Meet Michael Warren, Black country singer, songwriter performing at CMA Fest, taking the genre by storm

Country music stations are rocking to the brim with newly released songs by a blend of genre veterans and new artists, but few singers find themselves chart-topping and successful.

The music industry is cut-throat and not for the weak of heart.

Michael Warren, 41, a country music singer and songwriter from Hoover, Alabama, was discovered by many fans when he earned his spot at the top of a number of Spotify channels, and his story is unique in the way that this is his second go at the music industry.

“I feel like I got a second lease on life,” Warren told Fox News Digital during a video interview.

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Michael Warren, country singer and songwriter from Hoover, Alabama, is performing at CMA Fest 2024 for the first time. (Lauren Abram’s; Michael Warren)

When Warren was in college, he received the call of a lifetime from Grammy award-winning artist Toni Braxton. The “Un-Break My Heart” singer hoped to record some of Warren’s songs. However, backpedaling to where it all began, Warren recalls that his immersion into music began during his formative years, long before his opportunity with a former subsidiary of Atlantic Records, Atlantic Songs.

“I started music at a very, very young age,” Warren recalls. “I instantly gravitated toward the writing.”

The country music singer credits his dad, a former band member at the University of Notre Dame, for his passion for music. In their basement at any given time, Warren said he could find 800 records from megastars, from Willie Nelson to Earth Wind & Fire to James Taylor and Michael Jackson.

“Growing up in that household, we had so many different musical influences,” Warren said.

In middle school, Warren and his buddies channeled their love for performing on the school playgrounds and sang their hearts out to the schoolgirls.

“We thought we were Boyz II Men,” Warren laughed. “I fell in love with it.”

From there, he joined the church choir, where he says he started taking music seriously.

During his two years in junior college, Warren says he didn’t socialize much.

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Country musician Michael Warren performs hit single 'Another Round' Video

“I locked myself in my bedroom, and picked up my guitar, and figured out how to play the guitar,” he said. Two years later, Warren enrolled at the University of Alabama, where he scored understated gigs in the dorm room common areas, birthday parties and house parties.

“I actually spent more time playing the guitar than I did going to class, and luckily my dad didn’t get too mad about it,” Warren said.

As Warren became a hometown favorite, he leaped from the corridors of the bustling dorm hallways to the big college bars at Mississippi State and Auburn, among other schools, and then found himself invited to fraternity and sorority parties.

Late at night, Warren hunkered down with his dad’s camcorder and recorded his own audio. He recalls that sometimes, his dad would accompany him on all-nighters to handwrite his information on burned CDs featuring original songs. Warren burned 300 to 400 CDs at a time and prowled outside popular bars at the University of Alabama to hand only girls his originals.

“I knew if I got the girls to the show, guys would come,” he said.

Michael Warren told FOX News Digital he immersed himself in music at a very young age. (Lauren Abrams)

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Unbeknownst to him, Warren’s music traveled to New York City, and Craig Kallman, chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records, was so impressed that he called Warren himself – a handful of times.

“I get a call on my cell phone from the president of Atlantic Records on a Sunday. I’ll never forget it,” Warren said. “I thought it was my friends pranking me, so I kept hanging up the phone. But he kept calling me back.”

Though he left that meeting with no record or publishing deal – or a commitment to a follow-up – Warren was hell-bent on making the most of this moment and emailed Kallman for four weeks. He offered his work ethic to Atlantic Records in any capacity and even pledged to work in the mailroom.

“I just wanted to get into the game,” he said.

From there, Warren signed a songwriting deal, which turned into a personal call from Braxton for a song he had written in his mom’s kitchen.

“That was the first big break in my music career,” Warren said. “Toni Braxton is the queen, in my opinion.”

Since then, he has written songs for Jennifer Lopez, Flo Rida, Akon and Cody Simpson, among others.

“I guess my path was supposed to be that,” Warren said. “Next thing you know, I’m putting out these songs, I’m getting these incredible rights.”

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Michael Warren on receiving a call from Grammy award winner Toni Braxton. Video

He added that gratitude is a trouble-free emotion to come by daily, and that every step of his journey, especially the hard times, is worth celebrating.

“To see my name within these playlists and show posters and shows with people that I looked up to,” Warren said. “To see it actually come true; it’s like sometimes you just have to step back, because all the things that I’ve dreamed about, I’m actually living them right now. Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of everything, you have to take time to appreciate where you were, what you prayed to God for, and that he delivered it.”

Today, Warren is gearing up for his first set at CMA Fest on Friday, where he’ll be performing for his growing collection of fans at Blake Shelton’s Ole Red, in Nashville, for Spotify House.

“CMA Fest is incredible. This is what everybody wants to do,” he said. “I remember going to Spotify House last year at Ole Red’s. I was in the crowd. Fast-forward a year later, a lot of hard work, and I’m at Spotify House, CMA Fest, main stage.”

Warren and his band crafted a 25-minute set and will perform at 11 a.m.

“I think if you work hard, and you’re consistent, and you’re driven, and you have the talent and ability, I think that you should have the chance and a seat at the table,” he said. “I think that if you aren’t good, you shouldn’t have a seat at the table.”

Warren said that despite racial setbacks in the past, he feels Nashville has opened its arms wide to him, and he is enthusiastic about their acceptance of him and his music.

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Michael Warren has written songs recorded by Toni Braxton, Jennifer Lopez, Cody Simpson and more. (Michael Warren)

“The way that I look at things is like, obstacles? That’s cool. Put them in front of me. I’m gonna keep going. I’m not gonna stop,” he said. “This year and last year, it was obvious things have changed, and the arms are open.”

He thanks Darius Rucker and other Black, White and Hispanic artists who have broken down barriers and produced inclusivity across the country genre.

Presently, Warren is independent and unsigned to a label. However, the greatest moment he dreams of is playing on the road with Rucker.

“He inspired me and so many others to break down some barriers and be our true selves,” Warren said. “I think I could be the guy that Darius hands his torch over to.”

As for his own playlist, Warren is a fan of music by Morgan Wallen, which he feels is timeless, and he hopes to be face-to-face with the “Whiskey Glasses” singer someday.

“He’s the king of this thing right now,” Warren said. “I love Morgan, Wallen because it’s small-town stories, it’s country, but he’s also able to incorporate pop artists and rappers into his music.”

Warren is working on a full body of work himself and plans to tell his story through self-written music on a 10- to 12-song album soon.

“This music industry is hard in general. So, every artist that’s out there that’s Black, White, Hispanic, this is hard,” he said. “If it happens tomorrow, cool. If it happens five years from now, cool.”

Gabriele Regalbuto is an SEO editor at Fox News Digital. Gabriele has a Journalism and Communications degree from West Virginia University. She has worked to produce content for newspapers, magazines, and digital platforms. At Fox, she has assisted in coverage of breaking news events including the 2024 presidential cycle, 2022 midterm elections, Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

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