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''I feel like this is a calling, says Brian McComas, just like it would be for a preacher or a race car driver or a doctor. For me, making music is like breathing. nBrian's life has been filled with moments that bear out that sentiment, with perhaps none so pivotal as the one that took place outside an outdoor amphitheater in Branson, Missouri, when he was 16. He was a hungry songwriter wannabe standing outside a chain-link fence near legendary songwriter Paul Overstreet's tour bus. Raised on a variety of country and pop music, Brian had gradually become a passionate fan of Overstreet's uplifting beautifully crafted, stone country songs. Now he wanted to get one of his own simple demos into the master's hand. nHe came over to the fence, says Brian, and I said, 'Hey, I love what you do. Is there any way if I sent you something that you would listen to it?' Overstreet gave him the name of his publishing company, and Brian sent a tape. They actually called me back, says Brian, still delighted with the memory. They said, 'The songs aren't there yet, but we'll keep accepting your material--and we don't normally do that.' I was thrilled to death. I thought, 'If I'm at this point now and I've just been at it a little while, maybe someday I'll get to the point where I can actually craft something that somebody'll listen to and want to sing themselves. The determination and respect for craftsmanship he evidenced at sixteen eventually brought him to that point, turning small-town dreams into a full-fledged artistic vision. Brian's parents have military backgrounds, and they met at the Pentagon, where both were employed. Brian was born in Bethesda, Maryland, but grew up primarily in Harrison, Arkansas, in the heart of the Ozarks. I didn't realize just how beautiful it was until I moved away and came back, he says. My friends and I would spend a lot of time on the Buffalo River nearby, starting a fire, fishing, and hanging out all night. nHe was a sports fanatic, playing basketball, football, and baseball, until injuries steered him toward tennis, where he was part of two state championship teams. nBrian heard a variety of country and pop music growing up, with influences that went from Don Williams, George Jones, and Clint Black to Buddy Holly, and James Taylor. He'd even turn on the local classical station at night as he drifted off to sleep. I loved music, and I could sing you every song on the radio, he says. I was making up things of my own by second or third grade. He sang in church and in a school choir, but it was popular music that captured his imagination. nAs his tastes matured, he became a fan of Randy Travis and George Strait, which led him to songwriters like Dean Dillon, Don Schlitz, and Overstreet. He began writing more, singing lines into a little boom box because he couldn't play an instrument. At 14, he knew he'd need help getting his vision onto tape. He told a friend, I've got these songs in my head and I don't know how to play guitar. I need somebody who can tell me what chords I'm singing to. That led him to David Farmer, a local musician who worked patiently with him and eventually took him into a small local recording studio. He was my lead guitarist on the first sessions I did, Brian says, and he was how I was able to find the means to actually turn my thoughts into charted music. nIt was one of the early tapes he and David did together that earned him the call from Overstreet's company and kept him jazzed about writing. I'm a night person, he says, and after hanging out with my friends or playing football or studying for the night I'd stay up until 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning, just writing, and I'd barely be able to wake up the next day. But the sun would go down and my creative juices would start flowing. Brian went to the University of Arkansas for a year, mostly to honor his mother's wishes, but the big education he got was musical. I got tired of not knowing how to play guitar or write down my own songs, s
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