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"I've always wanted to go out with Keith, because I've always appreciated the fact of how much of the real deal he is as far as guitar player, singer-songwriter and an all-around good dude," Jake tells The Boot backstage at the CMA Music Festival Friday night. "I've not known Keith that well, just in passing, and he's been the utmost gentleman.
"The reason I'm even here tonight -- I wasn't even supposed to play at LP Field, but he said -- and this is my best Australian accent [imitating Keith] -- 'Jake, it'd be great if you could get up on stage and sing, 'Don't Think I Can't Love You' with me,' which was pretty amazing to me. He called today and said he had googled my song in order to learn it. I was like, 'Wait a second. You googled me?' [laughs] It was cool. He's been a great guy."
"What I love about Keith is that he reminds me a lot of Vince Gill in a way, where Vince has become this ambassador for country music, and he's such a classic icon in our format," the Florida native adds. "Keith has taken upon this role, and to make me feel the way I felt lately, and to take time out of his 30-minute set tonight to take four-and-a-half minutes to use one of my songs, truly shows the kind of guy he is and how much he's really putting into his craft and including me as camaraderie on this upcoming tour all summer."
Jake and Keith have been getting to know each other on a more personal level recently. "I've been hesitant to talk about it, because I didn't know if it was something Keith wanted to keep private or not, because it's been hard for me to not talk about it," he admits. "The reason I will talk about this is [because of] how classy Keith is, as well as Nicole. I didn't even know who was going to be there. I got a text from him saying, 'Hey, man! It's going to be good, about eight or 10 people, and it's going to be very memorable.' It was an Italian dinner that was catered. I guess it was a gift from Nicole to Keith, and the fact that they included me was amazing. I was like a sponge, soaking up this experience, because I walk in and there's Reba [McEntire] and Sheryl Crow standing there ... and all of a sudden, I felt like, 'Wow! I guess I'm starting to be a part of something that I need to soak up.'"
It seems the veteran performer is having quite an effect on Jake, and not just in a musical way. "What I thought was so cool was, at this long table at dinner when we finally went in to sit down, there were name tags where we were going to sit. Nicole sat down at the end, and I assumed Keith would sit next to Nicole," he recalls. "Keith had his name tag sitting next to me, so he sat next to me all dinner long, so he could catch up with me and figure me out. We just talked about everything, and that really made me realize that I want to be like that. I want to walk around one day and someone say, 'That guy is a classy guy. He knows how to treat his peers and he knows what he wants out of life.' He seems very present and happy with where he is right now, and I think for any artist, that's something to definitely strive for."
The Get Closer 2011 World tour launches June 16 in Biloxi, Miss. Prior to the first date, Jake will lend his time and talents to the 'BAMA RISING: A Benefit Concert for Alabama Tornado Recovery' in Birmingham, Ala., June 14.