Exclusive: Shane Owens on 'Christmas in Dixie,' and Alabama's Influence

Shane Owens is helping country music fans get in the holiday spirit with his release of a cover of one of Alabama's holiday hits. Owens recently recorded their "Christmas in Dixie" single, as a way to celebrate his favorite season, and pay tribute to the iconic band.

"Christmas is my favorite time of year," Owens tells PopCulture.com. "Always has been and always will be. I love the group Alabama. Being from Alabama and growing up in what we called Dixie down there, it had to be nothing but ‘Christmas in Dixie’ for me."

Owens, who released his Where I'm Comin' From album last December, says much of his career has been influenced by the legendary group.

"They had so many hits, and I used to love listening to them growing up, and I still do, as me and a million other people do," shares Owens. "They just make great music. They were, in their heyday, they were one of the best bands ever in country music, and to me their legends."

It's artists like Alabama, along with other artists from that era, who inspired Owens to not only forge a career in country music, but also shaped his own, unique sound, as evident on Where I'm Comin' From.

"I’m a traditional country singer," says Owens. "I grew up listening to George Strait and Alan Jackson, and idolizing Randy Travis and Keith Whitley. When you’ve got some of the best songwriters in Nashville pitching you songs — I’m talking about No. 1 songwriters like Jeffrey Steele and Greg Barnhill and Bruce Burch — when you’re keeping that company, when you’re affiliated with people like that who write those songs, it’s a no-brainer to go in there and cut those songs, because you’ve surrounded yourself with good people, and they’re just great songs. I’m so proud of this record. I’m so looking forward to the next record as well."

One of those songs, "19," on Where I'm Coming From, penned by Steele, has been one of Owens' biggest hits at radio, thanks in part to the emotionally-charged story in the song. Written about a 19-year-old who voluntarily went to war, the song was inspired by the true story a veteran who tragically lost his life while serving in Afghanistan.

"It’s been such an overwhelming song for us to put out at radio," Owens says. "We’ve got so much feedback from radio. When I tell this story -- we owe our military a great debt. When Jeffrey Steele wrote this song, it was influenced by the Pat Tillman story. People that are not familiar with that story, Pat got in the NFL making millions of dollars, [voluntarily went] there to fight for our country, and he was killed. We’ve got so many 19-year-old men and women that enlist, and they know that in the back of their mind, they may have to pay the ultimate sacrifice. It’s just a great song, and it’s touching a lot of people."

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Proceeds from "19" benefit TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), which offers support and resources for families who lost a loved one overseas. Download "19" on iTunes.

Owens is working on a new album, which he hopes to release in 2018. Purchase Where I'm Comin' From on Amazon and iTunes.