Jason Michael Carroll
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Jason Michael Carroll

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The best kept secret in music


"Country artists to play Blue Cats"

Patrick Christiana - Staff Writer You don’t have to go all the way to Cotton Eyed Joe’s to wear your cowboy hat and boots this weekend. Tonight, Blue Cats is a little bit country with a show featuring the stylings of Junior Brown and up-and-comer Jason Michael Carroll. While Brown may have more name recognition in the country music scene, fans will definitely want to check out Carroll, whose own popularity is quickly growing. In 2004, he was the winner of the “American Idol”-style “Gimme the Mike” contest hosted by Fox 50 in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C. But then, Carroll is no stranger to musical competition, having hooked up with his first band after winning a karaoke contest. When he was younger, Carroll’s musical choices were somewhat limited. “I grew up in a real strict Christian home and my parents only let me listen to gospel music,” he said. Yet his varied musical interest remained intense and was not just limited to country. “I listen to everything; I listen to rap, I listen to rock,” Carroll said. But when it comes down to it, his first choice as an artist is country. “I think country music tells more of a story,” he said. “It gets you more involved.” Even with requisite cowboy hat, Carroll doesn’t look like your ordinary country singer, something even his manager Rusty Harmon admits. “He looks like he just walked off the beach and should be carrying a surfboard,” Harmon said. Carroll’s unique look and obvious talent immediately caught Harmon’s attention. “I saw Jason and started freaking out,” he said. Harmon had been doing representative work in the rock music scene and had grown tired of it. Seeing Carroll perform had a strong effect. “I’ve been a rock guy my whole life and it really changed the way I do business,” Harmon said. If Carroll’s recent contest success is any indicator, Harmon made the right choice. “He beat out over 1,000 people in the Raleigh area to win that show,” Harmon said. “It was awesome,” Carroll said. “I actually got a trip to New York out of it to audition for some record companies.” But like authentic salsa, real country music stars don’t come from New York City. Harmon sent Carroll to Nashville, where Harmon said he has been hard at work doing some writing with the likes of Radney Foster and Jeffrey Steele and basically “learning the politics of the Nashville scene.” The work is paying off. Carroll recently signed to Monterey Peninsula Artists, the same agency that books Toby Keith, and is going into the studio May 9th to record his first album. “It’s exciting and scary, but not so scary that you’re not going to do it,” Carroll said. The Blue Cats show will be the first time Carroll has performed with Junior Brown. Brown has played everywhere from the Grand Ole Opry to the west coast and is famous for his double-necked guitar, an instrument of his own invention that combines the standard six-string guitar and the steel guitar. Tonight’s performance starts at 9 p.m. and anyone 18 and up can attend. Tickets are $18 at the door or $16 in advance. Advance tickets are available at http://www.bluecatslive.com. - The Daily Beacon

"Jason Michael Carroll forges His Own Path"

