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Second Cup Cafe: James Otto

Standing 6'5" with a frame more like a football player than an entertainer, country music newcomer James Otto's mere presence is enough to garner attention. Yet his voice is perhaps an even bigger attention-grabber.

Music has always been a part of Otto's life. Ever since he was a child, he was tuned into music, with a microphone and tape recorder in hand.

"As long as I can possibly remember I have been obsessed with music," Otto, a CMA Award nominee, said on his official Web page. "Listening to it on the radio, getting into my mom's record collection - my tastes have changed, but music has been there my whole life."

With an Army Ranger Drill Sergeant for a father, Otto was able to get a well-rounded perspective of the U.S. by moving around the country - from Washington state to his grandparents farm in North Dakota to rural Alabama - all the while expanding his musical interests.

Otto absorbed many musical influences during his travels. Hearing performers like Van Halen and Prince compelled him to pick up a guitar. His grandfather, who was a country singer, and his father, who played in rock and blues bands, also rubbed off on Otto.

He went far beyond his geographical borders by enlisting in the U.S. Navy, which led to being stationed in Guam and docked in over 20 countries. By enlisting, not only would he serve his civic duty, but he would make enough money to get to Nashville, where he could pursue his dream - a career in music.

While in Nashville, he landed an "ill-fated" deal with Mercury Records, which released his album "Days of Our Lives" without much buzz or promotion. Ironically, some of his songs from that album have been remade by other artists and have become hits.

With a bad record deal behind him, he joined MuzikMafia, "a music-first alliance of friends and creators," who gained a huge following. He toured, wrote and performed with MuzikMafia, which led to a reality TV series on the Country Music Channel.

MuzikMafia drew more attention to Otto and later he landed a deal with Warner Bros./Raybaw Records. He collaborated with brother-in-law Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts as a producer and co-writer for his album "Sunset Man."

Otto has also toured with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Shania Twain, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson and Hank Williams Jr.