Country star Jake Owen pops in to Florida bar

Look out Nashville, Vero Beach may become the new home of country music.

In what has become an annual holiday event, country music superstar Jake Owen surprised guests at the Riverside Cafe earlier this week with an unscheduled performance.

The Vero Beach native performed with local musician Kurt Stevens.

“I was hoping he would come by,” Stevens said. “I brought an extra mic just in case.”

Owen took the stage Monday night, and the two performed covers of Hank Williams Jr.’s Family Tradition, Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues and an acoustic version of Owen’s hit Beachin’.

Owen, his wife and 2-year-old daughter have been in Vero Beach for three weeks, visiting family, celebrating the holidays and spending lots of time golfing and fishing.

Owen spent most of Monday bass fishing at Blue Cypress Lake with his brothers and some friends. Owen and his fishing buddies stopped in for dinner at the rustic, nautically themed restaurant around 9:30 p.m. The singer, who recently sent the country music world aflutter by cutting off his famous long locks, lingered for almost two hours over a dinner of blackened mahi, french fries and coleslaw. His tip: $140 on a $260 tab.

“He was really normal,” said server Tera Osborne. “He was really nice and really chill about everything. He just went with the flow.”

The flow included pictures and handshakes with the crowd, which doubled in size from 100 to more than 200 once word got out that the country star was there.

Stevens, a Vero Beach native and avid fisherman, is a country music hopeful who won first place in the Treasure Coast regional finals of the 2014 annual Florida Statewide Country Showdown. He met Owen a couple of years ago at a Tallahassee bar called Potbelly’s, Owen’s old stomping ground from his time as a student at Florida State University. Stevens said everything you hear about Owen’s nice guy reputation is 100 percent true.