By Derek Pastore
Staff Writer and avid bar basketball enthusiast
Derek Austin took the brave expedition that so many others do. The one that doesn’t end well for everyone. Just starting to get his feet wet, we can see something distinct that tells us his story will have a blissful ending. “Heatwave” drops TOMORROW and is just one of many hits on his EP releasing May 25.
Raised Rowdy: Let’s get to the big news. Your EP drops on May 25. Tell us about the experience working on this project, and how you found the co-writers and the team that you worked with.
Derek Austin: Yeah man, this is my first album so it’s definitely been a learning experience. When I first got to town I didn’t know anyone so I googled where to play and live venues. Talk about being green. It was confusing at first…thinking Broadway was the golden ticket, and then realizing it was just cover songs down there. I learned what writer rounds were and started meeting people at open mic nights, setting up co-writes and playing out a lot. It’s a slow process. I remember writing with a few guys the first week I was in Nashville and all 4 of them had moved outta town within six months. That was tough, not knowing who took this seriously and feeling like you’re spinning your wheels. Eventually I found my crew…people I really clicked with and the songs we wrote got better and better.
Blake Chaffin, Baker Grissom, Logan Tucker, Marc Oriet, Blaine Younger, Ian Mullins, Jackson Gulick, Ryan Boey and Jon McElroy wrote this EP with me and there’s also so many other talented people I have written with or want to work with too.
My producer is Sam Martinez. He was on the road playing guitar for John King and making demos in his free time during the week. He made a few tracks for me and I couldn’t believe how good they turned out so I asked him to produce my EP. I remember I had the chance to grab breakfast with Norro Wilson and pick his brain before he passed. He told me to find a young producer, they’d be hungry and fresh. That was good advice cause I think Sam knocked it outta the park.
RR: A lot of good songs to choose from on this EP. You released the first single “Good At Being Young” in April. What led you to the decision to make this the first one?
DA: Well you get so far in, at some point, it all sounds the same. So I just asked friends and other writers what they liked. We put “Good At Being Young” out first cause it’s fun, upbeat and a good representation of my style. I wrote it with Blake Chaffin and Jon McElroy, I had a ton of fun and learned a lot writing it with those guys. They were fast…really fast. I said “I got this title good at being young” and it’s like a switch flipped. At one point Blake was freestyling words I couldn’t understand and Jon was like “somebody record this shit!” We ended up keeping quite a few of them lines. It makes me laugh just thinking about that day.
RR: You grew up on a farm in Minnesota, went to college in Washington and spent some time in Alaska. When did you decide to pursue music more aggressively and move to Nashville?
DA: When I was 16 I bought a cheap Fender acoustic guitar and started learning to play and trying to write. That went through college and I continued in Alaska while doing air traffic control, but I wasn’t serious about it…it was just a stress reliever. I wasn’t crazy about that job, and one day a college buddy was like, what you should do is move to Nashville. Sometimes you just need somebody to give you a little push…I guess I was too scared to do it until that day but it lit something in me. I got to the point where I didn’t want to turn on the radio because all it did was remind me I wasn’t in Nashville and I was missing possibly the most important part of my life. I always loved country music and the more I thought about it, it just felt like it was meant to be. So I called headquarters in DC and quit my job. Since being here, I’ve met so many songwriters that have stories like that…maybe not word for word but it takes a special kind of crazy to drop everything and chase this.
RR: I’ve got to mention that you’ve got some killer cover songs on social media. What do you think has been your favorite to post so far?
DA: Thanks man! I’d have to say “Humble and Kind”. The way people responded to the message of that song was really cool.
RR: What artists do you listen to most today, and who influenced you growing up?
DA: Well I think I listened to “Wrong Way” by Jobe Fortner and “Leaving New Orleans” by Jordan Davis probably six times each today haha…but actually I do love to keep up with all my friends in Nashville. New Music Friday is like Christmas once a week. I’m a big Jameson Rodgers fan and really dig the new Brothers Osborne record too. Growing up I was a huge Kenny Chesney guy. I’ll give him credit for me moving to Nashville. His albums always seemed to have all the right ups and downs, and if you’ve been to his show…that’s a whole experience, you know the feeling.
RR: I’m pretty sure I’ve listened to Jobe and Jordan roughly 6 times today too, so I dig your taste. So you’ve been performing around Nashville at songwriter spotlights. Name a venue that you haven’t played yet that you would love.
DA: I gotta say the Bluebird Cafe. It’s got a ton of history with country music and this town. That would be a cool experience, except sitting in the circle…that part freaks me out.
RR: You’ve said that you want to make music that moves people. What do you like to write about most?
DA: I don’t have a favorite topic to write about. I like to write stuff that I feel and hopefully other people connect with. It could be a love song, a breakup song or a party song. I remember the feeling the first time I wrote a song. Being a teenager and having everything come at you at once, learning how to say stuff in a song that I wouldn’t normally talk about…that was a crazy release. And then seeing the reaction the first time you play it out. That’s why I love country music. It’s wearing your heart on your sleeve.
RR: When you find some spare time, where do you find yourself?
DA: We meet up at Red Door or Losers a lot. It’s fun to run into friends and not have any plans…just hangout. I also like to play basketball, work-out or go fishing on Percy Priest Lake to clear my head. I really like to snowboard in the Rockies but that doesn’t happen too often right now. Sometimes it’s hard to turn off the songwriting side of my brain so really anything that helps unplug for a minute.
Thank you Derek for taking time out of your schedule to share with our audience. We are stoked to follow your career from the beginning.
Follow Derek below to keep up with his exciting progress