Performing one of the most poignant and personal songs of Merle Haggard's career, Chris Janson and Jake Owen sang "Footlights" at the Sing Me Back Home: The Music of Merle Haggard tribute concert on Thursday night (April 6). While the evening was full of touching performances from more than 30 artists, Janson and Owen's collaboration struck a personal chord with those in the audience and onstage.

Readers can press play on the video above to watch Janson and Owen's performance of "Footlights." Originally released in 1979 on Haggard's album Serving 190 Proof, the song details the thoughts of a musician who has grown weary of life on the road and on the stage, but still gives his all every night for the people there to see him. Recorded more than 15 years into Haggard's career, "Footlights" is a song that resonates with plenty of artists, including Owen.

""Footlights" has always been one of my favorite songs,” Owen says. “Having had the years I’ve had in the business, and things I’ve gone through — from my father going through cancer, getting divorced two years ago, my little girl moving back home to Florida — there’s been so many nights where I’ve felt like that guy onstage that has to put on the Instamatic grin to hide the mood I’m really in."

Still, Owen says that the second theme of the song -- making every moment count even when you're tired -- is one that is just as powerful for him.

“There’s a line in there that says, ‘I’m 41 years old, and I ain’t got no place to go when it’s all over.’ Even though I’m only 26 [laughs], I do think about that,” Owen admits. “This career doesn’t last forever. But if I could strive to have something like Merle Haggard’s [career] and write the kinds of songs he did, with the honesty and passion he had behind it, I think I’d do all right.”

Other artists who took the stage to honor Haggard during Sing Me Back Home: The Music of Merle Haggard included Dierks Bentley, John Mellencamp, Keith Richards, Kenny Chesney, Sheryl Crow and Loretta Lynn. A portion of the proceeds from the event benefited the TJ Martell Foundation.

10 Essential Merle Haggard Lyrics

More From