The fiddle hummed and the steel guitar twanged — two sounds that would be completely at home on a number of albums. It is not, however, something one expects to hear on a record belonging to Owen Plant.
The laid-back crooner is typically known for his hyper-chill, beachy vibe. But for his latest album, “Just Around the Corner: A Collection of Songs By Owen Plant and Brother Vic,” that has shifted quite a bit, taking an unexpected turn.
“It’s a country album,” Plant proclaimed with a laugh. “People are going to be surprised. There’s still some of my regular repertoire — folk and Americana. The only reason I say it’s ‘country’ is because some of the songs have that sound, more so than my normal stuff.”
The project has been a labor of love, one that Plant started back in 2017. He worked with collaborator and poet, Vic Riden, who helped to add depth and dimension to the songs which were shaping up to be a mixed bag of shared experiences.
“I started working on it the year after my last one, and I wrote for two years. That’s also the duration of my daughter’s life so I wasn’t as prolific as I have been,” he said.
Riden, who isn’t a musician himself, helped craft the lyrics that gave life to the music. And, the singer-songwriter notes, that he also gave him a bit of a push when needed.
“Vic Riden — aka Brother Vic — was really a driving force behind the album, in addition to writing half the songs. He was really a motivating force,” he said.
The two also teamed up with a seasoned producer who has also worked with groups like Widespread Panic and REM. The group finished work on the album right before the coronavirus swept through the nation.
“He really worked his magic on it. We just finished right before the lockdown. The last session I did was done in February,” he recalled.
The result is a fresh, crisp sound with all of Plant’s usual soul and general good vibes. Themes on the 10 track album range from confronting personal trials to appreciating intimate moments with family.
“There is one tune that I wrote with my daughter in my arms when she was an infant. It’s called ‘Listen to How I Play.’ Of course, having my daughter changed my life immensely ... for the better obviously. It really opened me up,” he said.
“The album also has some songs about heartache and relationships. There’s one that sounds like it came out of the Appalachian mountains and one that sounds like a hymn. There’s a lot of variety, but it’s a unified sound. I think it’s going to strike people in a very different way.”
But the nod to classic country and stellar songwriting couldn’t come at a more appropriate time for Plant. One of his greatest influences, John Prine, passed away in early April from COVID-19 complications.
“I’ve listened to him since I was in high school so I really hurt losing him — he was an American treasure. He was a huge influence on me so the first thing I did was do an online tribute to him,” he said.
Like many musicians, that was one of the ways he was able to honor a songwriting legend. But online shows have also proven to be a safe and vital lifeline for those in the business.
Though, over the past few weeks, Plant has started slowly booking outdoor gigs.
“I am getting out more and playing. I’m only doing outdoor concerts — the Sea Island Beach Club, the Jeykll Island Holiday Inn, Golden Isles Olive Oil, the alley of Wine Body and Soul,” he said. “I’ve also done a live and online concert at Fort Frederica Presbyterian Church where I also stream. I finally got my interface back up and running and I’m really happy with the sound. I’ve had issues with it before ... and I’m a perfectionist too. I want it to sound as good as it can. Hopefully, we can do a CD release party and then stream it to everyone around the country.”
He’s looking forward to sharing this new album with his fans and hope they can appreciate it for its uniqueness and meaning.
The album is currently available in CD form around St. Simons Island including Wake Up Coffee, Uncle Don’s and Sea Salt Healthy Kitchen just to name a few. It will also be going live on Plant’s website owenplantmusic.com.
He’s eager to receive feedback from music lovers in the Isles once they hear his latest work.
“You never know what people will think. You got to just cross your fingers and hope for the best. But I’m very proud of it,” he said.