaway June and their debut single “Lipstick” caught attention for producing a break-up song with an upbeat twist. The trio of female artists is comprised of Naomi Cooke (lead vocals/guitar), Hannah Mullholland (vocals/mandolin) and Jennifer Wayne (vocals/guitar). Fans and musicians alike are drawn to the trio because of their stunning three-part harmonies.
Record crowd expected
Last year’s inaugural Country at the Ballpark drew 9,200 fans. Matt Thompson, special events director for the Sugar Land Skeeters, said he is expecting a much larger crowd this year. He said last year’s event featured three bands – Chris Young, The Eli Young Band and Cassadee Pope – and the gates didn’t open until 5 p.m. This year there are five hot, country acts and the gates open at 3:30 p.m.
“Last year we held it on a Friday night and this year we’re doing it on a Saturday,” Thompson said. “This time it will have more of a festival feel to it.”
He said the stage will be set up in centerfield and will have VIP seating in cushioned seats near the stage with special VIP options for the Insperity Club. General admission will be on the field with reserved seating available in the stands. The concession stands will be open, serving fresh, hot ballpark fare that Skeeters fans have come to love.
Contests are being held online at CountryAtTheBallpark.com for meet and greet opportunities.
“We are excited to have Country at the Ballpark back at Constellation Field for a second year,” said Skeeters President Jay Miller. “We have five top country bands performing and we plan to make this year’s concert better than last year for fans attending the show.”
Country at the Ballpark is presented by the Sugar Land Skeeters, Lucky 13 Presents and The New 93Q.
Tickets start at $35 with VIP options available. Tickets can be purchased online at CountryAtTheBallpark.com.
Parking at Constellation Field is $10 (cash only) for Country at the Ballpark and additional parking information can be found at CountryAtTheBallpark.com.
For more information, visit CountryAtTheBallpark.com, and follow @CountryBallpark on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to get the latest information and updates.