Drop everything now — Jake Owen is addressing the rumors that Taylor Swift’s “Sparks Fly” is about him.
The country star doesn’t seem to mind that many people think he’s the subject of one of Swift’s 2010 hit songs, as fans revisit the theory amid the release of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version). Owen, now 41, tells PEOPLE that he has heard the theory for years — but it’s never bothered him.
“It’s a great song and the speculation has always been funny to me,” admits Owen, speaking to PEOPLE Wednesday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada, where he was participating in the American Century Championship, presented by American Century Investments. “I’m sure Taylor probably laughs at it all too, but I’m happy to even have my name in the discussion around it.”
The singer-songwriter — who released his own latest album, Loose Cannon, late last month — went on to say that he has “known Taylor since she was 16,” and he has always been a fan of her work.
“She’s an amazing girl and an amazing artist,” Owen says, adding, “It’s been incredible to see how she’s grown as a musician and what a global phenomenon she’s become.”
The “Midnights” singer, 33, hasn’t shared much about her inspiration behind the track, but fans have pieced together the theory based on past comments and “easter eggs” Swift often leaves for her followers to look for.
In the song’s liner notes, she wrote “Portland, OR,” possibly hinting at the city she and Owen played in together 17 years ago. Fans also tracked down an old MySpace post from October 2006, about a year before Swift started performing the song live, in which she recalled an “amazing” night playing in a Portland bar called Duke’s when she opened Owen’s show.
She detailed meeting Owen that night, where he told her he was a fan of her music. Fans took that as a clue that the two might’ve stayed to chat, and that is why the lyrics in “Sparks Fly” refer to “falling in love in an empty bar.”
The 12-time Grammy winner sparked years-old conversation about the people behind her songs when she released her re-recorded version of her third album — originally released in 2010. Swift’s third album was largely inspired by her growth as a person and artist as she entered adulthood.
“I first made Speak Now, completely self-written, between the ages of 18 and 20,” Swift wrote on Instagram when she announced Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).
“The songs that came from this time in my life were marked by their brutal honesty, unfiltered diaristic confessions and wild wistfulness. I love this album because it tells a tale of growing up, flailing, flying and crashing … and living to speak about it.”
A loose concept album about the times she wishes she had spoken up, Swift previously teased to Songwriter Universe magazine that each song is meant to serve as “a different confession to a different person.”