Arts & Entertainment

James Otto comes back as a 'Hometown Hero'

Last year James Otto burst onto the country music scene, but fans back in his hometown of Benton City have been lovin' him since his humble beginnings.

This country crooner wrapped up the Good Time Tour with Alan Jackson and Trace Adkins and will be making a stop in the Tri-Cities for his Hometown Hero Concert at 7:30 p.m. May 29 at TRAC in Pasco.

Otto's No. 1 debut single Just Got Started Lovin' You was the most played country single of 2008, according to the Billboard music charts.

Nominated for two Grammy awards and a Country Music Award honor for Best New Artist of the Year, James' family is excited for him to come home.

"I'm very proud of him," said his dad Jerry. "I was a musician years back, so James is really following the dream that I had in my life when I was his age. It's nice to see that he picked up where I left off and he actually did something with it."

Three years ago, James opened for Neal McCoy, but now James has his own openers, such as Keni Thomas, who'll open for him in Pasco.

"I knew music was going to be his passion probably when he was 14 years old when all he wanted to do was play his guitar," his father said. "His grades were even failing and what made him get his grades up was I took his guitar away from him."

After high school, James temporarily moved to Seattle, but realized the music there wasn't the kind of music he wanted to play. He took a break and joined the Navy for two years, but when he came home, from that day forward it was all about his music.

It's been more than 11 years since he moved to Nashville and the rush from last year's success hasn't gone to his head.

"I think that James knows who put him there," said his dad. "Yes, he's a very talented person, but he also is a wise enough man to know that it's the audience that put him there. So he knows that, and he appreciates them tremendously, because without them, he's nothing. He's a songwriter in a room by himself. He's told me many times that, 'Dad, this could all be over tomorrow.' "

The 6-foot-5 singer-songwriter is often mistaken for a football player, but the only tackling is on the music charts. James' eighth single Since You Brought It Up will be released on the radio May 18, and Jerry believes it'll go straight to the top.

"On James' behalf, I'd also like to tell everybody in the Tri-Cities that James is aware of everybody's support here in the Tri-City area," Jerry said. "He appreciates that very much; he appreciates the radio stations supporting him. He's really, really excited about coming home and playing here."

Tickets for reserved seating are $17. General admission is $12. Tickets are available at the Kennewick Ranch & Home, TRAC office or

*Bethany Lee: 582-1465;