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Blaine Larsen
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Born in Tacoma, Wash., on Feb. 2, 1986, Blaine Larsen lived in California with his mom, dad and younger sister until his parents divorced when he was just 5. His mother, Jenny, moved with her children back to Washington, settling in the small town of Buckley. The move brought him close to his mother's family, especially his grandmother, who cared for Blaine and sister Lindsey while his mother went back to school to get her degree. His father often promised to visit or call, but he never did.

A family friend named Woody worked side jobs as a contractor and took Larsen with him on weekend jobs. One of those jobs -- converting Larsen's grandmother's garage into a living space -- led to romance between Woody and Jenny. They later married, and Woody legally adopted Larsen just before he turned 18.

At age 13, inspired by George Strait's music, Larsen bought a guitar with money earned from selling homemade birdhouses. By his freshman year in high school, he was singing in assemblies and at school shows. His geometry teacher taught him chords and wrote a song with him, "Keep It Country." Larsen also booked gigs in Buckley at sporting events, weddings and in civic clubs.

Rather than join the Air Force, which was his initial goal, he and his family flew to Nashville to record a country album -- for a price. "I wouldn't exactly call it a professional recording experience," Larsen says now.

However, one of Larsen's classmates got in touch with her distant relative, Rory Lee Feek, a successful songwriter in Nashville. She encouraged him to listen to Larsen's music. Feek had never even met Larsen's classmate, but he dropped by the studio to say hello. After returning from Washington, Larsen sent him a finished CD. After hearing it, Feek and songwriter Tim Johnson flew the 15-year-old singer back to Nashville for a legitimate recording session. They started a label and released a single titled "In My High School," which received some airplay in Seattle.

An employee of BMG in Seattle sent a note to Joe Galante, head of the BMG labels in Nashville, suggesting that he check out Larsen's Web site. Galante quickly auditioned him and signed him. At the end of 2004, the label released the single "How Do You Get That Lonely," about teenage suicide. His major label debut, Off to Join the World, followed in early 2005. A year later, he issued Rockin' You Tonight and went on tour with Gretchen Wilson.