THANKS very much to Austin Jenckes...
for discussing his new track, Fat Kid (with Lori McKenna), and what it concerns; what he can reveal about his upcoming album, If You Grew Up Like I Did, and what sort of artists were important when growing up – he recommends a couple of approaching artists to look out for.
I ask him, being based in Nashville, what the scene is like there and what he thinks of modern Country; how he feels about coming to the U.K. to perform soon – Jenckes selects a cool song to end the interview with.
Hi, Austin. How are you? How has your week been?
I am great; thank you so much for asking! It’s been a beautiful week. Weather-wise, not so much but musically and also just life at home has been awesome.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hello, friends. My name is Austin Jenckes and I am from Duvall, Washington originally. I moved to Nashville to make music a few years ago. I love riding unicycles, flying kites and singing really loud.
Fat Kid is your new single. What inspired its creation?
My old roommate wrote this song when we were living together. He went on a writing trip to Boston to meet up with Lori Mckenna and Andrew Dorff. I was already a fan of all three of them. So, when Neil texted me the work tape, I immediately started listening and found so much of myself in every lyric. I started learning it in the living room that day and then played it at a handful of shows.
The first time I played it back home in Washington there was a moment at the end of the first chorus where people started hollering and clapping, almost like I was playing Eric Clapton or something…so that’s when I knew I had to record it (laughs).
If You Grew Up Like I Did, your album, is out in May. It sounds like it might be a very personal record. Would that be fair to say?
This album dives into my life in ways I can’t even explain. I used to use songwriting and performing like a crutch and now, being thirty-years-old, I am somehow confident enough to say I am standing on solid ground. The album talks about growing up in rural America; from drinking beer to the music that I loved and also the people that helped me become who I am.
These are songs for my wife and my daughter and my friends back home...and every person that has ever listened to a note I’ve sang. It’s inspired by my life story, but my hope is that everyone can find a part of themselves in it somewhere along the way.
Were there moments when recorded when you were affected by the songs and felt that emotion?
Emotions are a funny thing - and I think way too much about them every day. Haha. Over the course of creating this record, I found myself being overwhelmed by the smallest things such as guitar parts or vocal harmonies. Lyrically, the one song that I have felt most emotional about is called If You’d Been Around. I sang the demo about vocal at my house about twelve times in an hour before I could actually get through it.
How good is it being based in Nashville?
Music City has been very good to me. As you probably have heard, there are some monster musicians here in all ways and shapes. I have learned more than I can probably ever comprehend but that challenge is what keeps me moving forward and, ultimately, I think better. All seriousness aside, it is also just a great place to live. My wife wouldn’t trade it (except for maybe a house by the ocean) which, with global warming, you never know...we might just be able to stay here forever.
What do you think of the modern Country scene? Do you feel it is stronger than it has ever been?
I have always dreaded these kinds of questions because I don’t feel like I am qualified to speak for everyone. Haha. But, I think the family of Country music is alive and well. I think the music drives the scene just as much as the business does. This is the beauty of the industry: it’s up to the artists and songwriters to decide what’s most important for the music and it’s up to the fans (whether they know it or not) to decide if they like it. I feel lucky to have made some friends that are better than me and, at the same time, have let me search for myself as an artist.
To me, that’s what the Country scene is all about.
Can you tell me what sort of music you grew up around as a child?
I grew up around Classic-Rock bands and songwriters. Tom Petty, Steve Miller; Lynyrd Skynyrd, Stephen Stills; Joe Walsh, the Eagles; Bob Seger, Pink Floyd; Led Zeppelin etc. I also listened to a lot of Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam; Candle Box and pretty much every Rock band ever known to man. Haha. Layne Staley and Chris Cornell are probably a tie for my favorite singers.
BUT, I also grew up playing in a church band and trying to make everything sound like U2. SO, I would say this…I grew up listening to everything except Rap and Country music, except for Garth Brooks because he’s omnipotent.
Do you have a standout memory from your time in music so far?
This past November, I got to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at a Seattle Seahawks game. I would love to send you a video if you want to see it - just let me or Neil know and we would be glad to share. It was the craziest thing. They did a fly-by with a plane and I had to time it to exactly ninety seconds, which is kinda hard when 65,000 people are looking at you. Hahaha.
I have always dreamed of doing something like that and, honestly, it was nerve-racking and a bit of a blur because it went by so fast. I have only watched the video three times but I am sure one day my daughter get a kick out of it.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
John Moreland - In the Throes
For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver
Foy Vance - Joy of Nothing
These three records have been religious listens for me and cathartic in ways that I will never fully realize. I love them because they make me feel new emotions every time I listen to them.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Foo Fighters - I would ask for nothing
You are coming to Britain to perform. What can you reveal about that?
May 29th! I am so excited. My wife is extremely jealous - and I plan on playing every song I know until people don’t want to listen anymore. I have always wanted to play in Britain. I can’t wait.
Might we see you on tour in other parts during 2019?
Yes! I will be at The Long Road Festival in September and we are working on some more dates in and around the U.K. during that time.
How important is performing? Do you prefer it to life in the studio?
Performing is my favorite part of music. I love writing and woodshedding in the studio, but there is something about being in front of a crowd that I can’t ever seem to find elsewhere.
IN THIS PHOTO: Patrick Droney
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I don’t, honestly. But, whenever I am not thinking, doing or playing music I hang with my family. My daughter is two-and-a-half and she can be chill…sometimes not so chill, too. Haha. But, it’s the best. My wife and I like to drive around aimlessly and look at rich people’s houses. I also have started playing chess with my father-in-law and he has beat me thirty-two out of the thirty-four times we have played...but I am getting better!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Black Queen - Stephen Stills
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