It takes more than a pleasing voice, the personality to engage a crowd and the energy to bring an audience to their feet to be a great entertainer. It also takes tenacity, hard work, determination and knowing that, above all else, music is your destiny.
At the tender age of 13, J. Michael Harter knew he was born to be a musician. He picked up a Yamaha electric guitar he received that year for Christmas and would almost never put it down. It wasn’t too long until he’d start using his grandfather’s big body Guild acoustic. It was also around this time that he would watch the careers of some of his greatest influences unfold, such as Garth Brooks, George Strait, Clint Black and Alan Jackson.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Harter says with a smile.
In fact, he lists the most important things in his life as being God, family and music, in that order. His family sees his calling the exact same way. His father remembers taking J. Michael to his first concert in Louisiana, and recalls how his passion for music was clear in the way that he was captivated by the art of live music; and in that moment, he knew J. Michael’s true home would be the stage.
A Tempe, Ariz. native, Harter always knew that he wanted to live and pursue his dreams in Nashville – at the “school of hard knocks” just like his musical idols. After building a name for himself in Arizona and perfecting his playing and songwriting skills (by skipping classes at North Arizona University to write and practice), Harter made the 1,723-mile pilgrimage to Music City.
The epitome of a blue-collar, hard working “man’s man,” Harter is an expert at balancing taking care of business while chasing his dreams. He’s worked jobs ranging from construction to steel fabrication to retail, and everything in-between.
However, J. Michael always knew he belonged on the stage. Harter added, “I can’t say that I loved or hated any of my other jobs. I just knew they were temporary solutions until I could get to making music full-time.”
Staying true to his roots and holding his own just like his dad taught him, J. Michael took the path of a troubadour. His music contains powerful lyrics about real life relationships, experiences and struggles, resulting in a deeper form of poetry rather than surface music.
A family man to the core, Harter says that his close relationship with his brother, Scott, has led to the production of many of his best songs. The pair has always had a very open and honest relationship, which gives a sense of venerability to Harter’s profound lyrics. In addition to co-writing together, Scott is also J. Michael’s producer.
At a songwriting retreat in Alaska, Michael and his brother collaborated with Scott Laurent, Earl Bud Lee and Bruce Wallace. Michael says that some very special and personal music came from those writes – with many of the cuts making their way onto his EP, Ride On.
He feels this album reflects a snapshot of a transitional period in his life, and recording this particular EP was “special” and “refreshing” for Harter.
He says with a breath of promise, “I am striving to be part of the pendulum swinging the other way to lyrically driven songs that would make you cry, laugh, or make you remember something that touches your heart.”
Harter has had quite the adventure as a musician, and he’s making it clear that he is here to stay. The life of an artist is a journey, and J. Michael Harter is running every step of the way – 1,723 miles down and it’s just the beginning.