The Banker and the Country Star: Jake Owen's Unexpected Lifelong Friendship

Becky McIllwain isn’t a music producer. She doesn’t run a record label. She’s not an agent. She’s a banker, a financial professional who helps people and businesses manage their money. That didn't stop her from helping change Jake Owen’s life.

Before he was a capital-C Country Star, Jake was like hundreds of other new arrivals in Music City with a dream in his heart and a demo in his back pocket. That’s how Becky met him.

“I met Jake Owen his very first day in Nashville,” she said. “I asked what he was doing in Nashville, and he said, ‘Well, I’m like everybody else, I’ve come for the music business.’”

Jake remembers it the exact same way. “She said, ‘Well, if you have a demo or anything I could hear sometime, drop it by.’ I had one in my pocket!”

Jake gave it to her with hope but knew she was in no position to offer him a contract. But she had friends who were.

Becky passed Jake’s demo to those friends. The very next day his phone rang.

“One day, he came in and he held up the check to me because he had just signed a deal with Sony Records. I almost cried.”

It was a chance meeting – just a guy new to town who needed a bank account and the banker who helped him fill out the paperwork – that, like so much at Pinnacle, quickly went deeper and got more personal.

“Working with someone in the music industry or even an athlete, you have to be ready to work with a team and work together to help build the success of the artist,” Becky says. And she’s stayed true to that philosophy for Jake’s entire career.

Because of the role Becky played in getting his start and the distinctive service she’s provided ever since, Jake has remained loyal and always works with her on his personal and company finances.

“Before I was ever anything, I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have anything,” Jake said. “And she treated me like a rock star then. I’ve always been very appreciative of that.

“The way we run our business, everything runs through Pinnacle. If we ever have any issues out on the road, which always happens – when you’re touring on the road, things happen – we’re able to just pick the phone up and call someone that we know personally, and we can call back to Pinnacle, and they always take care of us. We’re never left stranded.

“It’s about people taking care of people, and that’s what they do there very well.”

For Becky, it’s a lot of fun having celebrity clients, but she never allows herself to get stars in her eyes.

“The person who is the blue collar worker is no different to me than the person who is the small business owner, the CFO at a large corporation or my music industry clients like Jake Owen,” Becky said. “They all need some kind of help, and that’s what I’m there to do.

“I’m not just here to make sure you put your money in the bank. I’m here to help you with whatever issues you may have. I really enjoy getting to make a difference with people.”