Man on the run

Orson Welles, in those dark, product-shilling final years, suggested that Paul Masson sold no wine before its time. The same sentiment might be applied to Atlanta singer/songwriter Michael Tolcher, who spent more than a decade traveling the highways and back roads of America, cultivating his craft before releasing his debut album, I Am.

Tolcher was a miler running track at Georgia Tech with his eye on the Olympics when injuries forced him to readjust his focus. "It was just a bunch of stuff together, and I was like, 'You know what, I think it's time to move on,'" Tolcher says from a highway somewhere south of San Francisco. "I had been performing for about a year at that point, so I was hooked on it. I was already kinda getting a reaction from people, so I felt like I might have an opportunity to make a life of it."

But rather than record some demos and shop for a deal, Tolcher hit the road, playing anywhere he could. He would roll into town, and hit every bar looking for work, like an old-time troubadour.

"I was like, whatever happens, I know I have the best chance of surviving if I really become a good artist," he says. "So I set out to become a good artist before getting signed or anything like that. I didn't even think about that."

With his new album, he's established himself as another soulful pop singers in the vein of Gavin DeGraw and Jason Mraz. "I didn't hear any of those guys until 2000," he says. "I was up in New York when the guy who produced my records said, 'Look, this guy's getting spins.' And he played me some Jason Mraz. I was like, 'Fuck.' I was really mildly depressed. I thought, 'I hope there's room for a few of us.'"

Michael Tolcher plays two shows at Smith's Olde Bar Sun., Dec. 26, 6 and 8 p.m. $10-$12.