If you attend our monthly Lion and Pirate Open Mic at Malvern Books or our quarterly concert series at Carver Branch Library, chances are you’ve seen country singer Michael Tidmore and the talented musicians who back him up and who he affectionately calls The Rollers. I first saw Michael Tidmore perform at our open mic in 2015, and I was impressed more than anything by his ability to engage and move his audience. With each song he got the audience clapping, cheering, grooving to the music. I had been to a lot of open mics, and I’d never seen anyone, disabled or otherwise, give a performance like him (except for maybe a big-time musician playing to an arena of thousands of fans, but certainly not any open mic performers).
Seeing Michael also influenced my own music performances; I used to think the lyrics, melody, chord progression, singing on key, and avoiding mistakes formed the foundation of a great performance, but what really makes for a fantastic performance is how well you connect with the audience. If you can’t do that, none of the other aspects matter. The thing about Michael is, he brings it all, every time. He writes good lyrics, catchy melodies that get stuck in your head. He has a unique, unpolished voice that reflects his country music heroes. He packs each performance with energy, charisma, and small-town, country charm. Most of all, he is sincere and authentic, true to himself and his roots.
Michael started singing at a very young age and sang in both his middle school and high school choirs. He had a broad vocal range but mostly sang in the bass register. He even won some awards for his singing in high school, including one for his performance of the Elvis classic “Suspicious Minds.”
After his graduation from Leander High School in 2010, Michael began to write his own songs with help from his music therapist Meredith Gaines, who became one of The Rollers and accompanies Michael at many of his appearances. Michael’s influences include country greats like Randy Travis and Glen Campbell, both of whom he admires as much for their resilience in the face of debilitating illnesses as for their musical achievements: Randy Travis sustained a massive stroke, but through extensive therapy he regained his voice and ability to sing; Glen Campbell successfully embarked on a farewell tour and recorded a final album after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
When asked what he’s currently working on, Michael told me he is writing new songs, trying to get heard on the radio, and raising awareness for people with cerebral palsy like himself. His big hope, though, is to go on tour with The Rollers. In answer to a final question, “What advice do you have for aspiring musicians with disabilities?” Michael eagerly exclaimed “Never give up!” For some that line might feel overused, but for Michael it’s deeply personal, and frankly, it’s just honest good advice.
Of all his songs, I have to say my favorite is “Torn Between Tennessee and Texas.” Here’s a performance of the song from our inaugural concert at Carver Branch Library in January of 2017:
OMOD Project Coordinator
Art Spark Texas