Josh Gracin, 23, is a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, stationed at Camp Pendleton in southern California. He's also a talented Country singer, who won the hearts of millions of last year's American Idol viewers. When his active duty ends in September, he'll turn his focus to a full-time career in music.

Last year, Josh Gracin auditioned for the second season of the popular television talent competition, American Idol. He placed fourth among 70,000 aspiring singers, who hoped to be named 2003's "American Idol."

Josh was the first competitor to sing Country music on the show. He feels that having a unique sound helped bring attention to his career and American Idol.

"It's a pop-oriented show and Nigel Lythgoe, who's the producer of the show, he loves good television and he loves change, and he loved that because it was different," he says. "It wasn't something that was expected, and it brought something different to the show. I hopefully made some new Country fans, and hopefully pulled some Country fans who were watching Nashville Star over to American Idol. So, hopefully it helped us both out."

Josh was born and raised in Westland, Michigan, where he began singing in school talent shows. Following high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as a supply and operations clerk. Josh married his high-school sweetheart, Ann Marie, three years ago, and the couple welcomed their first child in 2002. Although he received instant celebrity through American Idol, Josh says his family and comrades keep him grounded.

"The guys at work definitely help out with that," he saysid. "They just treat me like any normal Marine, which is cool and I respect that. And then you got the wife to hit you in the back of the head when you get a little bit too carried away. But, it's just been great and I'm not taking any of it for granted. I know a lot of people would go to Nashville, and they'd struggle for 10 or 15 years and never make it. So, I've definitely been blessed and do my best not to take that for granted."

Among the Country stars Gracin covered on American Idol was Rascal Flatts. The group's producer, Marty Williams, heard the performance, and later set up auditions for Josh at several record companies in Nashville. He was offered a deal with Rascal Flatts' label, Lyric Street Records. Josh returned to his military duty in California, and began the difficult, long-distance process of choosing songs for his self-titled debut album.

In a few months, Josh will finish his four-year enlistment. He's looking forward to his first concert tour, which will give him the chance to meet his many fans. Josh explains how the American Idol experience gave him a special bond with Country audiences.

"It's like they know you because you're so much different than an actor or a singer who's already established," he says. "They know personal things about your life and maybe they can relate to some of those things. So, they come up to you like you're a long lost friend, and that's so cool because when people take ownership of somebody, they feel like they have a hand in how their career goes. And it helps greatly for their career to have that. It's just changed my life immensely with the things that I've been blessed with a record label, an album coming out, things like that. It's just phenomenal how everything's been going really fast."