Singer/songwriter Jon Michaels, his blonde hair tucked inside a baseball cap, sits quietly at the end of the bar at Music Row’s most famous industry hangout, the Longhorn Steak House, and few people pay him any mind.
As so often happens, folks outside Nashville are quicker to recognize many of Music City’s most amazing talents than those within the often set-in-its-ways music community here. That was very much what happened in Jon’s case. His path to the Row began in the L.A. suburb of North Hollywood, where Jon grew up in a single-parent household and fell in love with the music of singer/songwriters such as Jim Croce and Harry Chapin.
In those days, country was the last thing on his musical mind. But unlike many musicians, Michaels also had a savvy business sense from the beginning, and after finishing his education, he landed a high-paying job as an investment broker.
Jeffrey Steele, the writer of more than 45 Top 5 country singles, is one of Jon’s biggest fans. “In a land full of `same ol’, same ol,’ it’s so good to know Jon stays the course for being a little bit different. I love his songs.”
Michaels has indeed stuck by his guns. “I’ve tried to stay true to my individuality,” he said. Jon’s road to Nashville shows a lot of his courage, and his street smarts. He was playing clubs at night in L.A. and selling investments during the days. It was 1992 when Jon came to Nashville for his first visit; he stayed a week and was hooked.
“I’d never seen anything like this,” he said. “That’s where I got my first taste of a guitar pull, when I went to the Bluebird and Douglas Corner for the first time.”
He returned to the West Coast, sold his house, packed his guitar and never looked back. “I gave up my job; I gave up everything,” he said. “I’ve been working ever since on my career. Nashville is graduate school. It’s where you really learn about songwriting.”
Jon’s songs, from the outrageously clever “Check Please” to the unforgettable “Stones” (destined to be a classic) recently recorded by several recording artists, show a range of colors and emotions rarely found on Music Row or anywhere else.
Speaking of anywhere else, a feisty Philadelphia TV show hostess named Christina Pirello heard Jon play his music one night at the Bluebird Café and invited him to perform on “Christina Cooks,” her natural foods cooking program on PBS. Christina, who overcame the crippling disease of leukemia (in large part through a regimen of healthy eating), says: “After lots of cooking, I wrap up the show with singer/songwriter Jon Michaels joining me right in my kitchen, playing his inspiring and heartfelt original songs, while I cook. Together, we create a celebration of life, love, health and, of course, great food. It doesn't get sweeter, with no sugar added.”
The response was so overwhelming that Christina invited Jon to sing on every episode. The show is carried by more than 150 PBS affiliates and has introduced Jon’s music and warm personality to a coast-to-coast audience. In early 2005, Whole Foods Market teamed up with “Christina Cooks” for a live cooking show called “Christina Cooks Live at Whole Foods Market” and asked Jon to be the "Paul Shafer" of the show, Michaels said. “So now I’m on PBS and Comcast Network up and down the East Coast.”
All this for a song! Michaels is now one of the Row’s most admired tunesmiths and through the magic of television, Jon is also becoming a fixture in the musical lives of countless TV viewers coast to coast.
The road ahead for Jon is paved with the love of his wife and baby. Together Jon, Jeannie and their daughter Jennings are moving forward into their future. A new CD titled "I Hear A Clock" has 12 new songs reflecting Jon's tender and loving heart.
This CD is truly Jon's best work.