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When plans for a professional golfing career were derailed by an injury, country songwriter Jake Owen picked up a guitar and never looked back. A native of Vero Beach, Florida, Owen and his fraternal twin Jarrod grew up in the Florida sun playing sports like baseball and football before Jake turned to golf and Jarrod to tennis. They continued their respective sports as students at Florida State University, until a water-skiing accident resulted in reconstructive surgery for Jake. Off the golf team and struggling with depression, he borrowed a neighbor's guitar and passed the time teaching himself to play by listening to childhood favorites like Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Vern Gosdin, and Keith Whitley.
Inexperienced but ambitious, and possessing a smooth baritone, Owen was soon to be found playing country covers in campus bars for free beer and a few bucks. Growing tired of covers, he began penning his own songs, which were met with a positive response. This motivated him even more to follow his new dream of becoming a singer, eventually causing him to skip out on his remaining college classes -- only nine credit hours remained on his English and political science degree -- and head to Nashville. He constantly wrote songs in his Bellevue apartment, and a chance lunch meeting found producer Jimmy Ritchey (Clay Walker, Mark Chesnutt) befriending the young musician. For over a year, the two wrote songs together, including a track called "Ghost" (also co-written by Chuck Jones) that Kenny Chesney almost wound up recording -- the track would later be included on Owen's own album.
A country singer with a strong voice, a pop sensibility, and a talent for delivering romantic lyrics, Tyler Rich was born and raised in California but pulled up stakes for Nashville to pursue a career in music. Rich's voice doesn't reveal much Southern twang, but his phrasing and passionate delivery are tailor-made for contemporary country, and he has a talent for radio-ready songs about love and heartache, as showcased on his debut album, 2020's Two Thousand Miles.
Tyler Rich was born in Yuba City, California, a rural community in the northern part of the Golden State, on February 24, 1986. He grew up in a household where Christmas was celebrated with family sings, and as a boy he developed a taste for both Yuletide carols and classic rock. When he was eight years old, a cousin turned young Tyler on to country music, and he became a serious fan of Garth Brooks, George Strait, and Alan Jackson. As his passion for music grew, Tyler's grandparents gave him a guitar on his 14th birthday so he could accompany himself as he sang. Rich learned to play guitar and took up writing songs, but after high school, academics took priority, and he graduated from college with a degree in economics. He couldn't let go of his dream of making music, though, so he relocated to Los Angeles and dabbled in various styles and approaches, both as a solo act and with bands.
In time, Rich decided country music was where his heart was, and in October 2014 he self-released his debut single, "Radio," which made an impression on country radio. August 2015 saw Rich release a four-song EP, Valerie, and that year the Country Music Social Media Awards named him "one to watch." He spread the word about his music with plenty of live work, headlining small venues and opening in bigger halls for Cole Swindell, Brett Eldredge, Justin Moore, and Dan + Shay, among others, and he relocated to Nashville to be closer to the center of the country music industry. Rich's talents attracted the attention of Music City power houses Big Machine and Valory Music, both of which signed him to recording and publishing deals. Rich's first single for Big Machine, "The Difference," was released in February 2018. The song was a success, played more than 47 million times on major streaming services, and became a preview for his first album, Two Thousand Miles. Released by Valory in September 2020, Rich co-wrote eight of the set's 11 songs, including the hits "Leave Her Wild" and "Rather Be Us."