Jake Owen had nine course hours left at Florida State University when he took a leap of faith.

He packed up and headed to Nashville, Tenn., leaving his former life as an English undergrad/Tallahassee bar act behind.

Nearly five years later, Owen's dream of becoming a country star is coming true.

He signed with RCA records and released his first album "Startin' With Me" in 2006. He's toured with Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn and Kenny Chesney.

He stopped April 2008 in West Manchester Township to play the WGTY-FM Hometown Jam.

"I had no idea the success would come as quickly as it did," Owen said in an interview prior to the show.

Had it not been for an injury as a college freshman, Owen might have never picked up a guitar.

"I grew up playing golf," Owen said. "That was my first dream."

His plan was to walk on to the Florida State golf team and hopefully go pro. Those hopes were shattered when he injured his shoulder.

While recovering, Owen picked up a guitar in his neighbor's closet and never put it down. One possession he can't live without on tour is his McPherson guitar.

Owen was a fan of country music - namely Alabama and Keith Whitley tunes - growing up, but said he never imagined he'd take the stage himself.

Scott Donato, program director at WGTY, said that the station looked to book "relatively new but recognizable" artists for the Hometown Jam. The Jam serves as a benefit for the venue - West York Area High School. All of the money raised will go to the West York Athletic Fund.

Donato said past Hometown Jams raised more than $8,000 for Gettysburg and Hanover schools. He added that with a headliner like Owen, the York concert will most likely raise as much.

At a music conference in Nashville last month, Donato saw Owen perform a show exclusively for radio executives.

"He blew the entire room away," Donato said. "I knew we were really lucky to book him at that point."

Country singer Lila McCann was added as an opener for Friday's show.

"She's a sweetheart," Owen, who has played with her before, said. "She is really talented."

Donato said that McCann, whose debut album "Lila" went platinum in 2001, is coming back into the spotlight. The combination of McCann, Owen and "reasonable ticket prices" has gotten positive feedback from the community, he said.

Since being booked for the York show, Owen was nominated for Top New Male Vocalist by The Academy of Country Music. The ACM Awards airs at 8 p.m. May 18 on CBS.

Owen experienced his first live awards show performance on April 14 at the CMT Music Awards. He joined Sugarland and Little Big Town to play a country cover of Dream Academy's 1986 hit "Life in a Northern Town."

Read or Share this story: