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MCCONNELLSBURG >> Just this past March, McConnellburg native Michael Eston joined notable artists like Taylor Swift and John Legend by taking home an award from New Music Weekly, a national trade magazine for the radio and music industries.

Deemed "Best New Country Artist of the Year," Eston says he's thrilled with the recognition. Like many other accomplished artists, Eston embraced a love of music at an early age.

"I have to credit my parents for that," said Eston, explaining that his mother and father encouraged him along the way. The country music artist began singing in the church choir at age five, then joined the chorus in elementary school, performing right up through high school. In college, Eston bought his first guitar and taught himself to play by ear and was soon playing to crowds at local bars. A chance encounter would eventually take him to the next level.

"When I was in college, I interned for a rental company in Phoenix and after I graduated they hired me, so I moved to Atlanta. After that, a promotion took me to the west coast to Huntington Beach, California. Everywhere I went I took my guitar," said Eston.

The musician spent many lonely nights holed up in hotels writing songs, with his trusty guitar to keep him company, before fate stepped in and propelled him to notoriety. Eston ended up landing in the right place at the right time, and his habit of toting his guitar along eventually paid off.

"I was at a trade show and met a guy who used to play lead guitar for Iggy Pop and David Bowie. He produces music now," said Eston. The two joined forces and put together a demo CD and the rest was history. "He knew people in the industry and got it out to friends," Eston added.

Since then, Eston has been busy writing, recording and entertaining audiences.

Madisen Treu has been a fan since the Huntington Beach days. "His songs are so engaging. What's fun about good country is that you want to sing along with him. He writes really fun songs, but is also able to write sincere, heartfelt songs as well," said Treu, adding that Eston is on the rotation when she and her friends get together. "Every time, without fail, when we have a house party we always play 'Jack Daniels Angry.' It's a real crowd pleaser," she said.

Eston says his penchant for entertaining comes naturally.

"Mom's from Philly and she has a big family. Dad was a salesman for a lot of years, so I just picked up on that. Our family is always singing, dancing or telling a story. I collect stories and love talking to people. When you get a really good story, you can feel the emotion. The new single we have out now, 'The Lonely Road,' was one of my personal experiences," said Eston.

Returning home

Local Eston fans will be glad to learn that the country singer is returning to his roots and settling back in McConnellsburg.

"I wanted to get back to my hometown to be closer to my family. I have two little nephews now and want to be a part of their lives," said Eston, who is currently putting together a full band and is looking forward to playing locally.

Those who are interested should mark their calendars for Fulton County's 25th annual Strawberry Festival June 12 and 13, where he will take the stage at the bandshell behind the Fulton County Courthouse, 201 N. Second St., McConnellsburg, on June 13, starting at 7 p.m.

His favorite part of performing? "When I'm on stage and there's a crowd out there and I'm nervous and I open my mouth and start to sing and that first note is crisp and pure — and you see the people dancing and singing — you just live for it," he said.

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