Now that the boy bands have bowed out, a new craze has hit the “TRL” circuit — boys with actual bands. The newest crop of teen-targeting troubadours includes Gavin DeGraw and Michael Tolcher, both of whom are trying to follow in the footsteps of predecessors like John Mayer and Maroon 5, acts that have hit it big and are now experiencing worldwide success and critical acclaim.

Music Reviews
“Curse you, Kelly Osbourne! That was my big break … ” (Courtesy of Octone)

DeGraw and Tolcher have teamed up for a tour, and they’re stopping at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater tonight. These guys play instruments, write their own music and put on shows that attract throngs of fans whose loyalty rivals those of boy bands past.

Headliner Gavin DeGraw’s recent fame has been bolstered by the placement of his song “I Don’t Wanna Be” as the theme of the WB hit “One Tree Hill.” This exposure to his target audience has earned his video for the song a spot on MTV’s rotation. Ironically, Michael Tolcher wasn’t as lucky with his song “Sooner or Later,” which was chosen as the theme for ABC’s teen drama “Life As We Know It.” Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after 13 episodes.

However, the publicity has still helped Tolcher attract a strong following and opening gigs for a number of young, breaking acts like Maroon 5, Toby Lightman and Marc Broussard.

Freshly awake from a nap, Tolcher spoke about the introspective themes of his debut album I Am. “I think all of the themes are kind of part of who I am and what I like to express. I try to express as deeply as possible what’s within myself,” he said. “(My fanbase is) definitely young girls (ages) 13 to 22. I’d like to expand it by playing to some adults, a male audience as well,” Tolcher said. He attributes some of his demographic appeal to artists like DeGraw, with whom he tours. “I think it (will) be a matter of which bands I’m paired with.”

While Tolcher’s native Southern charm seems to have secured the female fans, he still takes issue with our Northern men, “(They) seem to have a refusal to call me Michael, they (all) want to call me Mike.” By all evidence, he seems to be taking his young fanbase a little too seriously.

The last book he read was Rudyard Kipling’s “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” a classic children’s story, but Tolcher insists that it was a gift. “Somebody gave me this classic, beautifully illustrated version.”

Even with his rising star status, Tolcher sounds like any other lost 20-something when talking about eating on the road. “The best (meals) are free and the worst (meals) are expensive,” he said.

Tolcher’s pockets are likely to deepen with the success of his tour supporting Gavin DeGraw; tonight’s hotly anticipated appearance at the Michigan Theater is sold out. If you’re lucky enough to have snagged tickets, you’ll be in for quite a show — and who knows, you could be watching the next big thing.

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