Austin grew up in Greenville, S.C. listening to healthy doses of Motown, R&B, rock, and retro country from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. He also loved authors like Oscar Wilde, O Henry, Walt Whitman and Dylan Thomas, and started writing poetry at nine years old. He knew he was going to be a writer of some sort, and at 16 when he picked up a guitar, he began pouring out his emotions into songs.
His Martin guitar has been with him through thick and thin since he was 16, and is his most prized possession. It’s already nearly as beat up as Willie Nelson’s from being played eight hours a day for years, and he keeps signed photos of two of his heroes, Guy Clark and Kris Kristofferson, on the back of it. “I really love that guitar…it never talks back, it never pisses me off, it never gets mad -- it’s so neutral and apathetic, but it cares for me in a sense. I love it. And I can beat it up all I want.”
For a time after high school, he went to Atlanta and played gigs up and down the East Coast. He worked 25 different odd jobs during his pursuit to make it as a singer/songwriter, including working on the line building cars at a BMW plant. “I‘ve always had to work hard for everything…nothing was ever handed to me. My family is not very rich, they’re just regular people, so I had to do a lot of things for myself and so I’ve always had a pretty good work ethic.”
Austin’s first trip to Nashville was completely spontaneous after a bad breakup. He turned his car around and drove all night to Music City, stopping at Johnny Cash’s grave about four in the morning to pay respects to the country legend with a few songs on his guitar. On his way back home from the trip, he stopped into a Waffle House, put Patsy Cline on the jukebox, and met a charming older couple. The husband turned out to be none other than Charlie Louvin, (another influence of Austin’s) and the two soon became fast friends. Charlie invited him to play onstage with him that night at the Smokehouse in Monteagle, TN, and when he introduced him, he told the crowd Austin reminded him of Kris Kristofferson - one of Austin’s heroes! He kept in touch with Charlie up until a week before he died.
After winning a songwriting competition, the Nashville Connection, he moved to Nashville and his demo made its way into the hands of renowned producer Byron Gallimore, who immediately offered him a publishing deal. His debut on Streamsound Records is due out later this year.
Austin describes his music as “country soul.” “It’s country and it’s soul. I think it’s therapeutic. I try to stay as honest and relevant as possible in the lyrical content. And when I write I’m writing about things I believe in. It’s not exactly what you say but it’s a lot of how you say it. I think that my music is at its core honest at all times. I moved here to write songs. I would love to be a huge artist someday, but I know I’m gonna write songs no matter what. That‘s what I love most.”
Austin’s top three musical influences are Joe Cocker, Otis Redding, and Bill Withers, but he also has tons of songwriting heroes like Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, and Guy Clark as well, and also listened to everything from Nina Simone and Janis Ian to John Mayer and Billy Preston growing up. From the upbeat, “It’s All Good,” to the gut-wrenchingly honest “Getting Even,” his songs convey the real emotions of everyday life in fresh and rousing new ways.
For some examples of the things Austin loves, check out his arm. His sleeve of tattoos includes pictures of his beloved basset hound Archie, who passed away, a vintage radio, an ex-girlfriend, a ship’s wheel, and many more. He also has a weakness for redheads. A romantic at heart, his last six girlfriends have all been redheads!