Eras Tour Opener Owenn on Touring With Taylor Swift, Looking Back at Starring in ‘Lover’ Music Video

Eras Tour opener Christian Owens, who goes by the stage name Owenn, says he was in the recording studio “in the womb.”

Granted, his mom was a Sony-signed artist and part of the 1990s group Lyric. Given his mother’s background, music was always around him.

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Owenn spoke with Variety over Zoom in his hotel room having just arrived in Chicago for his second stop on Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. His next day is jam-packed, starting at 7 a.m. and ending with his performance on Soldier Field.

The singer describes the first night of performing on the tour as “electrifying” as he looks forward to making his show even better with his remaining stops.

Owenn is a true multi-hyphenate whose credits extend far beyond singing and the Eras Tour; he actually started in dance. From getting a foot in the industry’s door with Diddy’s “Hello Good Morning” performance on “American Idol” in 2010 to dancing alongside Normani in her song “Motivation” (2019) to starring as Swift’s lover in “Lover” (2019), Owenn now credits much of his career to his life-long love of music that stemmed from growing up in a music studio.

Owenn’s big break came in joining Rihanna’s “Loud” tour as a teenager in 2011: “It was one of those big opportunities… I went on tour, and then I just never really stopped.”

Since his first tour with Rihanna, he has also danced and choreographed for stars such as Beyoncé (including the “Lemonade” visual album movie and the iconic 2018 Coachella “Homecoming” performance), Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Lil Nas X, Alicia Keys, Demi Lovato, Megan Thee Stallion and, of course, Swift.

Owenn’s relationship with Swift started as a dancer on her 1989 tour.

“I actually auditioned for Taylor in 2015. I think I was number like 500,” he says. “I had come from such a different background of more hip-hop… I just went forward, and they cut people round after round, and I was like number 12. I was like, ‘Okay, cool.’ And then Taylor walks in and she hand-picked us… She was very nice to all the dancers and treated us really well. We all bonded on that tour.”

Owenn rejoined Swift for her “Reputation” tour in 2018, where his dancing was particularly highlighted as the leading man in the song “King of My Heart.”

In 2019, Swift’s team reached out to offer him the “Lover” music video gig (“I just look so different now. Like my hair’s so long,” he jokes). That music video now plays before Swift’s Eras Tour.

“I went to the concert one of the nights in Jersey, and I was able to walk around and watch the show. And it was cool because I would see [“Lover”] on the screen, and I was walking by, and nobody knew,” Owenn says. “It was cool to be one of those people that could just actually watch and enjoy.”

As Owenn began to launch his singing career, Swift also helped him sign his first major record deal with Republic Records in 2021. “She’s always been that driving force and a supporter,” he says. The singer is now signed to AE Records, which is a division of Atlantis Entertainment.

In a “crazy turn of events” in November 2022, Owenn was announced as part of her exclusive list of Eras Tour openers that includes Paramore, Muna, Gracie Abrams, Phoebe Bridgers, Girl in Red, Haim, Beabadoobee, Gayle and the newest addition Sabrina Carpenter.

Born and raised in New York City, Owenn’s dance career started when he moved to Atlanta around age 13. Working largely in hip-hop, he credits the Monsters Dance hip-hop conventions where he took classes from the industry’s top choreographers such as Janet Jackson’s and Britney Spears’ (and he returned to the convention in 2022 as a musical performer). At 17, he wound up in Los Angeles and pursued dance.

After having established himself as a powerhouse in the music industry’s dance scene, he showed his single “Luv” — which was released in February 2023 — to his mentor Nuno Bettencourt from the rock band Extreme (and Atlantis Entertainment CEO and co-founder), after keeping it in his back pocket since touring with Rihanna. “I love dance so much, and I could always sing well. My mom would try to get me to sing all the time, and I didn’t. I had to do it on my own basically,” he says.

His music draws from his inspiration Prince, as well as Fleetwood Mac, Marvin Gaye, Aerosmith and Kiss, and his live performances are unmistakably enhanced by his dancing ability.

Now with four singles — “Baby Girl” (and its remix), “Rest of My Life,” “Show Me” and “Luv” — he is set to drop his latest “Dark Side of the Moon” on June 16, which acclaimed songwriter and producer Rob Grimaldi helped write. “I’ve been recording a whole bunch of new stuff and trying to capitalize on my new era basically,” Owenn says. The singer says the new single “felt perfect to launch the new side of me. Still rock, still electric guitars, still a little grungy, but also on the more pop side.”

“I want to be inside of the music and have to be, but I think that dancing definitely helped with that musical side of me hearing certain things and hearing certain beats,” Owenn says. “Obviously dancing is very rhythmic. And I think singing could be like that too…My cadence might be different on some notes because I hear something differently in the music.”

Formally introducing his music persona with his debut European festival tour this past summer, the singer landed at the Paris Lollapalooza main stage. Later in 2022, he also opened two of Lil Nas X’s “Long Live Montero” shows (a tour where he also choreographed numbers) and was slated as an Eras Tour opener for 2023.

Despite his burgeoning music career, Owenn still struggles with being taken seriously as a singer coming from the dance realm. “The transition is hard,” he says. “Especially from becoming a dancer and now doing music. I’m like, ‘Yo, I’m actually an artist,’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re a dancer.’ It’s just balancing that and being that true artist and getting people to see that — it’s a task within itself. But it’s definitely something where you just have to keep pushing, keep going and keep believing in yourself…It makes for a good story, and it makes for a good backbone, building that callus.”

The biggest lesson he has learned from working with so many stars is that “preparation meets opportunity,” he says, which he has carried into his Eras Tour stint.

Owenn doesn’t intend on ditching his dance background as his music career takes off, however. “That’s something that’s inside of me and something that is a part of my arsenal as a performer,” he says.

Looking ahead a few years, Owenn says he hopes to dive head-first into his music, and that it makes an impact on its listeners. “I pray that I’m mentally happy and strong. And I pray that I have succeeded in inspiring and sharing great music and making people feel good or making people feel emotions from my music, and taking that leap with all my fans,” he says. “Just really making history.”

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