Country newcomer Barry Michael hopes that 2012 sees his career soar -- just as high as he recently got to fly at South Carolina's McEntire National Guard Base.
"I did a concert for them for their family day at the air base. I had dinner with General Livingston at Fort Jackson, about one exit away from the air base. He's one of the greatest guys I've ever met. It was a dinner before the family day, and he asks me what I like to do in my spare time. I said 'I like to go fast. I like hot rods and cars.' He looked at me, and said 'Well, I can take you faster than you've ever been.' That's where it started. I said 'Oh, really?'"
Michael also had performed at a concert at Fort Jackson with Kellie Pickler last September.
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The day was one the Georgia native won't forget anytime soon. "It was unbelievable," he says. "The whole day was perfect. We started the day by meeting with the commander. He was in his office, and came in and sat down, and the first thing he said was 'You're lucky. You get to ride in a F-16.' He smiled at me and said 'You're gonna get sick, you know that?' They took me right into a training session - everything from ejecting out of a plane to parachuting."
Michael had to digest a lot of information - quickly. "We went through everything in about two and a half hours. I was thinking 'Now, I'm nervous.' We got suited up, and took off. For the first fifteen - twenty minutes I was good. I was ready. About twenty minutes into the flight, he says 'Why don't you take the wheel for a while, and fly it around? So, he taught me how to fly by maneuvering the clouds. It was the most unbelievable thing."
Michael, who made the radio rounds with his single "Uncountrify Me" from his last disc "Ripped Blue Jeans and ATV's" said that while both his experience in the air -- as well as being on stage provide him with plenty of adrenaline, he says the two feelings are completely different.
"Up in the air, it's one of basic serenity," he tells Billboard. "You're up there almost by yourself, but when you're in front of 20,000 people, it's the opposite. I'm here and all these people are looking at me to entertain them."
He did joke that "It seemed like that plane had some dance moves. I'm from Atlanta, and I grew up with all types of music. One of my favorites is Prince, Lionel Richie, and the old school stuff. I love R&B. Growing up with all that, I tend to have some hip-hop movements during my country show."
Michael says that his style ranges runs the emotional gamut. "'Uncountrify Me' was a little bit of fluff, but I've got one song called 'Grace Like God' that touches on an infidelity issue. It's about forgiveness. It's about a person who finds the one they love in the arms of someone else, and the only way they can forgive them is grace like God. It's a hot topic in society, and says something that I feel needs to be said."
Lyrics are something the personable singer takes seriously. "I get frustrated quickly if I am writing a song that means nothing. It's like learning cover songs. I feel like I'm wasting my time. I say that because I think the best songs I've ever written come from a place that meant something instead of writing a song about going to the river or the creek. I have to be inspired."
One organization that inspires the singer is Hidden Wounds. He does quite a bit of work for them. "They are fighting to support these soldiers who have come back from battle, and they have fought for your life and my life. They're coming home and taking their own lives. That strikes a chord with me because I don't understand it. I've never been in the service, so I really don't get what they are going through. The only way I can help them is to fight for them and let them know that there is help. There are a lot of soldiers who are sick that you would have no idea. They've seen way too much. They don't adjust really well from the reality they've known elsewhere."
Michael hopes to release his second album later this year, admitting that he is just "waiting for the right time. So, now we just want to find the right radio single so we can be a force. That will help us propel the other things that we want to get going!"