Kate chatted to Austin Jenckes briefly before his London show then in more detail ahead of his appearance at The Long Road Festival.
CL: Hi how are you?
AJ: I’m good Kate, thank you.
CL: On your website you are described as a “gnarly, but vulnerable country-blues singer with introspective Nashville songwriting chops.”
AJ: That’s a lot of different stuff!
CL:Is that true?
CL: I guess it must be as it is on your website.
AJ: It kind of is. I moved from the north west to Nashville, I grew up playing in bands and had to figure out what this whole song writing thing was. I heard that they would pay you to write songs, so I moved there. Once I started I found out really quickly that I was out of my league. There are so many talented writers that can write a song that anybody can relate to but at the same time feels unique. That is so hard to do. The same thing that everybody has heard a million times but in a new way. For me, I have always been that guy that likes to scream at the top of my lungs for the whole song because it feels really good for me. You and I were talking at Bush Hall about Bryan Adams, to me that is what I shoot for, super big melodies, but in a rock and roll sense.
CL: That is the way it is turning now, moving away from the Bro’ country and more to the neo traditionalists, rock or Americana/folk/roots etc with more story telling. It has been bubbling under for a long time but the last eighteen months it’s really come to the fore.
AJ: I think it is, you have Brothers Osborne, Ashley McBryde, Chris Stapleton. It is the difference of having a real drum set, a real guitar. I think that soul of the music comes from people working together. I have a really hard time saying that I am a purist as I’m really not. I’m a guy who grew up on classic rock, rock and roll, southern rock, Skynyrd, The Eagles, Tom Petty, Steve Millar, all that kind of stuff.
It wasn’t really until later in life that I fell in love with country music and the storytelling and stuff like that. For me it has been a mix. I can talk about vulnerability and my life story. I Iost my dad when I was young.
CL: Obviously it doesn’t get any easier. When you sing ‘If You’d Been Around’ and of course you sing it a lot as it means so much to you, do you sometimes find the emotion catches you unexpectedly when you’re singing the words?
AJ: Oh yes! I was in Glasgow two nights ago and I was a little taken aback to hear them singing along.
CL: I saw your tweet about that!
AJ: It was really crazy!
CL: That’s what all the US artists say about us. We sing along to every track we are not hollering and fighting etc.
AJ: It makes a huge difference to us. I was on stage literally freaking out. It was a smaller place.
CL: So close that you could see the whites of their eyes?
AJ: Right. I just wanted to close my eyes in the moment, I just didn’t want to mess up. The worse thing I remember is seeing Metallica when I was a kid and they forgot one of the words to their songs and I remember thinking ‘It’s your song, how do you not remember the words to your song?’ But I get it now, it’s not that you forget the words, but you just get nervous.
CL: I’ve seen artists who sing the same verse twice and then say ‘hang on?’…… ha ha. We almost like that more as it does show the artists vulnerability a bit.
CL: I also read that ‘..you don’t do good time fluff or sing sexy time’?
AJ: Yeah, it’s not really my thing. I’m not good at that, not with music. I think back in the day, talking about Bryan Adams yeah, those songs, were somehow sexy because of how he looks or maybe they were sexy.
CL: Of course they were. Whether it is the beat or the words, when you’re young it goes over your head.
AJ: Right, I mean ‘Summer of ‘69’?
CL: Ha! Yes, exactly.
AJ: I didn’t figure that out for a long time. In country it is a little different. I’ve tried to figure out how to do what I do and to be genuine about it. What I have found is that whenever I try to do a party song or ‘sexy time’ I don’t every feel right about it. Some do it really well
CL: But it’s not sustainable is it? They are not going to be sitting on their rocking chair singing those songs.
AJ: They will and it will be a throne! A gold one. Ha ha. But I’m in it to do it for ever. That’s why I moved to Nashville and I’ve done what I’ve done. I think that it is important to connect to people on a deeper level and also almost out of self-preservation to be an artist. I think about that every time I go in to record a song that I’m going to release. ‘Will I want to sing this song thirty years from now’? It is hard to know. The Rolling Stones can still do it – take their jackets off and strut around and folks still like it.
CL: Do you still write for other people as well?
AJ: I do. I have been trying to figure out how do to that with touring.
CL: You write with Neil Mason don’t you?
AJ: Yes, we write a lot together. The Nashville thing is 9-5 so when you’re back off the road you write Monday to Friday.
CL: I guess it’s like theatre actors? They want to do theatre but it doesn’t pay so they do a film to pay for them to do be able to do their passion.
AJ: Totally. It has been interesting to learn the ins and outs of doing that on top of touring, because for five years I was just in town writing. I’ve come up with stuff on the road that I have ready for when I get back into town. I’m also married and I have a three year old daughter. My wife is so supportive. I will get into the habit of working so much. She is good with it. I’ll write for five hours for a day, come home eat some dinner then lock myself away in my studio until one in the morning. It works for me, my daughter loves music. It has been really good.
CL:Thank you for your time. I look forward to your return in March.