Adam Tucker heard it for years.
When he was touring under his own name, when he was opening for 42 national country acts (including Taylor Swift, Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, Charlie Daniels and Blake Shelton), when he was showcasing his songs for Nashville record labels, the response when he finished singing was, "You sound so much like Tim McGraw.''
It wasn't a coincidence. Just as he emulated Michael Jordan whenever he was on a basketball court, Tucker said he emulated his favorite singer when he was behind the microphone.
But that parallel was a double-edged sword.
''The record labels would say, 'We love what you're doing, we love your work ethic, but you sound too much like Tim McGraw,''' Tucker said.
If that was a problem in getting a record deal for Tucker, it's an asset for his current gig, portraying McGraw in the Las Vegas show ''Country Superstars'' and touring with his McGraw tribute, Live Like You Were Dying, which will open the Country at the Amp series on Friday at Warren Community Amphitheatre.
WHO: Live Like You Were Dying (Tim McGraw tribute), Southern Detour and Doug Thomas & the Back Porch Rockers
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Warren Community Amphitheatre, 303 Mahoning Ave. N.W., Warren
HOW MUCH: $7 for adults with children ages 12 and younger admitted for free.
Here is the rest of the of the County at the Amp schedule:
June 15 Hard Workin' Men (Brooks & Dunn tribute), North of Mason Dixon and Tom Frietchen Band
June 22 Shania Live! (Shania Twain tribute), Jigsaw Rodeo and Tom Frietchen Band
June 29 Once in a Lifetime (Keith Urban tribute), Southern Detour, Tom Frietchen Band and Candy Campana
July 6 Fresh Horses (Garth Brooks tribute), Ruff Creek and Doug Thomas & the Back Porch Rockers
July 13 Summertime (Kenny Chesney tribute), Tom Frietchen Band and Red Dust Mountain Boys
July 20 A Tribute to Gretchen Wilson & Toby Keith, Tom Frietchen Band and Jigsaw Rodeo
Aug. 3 Alan Jackson Tribute, Rachel Timberlake, Tom Frietchen Band and Doug Thomas & the Back Porch Rockers
Aug. 17 Almost George (George Strait tribute), Everyday America (Sugarland tribute), Tom Frietchen Band and Candy Campana
Aug. 24 Broken Road (Rascal Flatts tribute), Riverhawk Band and Jigsaw Rodeo
Aug. 31 Elvis Presley tribute with Tim 'E' and Doug Thomas & the Back Porch Rockers (admission is $10 for this show)
Making the transition to tribute act came easy, Tucker said during a telephone interview from Montana.
''Because he was my musical idol, I knew every song,'' Tucker said. ''There was no process, no studying. What he did on stage was what I felt natural doing.''
McGraw doesn't have a standard stage attire, except for that black cowboy hat, and that's something that Tucker already wore on stage. He has the facial hair and the physique, but Tucker considers the physical similarities to be secondary.
''I sound more like Tim McGraw than I look like him, and I'm more proud of that,'' he said.
Unlike Country Superstars, which only gives Tucker about 15 minutes to sing McGraw's songs as he shares the stage with tributes to Willie Nelson, George Strait and Reba McEntire, Friday's concert will allow him to do a full show.
And McGraw's career has provided plenty of songs to fill that set. Since his debut 20 years ago, McGraw has released 32 No. 1 country hits. In addition to winning three Grammy Awards, 14 Academy of Country Music Awards and 11 Country Music Association Awards and being one of country music's top concert draws, McGraw has found time to appear in several movies, including ''Friday Night Lights,'' ''Flicka'' and ''Country Strong.''
''I try to cover all of his big hits,'' he said. ''I start out the from beginning, 'Don't Take the Girl,' up to right now, 'Better Than I Used to Be.'''
With that many hits to pick from, Tucker said he doesn't get the chance to do too many album cuts, but he will throw a song into the set list that fans might be familiar with - like ''How Bad Do You Want It'' - that for one reason or another never was released as a single. Tucker knows the fans want to hear the number one hits, but if it was just up to him, he would sing anything and everything.
''There's not one Tim McGraw song that I do not like. That's the God's honest truth.''
One song that always is in the set is McGraw's 2004 country anthem ''Live Like You Were Dying.''
''When I sing that, I see tears in the audience,'' he said. ''At the meet and greets, people say how much that song means to them ... It's a tearjerker, but it has such a great message.''
While most tribute acts are devoted to performers whose career, or at least their career peak, is in the past, McGraw remains popular with country radio and tours extensively. This summer he's playing stadiums with Kenny Chesney, including shows in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. With McGraw continuing to release new music that charts, it keeps Tucker's show from getting stagnant. And the publicity that comes with each new album, tour and movie role trickles down to the tribute act.
''Whenever he's on TV, I get happier and happier because I know it will open up opportunities for me,'' he said. ''I get booked to do afterparties for his concerts.''
In addition to his regular gig in Las Vegas, Tucker said he does about 30 concerts a year like the show he'll be doing Friday in Warren. He hasn't abandoned the idea of seeing his own name on the country charts, but he's content to sing ''I Like It, I Love It'' for audiences who like it and love it as much as he does.
''I flew to Nashville two weeks ago to record music,'' he said. ''I'm still focusing on trying to be myself, but at the same time, Tim McGraw pays the bills. I had to check my ego at the door.''