Real Life

Album: single release only (2015)
Charted: 74

Songfacts®:

  • This Ross Copperman, Ashley Gorley, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne penned song finds Owen singing about how "real life" ain't like what's on TV." Jake Owen said: "Everybody can put themselves in this song in one way or another. And I've been dealing with a lot of real life circumstances lately: my father's sickness, fatherhood, getting married. These are the things I wanted to sing about, and I know my fans can relate."
  • The cut came about when Owen found himself ruminating about the daily grind. He shared his thoughts with his album producers Shane McAnally and Ross Copperman. Jake Owen told McAnally and Copperman that he wanted to leave behind the fun-loving beach songs that have given him much of his success and start singing about the things that are most important to him in his life. "I'm 33, I'm married, I have a kid," he told Taste of Country. "My dad beat cancer. I've gone through a lot of real life situations over the last couple of years, and I said for me, on this record I want to get back to that. I want to get back to talking about things that are real to me, and real life scenarios."

    The two writers enlisted Ashley Gorley and Josh Osborne and wrote a song especially for the singer. "Next thing I know, a couple of weeks later, the two of them sent me this song that they wrote together called 'Real Life,'" Owen recalled.
  • The lyrics echoes some of the sentiments of Owen's 2013 single "What We Ain't Got." "In a world of materialistic things, everybody is constantly looking for what they don't have, as opposed to looking for what's real and what you have right in front of you," he told Rolling Stone Country. "That's what 'What We Ain't Got' touched on. 'Real Life' is about what we've got and what's real to us."
  • With a "na-na-na" chorus and steel guitar, Owen maintains the summertime vibe that has become his trademark without returning again to the beach. "I'm not shying away from my heritage and being from Florida, but I think I played that card a lot on the last couple records, and I didn't want to come out this summer with another beach song," he said. "But I did want to come out with a song with that anthemic chorus."
  • Owen began playing the song live over the 2015 Memorial Day weekend as a more stripped-down, acoustic version.
  • Owen told Taste of Country that some of the song's lyrics draw directly from his own experiences. However, one of the references in the song is universal. "Everybody's got that Waffle House that you hit at the end of the night after a long night, and that Waffle House lady's always a little bit perturbed at the end of the night, 'cause she knows you've had a couple of drinks," he said. "She doesn't want to deal with you. She's got her problems, we've got ours, so you tip her anyway."
  • The music video was directed by Jeff Venable and draws on the song's "real-life" message by using Owen's parents, his twin brother Jerrod and friends, band members and crew as actors. NASCAR star Kevin Harvick also makes an appearance in the clip.

    "There's friends hanging out, my family's here, my mom and dad are here, my twin brother's here, every guy from my crew - bus drivers, truck drivers," Owen said. "If you look around, there's not scripted anything. Everybody's just doing what they do."
  • The song starts with a couplet inspired by a scene from Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan breaks her plastic prom crown and tosses out the pieces to other students at the dance:

    Well I grew up in a real town
    Where the prom queen had a plastic crown


    Shane McAnally summarised the lyric to Billboard magazine: "Even being prom queen doesn't make you better."
  • Owen explained to Genius: "This song is a caricature of what real life is. It's my caricature of what my life was as a kid growing up. Did my dad roll his own cigarette's? No, but a lot of people's did. A lot of people can relate to the song."
  • This was originally intended to be the lead single from American Love. However, it didn't fare well on the charts and in March 2016 Owen announced that the song would not be on his new record, which instead would be lead by "American Country Love Song."

    "['American Country Love Song'] fit more in line with the kind of songs I've released before. 'Real Life' was a bit of an outside-the-box kind of stretch; a lot of people even said that, and it was intentional, but I noticed I didn't get the [same] reception for that song," Owen explained to The Boot. "So I kind of wanted to get back to what everybody was kind of expecting from me."

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