HONKY-TONK ANGEL

After years of being "just one of the boys," Michelle Poe earns her wings by stepping into the solo spotlight.

Just look at Michelle Poe. Could this gorgeous and clearly very feminine woman really be, as the title of her debut single suggests, "Just One of the Boys"?

"Oh my gosh," she laughs. "And then some!"

That's because she spent the last four years playing bass in otherwise all-male bands behind Steve Holy and her current employer, Dierks Bentley. "Just living on the bus with five guys certifiably makes you one of the boys, whether you want to be or not!" she says. "No toilet paper, Playboy Channel on at all hours ..."

All that boy stuff suits Michelle just fine. "Just One of the Boys" sums up her two-sided personality: Sugar and spice and soft as a lamb, snakes and snails and tough as a man, she sings.

To bring that idea to life for her first video, Michelle headed to Springwater, a little bar in Nashville not far from Music Row - with Dierks in tow to make a cameo appearance. "It was the seediest honky-tonk we could get our hands on," she chuckles. "I'd never been there, but Dierks had played tons of gigs there, so he fit right in."

It's only fitting that Dierks should pop up in Michelle's video - after all, viewers first saw her in his "My Last Name" clip. Dierks has been helping Michelle ease into the spotlight in other ways as well, such as letting her sing "Just One of the Boys" during his recent stint opening for George Strait.

Michelle first met Dierks about five years ago while both were bouncing around the honkytonks in downtown Nashville. Born in Ohio and raised in Florida, she had actually come to Music City right after high school to study aeronautics - and indeed, went on earn her pilot's license at Middle Tennessee State University. "I was going to be a commercial pilot," she explains, "and I kinda got sidetracked by music."

Michelle performed in her family's band as a youngster and played gigs during college for gas money. And after receiving her degree in aerospace administration, she headed straight back to the clubs.

She eventually landed a spot in Steve Holy's band playing bass, the instrument she had played in her family's band. She hopped onboard Dierks' bus nearly a year ago, even as her solo career was finally coming together.

"Dierks is a genuinely good-hearted soul, and I've learned a lot from him about how to handle people," she reports. "He helps load up the bus, he treats his fans well, he signs autographs until everybody has one - things like that I've tucked away in the back of my mind to do myself."

She plans to leave Dierks' band at the end of the year to pursue solo stardom full-time, a step she describes as bittersweet. "It seemed like a natural progression," she says. "It just feels like the timing is right, and it's my time to shine." And shine she will - her single is on sale now and her album, Just One of the Boys, is set for release this summer.

And yes, Michelle still loves to fly - though her chances to do so are few and far between these days. "I miss it so much," she admits. "I haven't flown in a long time - I'd have to get up there and get the rustiness out. It's such an expensive hobby, and I'm hardly ever home, and the weather's so unpredictable when I am.

"Dierks and I buy flying magazines and dream about being able to buy our own planes someday," she chuckles. "I guess we'd better sell some more records!"

- Chris Neal

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