Blairsville native makes country connections along road to Nashville
The last thing Michael Christopher expected to be when he graduated from college was a rising country music star.
The Blairsville native, who was born Michael Christopher Palguta, graduated from Blairsville High School in 2000 and then majored in communications media at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He made some friends who were into country music and that changed everything.
“I didn't have any background in music,” Christopher said. “I didn't play any instruments or sing. I never even liked country music until college. It was all sort of an accident.”
That “accident” has resulted in Christopher fronting his own band, opening for some of country music's biggest stars, having bookings of his own all over the country, cutting a CD in Nashville of songs he wrote and getting national airplay on the radio.
“My friends in college were always listening to country and I found that I liked it,” Christopher said. “I started singing, then learned to play a guitar just to accompany myself. Then I started writing songs.
“It was a hobby at first, but I couldn't settle for a hobby. I'm like that in everything I do in my life. If I'm going to do it, I have to strive to be the best I can be.”
After he graduated from college, Christopher decided to start a “pickup” band that has since developed into a group of professional musicians who come from all over the country.
“The band kind of evolved, mostly through networking. One musician knew of someone else who was good and would fit in.” Christopher said. “What I have now is a group of great musicians that supports me and shares my vision. We all get along, too. The band is like a second family.”
Christopher's interest in music didn't prevent him from also continuing to pursue his educational goals. He completed a master's degree at Seton Hill University while his musical talents became known.
Similarly, Zach Reeder, who contributes lead guitar, piano and harmony vocals for the group, just completed work for his master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.
Christopher and his band have opened locally for country stars Phil Vassar at the Butler County Fair, Josh Thompson at the Lawrence County Fair and Craig Campbell at the Altar Bar in Pittsburgh. This summer, they have bookings in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee. They frequently play at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.
“I have two things going through my mind at once when I walk on stage,” Christopher said. “First, I'm just hoping the people will like my music. Second, I'm gauging the crowd. Some people are real energetic and want to take part in the show. Other times they are just there to listen.”
Christopher enjoys extensive travels with his band. It helps that his wife, Jessica, who is his number one fan, accompanies him. “She's the one you see at all our events taking pictures and selling T-shirts and our CD,” he said.
Christopher's CD, “You and the Open Road,” is a collection of 12 songs that he wrote either alone or with someone else. His favorite cut, ‘She Stood Out in the Crowd,' was co-written with Jon Conley, the guitar player in Kenny Chesney's band.
“Some of my songs are about my own life and my story. Others are just something I want to say. I like to write songs people can sing along with,” Christopher said.
According to Christopher, the most popular song on the CD is “Daisy Dukes.” It's getting national airplay on country radio stations.
“The first time I heard myself on the radio, I was at a dealership buying a truck. I'm a country singer. Of course I drive a truck,” he said with a laugh. “I was sitting in the truck talking to the salesman and my wife called and said I had to turn on the radio. I did and they were playing ‘All About the Chase.'
“It was great to hear my song on the radio, but I also liked watching the salesman listen to it and liking it.”
Christopher makes several trips to Nashville each year. “My CD was produced there,” he said. “I hope it takes off, but if it doesn't, I'll just enjoy my music. Luck is very much involved in that. There are thousands of people in Nashville trying to do the same thing I am.”
He recently started writing songs for a second album. “Sometimes I can write a song very quickly. Other times it might take a year from the time I start a song until I finish it,” he said.
Christopher resides in Irwin but still has family living in Blairsville.
His mother, Rita Palguta, supported his interest in music, buying him an electric guitar for Christmas and arranging for some lessons for him.
Christopher put them to good use — as his mother discovered the first time she heard his band play, in a performance his family attended at the Chesnut Ridge Golf Resort and Conference Center just outside Blairsville.
“I heard a band start and I didn't realize it was him until I turned around and saw him,” she said. “I couldn't believe how good they were. I was so surprised and so proud. I was really impressed.”
Christopher hopes that someday he can devote all his time to his music, but for now he is still working as a web designer for a Monroeville company. His fans can keep up with his music career as well as his scheduled performances on his website: michaelchristopherband.com.
His next local performance will be May 24 at the Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort and Conference Center.
Jeanette Wolff is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Indiana County’s Grant Township will fight wastewater disposal well
- Homer-Center OKs special education director, STEM courses
- Alumni help mark former Saltsburg school’s addition to historic register
- Indiana County township ‘afraid for the water’ fights waste well
- Vintondale man killed in Indiana County crash
- Armagh man dies in accident in East Wheatfield
- Nashville band featuring Blairsville native returns for Knotweed Festival performance
- United board looks to replace departing French teacher
- Indiana County dad held for trial for sending kids out of house
- High price puts Saltsburg athletic storage building on hold
- Plans for Challenger space simulator moving forward with developer, architect on board