Jason Michael Carroll with Junior Brown
WHEN: 9 tonight
WHERE: Blue Cat's, 125 E. Jackson Ave., Knoxville's Old City
HOW MUCH: $18 at the door
CALL: 544-4300
ON THE WEB: www.jasonmichaelcarroll.com
By Steve Wildsmith
of The Daily Times Staff
No matter how much he's derided by friends or smiled at sympathetically by surprised fans, Jason Michael Carroll still proclaims proudly - he's a fan of Billy Ray Cyrus.
The mullet-sporting country singer-turned-actor exploded like a supernova, and cooled just as quickly with the hit single ``Achy Breaky Heart'' several years back. And no matter how much Carroll has been dissuaded from liking the song - after all, his daddy tanned his hide over the tune - he can't help his affinity for it.
``I have no qualms about saying I'm a big Billy Ray Cyrus fan, and I'm also a big Garth Brooks fan,'' Carroll told The Daily Times this week. ``In fact, one of the worst spankings I ever got in my life was when my dad found a tape a friend of mine had made of `Achy Breaky Heart.'
``I really think he's a great singer, and I think that song was probably ahead of its time. It's a great song, but I don't think he should have led off with it. It wasn't like anything listeners had ever heard, and radio blew it up way too much. It's probably the same song that killed his career.''
Country fans who turn out to hear Junior Brown tonight at Blue Cat's need not worry, however -- it's highly doubtful Carroll will spring into a spontaneous rendition of ``Achy Breaky Heart,'' no matter how much he likes Cyrus. These days, Carroll is all about making a name for himself, and the stars seemed lined up in his favor.
When he was 6, Carroll began singing gospel music in church, performing with his siblings and stealing the spotlight. Raised in a small North Carolina town, his modest upbringing shaped his world-view and would provide fodder down the road for the kind of songs he writes.
His exposure to music, however, was a tumultuous one -- as was his foray into singing. His father didn't give him a whipping because Billy Ray Cyrus sucks; he did it because his son's Cyrus bootleg violated the ``no secular music'' rules of the Carroll household.
``I grew up in a strict Christian home, and my mom and dad didn't let me listen to anything but gospel growing up,'' Carroll said. ``I'd offer to run errands for mom and dad, just so I could listen to the radio in the truck, and I'd listen to the radio at the stockyard, and I always liked the stories that country tells better than other genres. It seems like they come more from the heart.
``One day, the local rock station was hosting a karaoke contest on the radio, and my dad took me down there. But I don't think he thought about what I would have to sing to get into the contest. I won first place, but the first thing he asked me was, `How did you know that song?' I just said, `Oh, it was on the radio down at work, dad.'''
Once the entertainment bug bit, Carroll was hooked, and although his family had misgivings, they were supportive. He started listening to George Strait, Brad Paisley and Garth Brooks, and support from local supporters led him to opportunities where he could showcase his talent. He soon found himself opening for Paisley, Phil Vassar, Rhett Atkins and other country stars, and he attracted regional attention when he won an ``American Idol''-style contest in Raleigh.
These days, he's been in Nashville, songwriting with his hero, Radney Foster, and breaking into Music City's fortress-like country music scene.
``I don't have a lot of time for anything as far as going to church as much as I used to, but there's obviously something much bigger than me guiding my career,'' he said. ``I write a lot of everything, and I think my songs run the gamut, from something Cross Canadian Ragweed would do to Pat Green to Texas music. I try to write songs so that everybody who comes to a show will get something out of it.''

- The Daily Times


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Country music singer Jason Michael Carroll looks as unique as he sounds. The blonde- haired, blue-eyed 26-year-old looks like he could be a California surfer, but was actually raised in a small rural town in North Carolina.

And while Franklinton, NC may be where Jason hangs his hat, this rising star may soon find himself spending more time in Nashville or New York, thanks to his most recent achievement – winning the American Idol-style contest called “Gimme the Mike!” presented by Raleigh, North Carolina’s local Fox television affiliate WRAZ-TV.

“Jason possesses that very rare combination of talent and professionalism, a humble attitude and great work ethic,” said Tom Schenck, the General Manager of WRAZ-TV.

With a smile as big as Texas, Jason delivers heart-felt ballads, traditional two-steps and high-energy contemporary songs, finding popularity with a wide range of fans, especially females.

At the age of six, Jason began singing gospel music in church. He performed with his siblings often, but stole the spotlight every time. Raised in a small southern town, his modest lifestyle shaped his view of the world and the songs he would write. His material reveals a spectrum of emotions, addressing topics such as life, death, love and despair.

"If talent is a poker hand, Jason Carroll is an ACE-HIGH straight flush. He's got every single piece of the puzzle!" said Dick Hodgin, producer at Osceola Studios in Raleigh.

Drawn to the subtle power of tender ballads early in life, he acquired a passion for country music, becoming a fan of George Strait, Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley. By the time he reached adulthood, he had a style all his own – delivered by a voice like few others. His very first song, "You Next to Me," still remains a fan favorite.

Support from local promoters helped Jason land impressive opportunities to showcase his talents. Fred Wilburn of the Longbranch Saloon and Entertainment Complex in Raleigh was an early supporter, offering Jason opening slots for the likes of Brad Paisley, Phil Vasser, Rhett Akins, Blake Shelton, Son's of the Desert and Neal McCoy.

“If he doesn't make it, I don't know who will,” said Wilburn. “He has a quality you can't describe."

With his outgoing and playful personality, Jason connects easily with audiences. Steady club touring has garnered a loyal following in markets across the Southeast, while higher profile performances on television, on the side stage at Walnut Creek Amphitheater and at a Kerry / Edward's Presidential Election Rally at NC State University, have added fuel to Jason’s fire.