Jake Ousley Brings Southern Charm to Ann Arbor

Feb 7 2011 in Sneak Peek by Amanda Slater

"Times Like These" EP (2010)

by Amanda Slater

When asked to describe his music, Jake Ousley’s first response is “Neo-polka” …followed up by a quick, “just kidding.”

The truth is that Ousley’s music probably falls closer to country or simple “singer-songwriter” music than neo-polka, but, whether or not his particular type of music is your typical cup of tea, it’s hard not to like the squeaky-clean, good humored Ousley.

“I think music was always something that was in me,” he says, with a hint of a southern drawl and a smile in his voice.

“Music is a connecting piece. I think my favorite experiences with music are the parts when it takes me to a place I can’t get to, in terms of its nostalgia or anything—excitement, expectation,” he says.

Ousley’s sound is influenced by artists such as Chris Rice and James Taylor, along with the artists that he was able to tour with or work closely with in his past.

“I think my favorite songs are the ones where someone wrote something that was really special to them and you can hear their voice on it—not just their physical voice, but you can hear them talking about the coffee shop they used to go to and why they liked it and they girl they liked and why,” says Ousley.

Originally from Henderson, Kentucky, Ousley learned how to play the guitar when he was 13. He eventually moved to Nashville and got to experience the music business firsthand when he went on tour with Matt Wertz, as his tour manager. In 2008, he switched gears temporarily, working in Hudsonville, Mich. for a year as a youth minister, of which he says, “It was great, and I loved being there.”

Although Ousley had written some of his own songs during college, he didn’t consider pursuing a career in music until he began working for a camp called Wilderness.

“I was leading music, and I had a couple of people sit me down and ask me if this was what I wanted to do and tell me that they thought I could, if I wanted to,” he says.

The encouragement sparked his most intensive stint of songwriting.

“I spent that year in Michigan feeling like I wanted to write more songs and spending more time by myself writing than I ever had. I got to the point where I was curious to see how they measured up, and sent some back to Dave Barnes and Matt Wertz and a couple other guys,” he says.

The positive feedback that he received reassured Ousley that he was on the right track, and, after his first year of working in youth ministry was up, he turned down a two year contract, instead opting to pursue music full-time.

Ousley recorded a six-song EP entitled, “Times Like These,” in 2010 with the help of Josh Robinson, a college friend and producer, and lately he’s been spending a lot of time doing what he calls a “mini-tour.”  When asked what his favorite part of touring is, Ousley first says, “the food,” then, “connecting with people,” adding that he loves hearing people’s stories about their lives.

Ousley says that, other than touring, the next thing on his horizon is a full-length album, although a release date has not yet been set. He will be visiting Ann Arbor and performing at the Blind Pig on Tuesday, February 8 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $3. For more information, visit http://jakeousley.com.

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