Introducing Jason Michael Carroll
''Yeah, I do a lot of teary-eyed meet-and-greets,'' acknowledges Jason Michael Carroll. His abuse-themed ''Alyssa Lies'' is the fastest-rising debut single from a freshman country singer in years, telling the story of a battered girl who lies to schoolmates about her bruises. It's clearly struck a chord among former victims and has had an impact on some kids whose stories of abuse aren't yet in the past tense. ''I got a call from a teacher in Georgia saying, 'Jason, I played it for my class, and seven kids came forward and said they were in abusive situations at home. They all got counseling and received help, and two were actually removed from their situations.'''
Carroll's ascent, though, wasn't supposed to be a sob story. ''My live shows are so opposite very energetic, with a lot of up-tempo, 'Ain't Going Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)'-type feel,'' says the long-haired, deep-voiced North Carolina native a potential heartthrob who looks 19, sounds 45, but is a 28-year-old divorced father of four. When the label switched singles choices midstream, he felt ''scared to death,'' fearful heavier fare would bomb and get him pegged as a balladeer. But after balking, ''I calmed down and said let's put it out and see what happens.'' The result: This week his Waitin' in the Country CD sold 58,000 the biggest first-week sales for a country male newbie since Billy Ray Cyrus in '92.