There’s a certain chemistry that happens when a great vocalist collides with a hit song. Magic just explodes from the speakers and the impact is undeniable. It’s a phenomenon James Otto knows well. His breakthrough hit, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You,” topped the country chart and was the Most Played Country Single of the Year in 2008, according to Billboard magazine. Otto’s bluesy, muscular voice and dynamic stage presence earned him the respect of industry gatekeepers and the adoration of legions of country music fans.
However, there’s more to life than chart success and constant touring. Real country music is fed by life experience and Otto stepped away from the spotlight to focus on family and pour his life into a new season of songwriting. Now he’s returned to recording with an infectious new single, “Somewhere Tonight,” that reveals a renewed commitment to creating his own unique brand of country music. “I really wanted to grab people’s attention with something that’s completely different from what they were used to hearing from me,” Otto says. “That’s why I gravitated towards cutting it. I’ve probably written several hundred songs in the last couple years. I really wanted to find something that was fresh for me; that felt like a new take on what I do. I felt like this song was the answer.”
During his self-imposed hiatus, Otto penned hundreds of songs, but he says when he co-wrote “Somewhere Tonight,” he knew there was something special, and when he began performing it in his shows, that hunch was confirmed. “I watched the reaction of the crowd. It was obvious that ‘Somewhere Tonight’ moved people instantly,” he relates. “They didn’t know the song. They weren’t told it was a new single. It was just a song I was playing and you could just see the movement when that song hit the crowd, and I thought, ‘Okay, this feels really good and it’s fun to do.’ And that’s what I want. I want to have a song that you can’t ignore, that makes your head move, that makes you want to move, and that’s exactly what it did.”
Otto has never been in a better place. He has a happy home life and creatively he’s on fire. He’s writing, touring, producing other new artists and working on a new album. And he’s enjoying the enthusiastic reaction to “Somewhere Tonight” as he embarks on a new chapter in his career. He admits success is definitely sweeter this time around. “When things first take off and you’re finally having success, it’s easy to lose yourself a little bit at first,” he confesses. “A little bit of grounding was a good thing. It made me a humbler person and more grateful. I’m also a more driven person. Once I decided I really wanted to put my own music out again, I examined my life. I had built a strong foundation with my child. I made sure that my relationship with my wife was solid and my life was in a place I wanted it to be. There’s just something that calls me to be making music. It’s who I am. That’s hugely important. It gives me purpose. It gives me the desire to prove that I’m here for a reason