Sweet Little 'Lies'

At the age of 28, Jason Michael Carroll has enough stories to stock a man twice his age.

At the age of 28, Jason Michael Carroll has enough stories to stock a man twice his age. There's the one where he got a surprise call from Garth Brooks when times were tough. And then there's the time he got fired from his first band for booking the best gig they'd ever had. And let's not forget the time he sat around a Texas campfire and traded songs with Jewel while her husband, rodeo star Ty Murray, regaled them with tales from the world of bull riding.

But perhaps the most amazing is how a song that he struggled to write is on the verge of being the North Carolina native's first major hit. In fact, there are several stories surrounding his Arista Nashville debut, which is No. 7 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart and was the fastest-rising debut single by a male country artist in 2006.

The original plan was for Arista Nashville to release "Lookin' at You," a midtempo ode to one woman's beauty, but response from radio and listeners changed that. When Carroll visited WDTW Detroit on his radio tour, PD John Trapane and two other staff members were struck by "Alyssa Lies," a powerful song about a little girl who attempts to conceal physical abuse by lying to her teacher and classmates. In the end, she "lies with Jesus, because there's nothin' anyone would do."

The label didn't leave a copy with the station, but an enterprising staff member purchased a version of the song through Carroll's MySpace page. When the station began spinning the record, the calls poured in. "We had people calling up saying that they were from abused homes," Trapane says.

Produced by Don Gehman (John Mellencamp, Hootie & the Blowfish), Carroll's album "Waitin' in the Country" is due Feb. 6. It also includes a duet and a co-write with Jewel on "No Good in Goodbye," plus a hearty helping of songs from Nashville's top tunesmiths, including Craig Wiseman, Jeffrey Steele and Terry McBride. Carroll contributed five tracks.