When Austin Webb first visited Nashville in 2010, he drove from his hometown of Williamston, South Carolina in the middle of the night and arrived at Johnny Cash’s grave. There, he sat and played a mix of his own songs and those by the famous “Man in Black,” in what he tells us was a “spiritual moment where I truly found out who I was and who I was to become.”
The next morning, he “walked into the Waffle House, put on a Patsy Cline 45 and sat down for breakfast.” Almost immediately, he struck up a conversation with an older gentleman.
He may not have known it when he sat down at Waffle House, but that day would change his life. The man he started talking to was Charlie Louvin, a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. “He told me I reminded him of Kris Kristofferson. He didn’t realize Kris was my biggest influence, and that’s still the biggest compliment of my life.” After that fateful meeting, Louvin invited Austin to see him play that night, where he invited him on stage and the two remained friends until Louvin’s death in 2011.
Although he had been writing poems since age 9 and performing since 15, it was another event in 2011 that would change his life. It was then that he won a local songwriting competition and headed to Music City. “I immediately quit my job and moved to Nashville the next day.”
Since moving to Nashville, he’s been able to focus on his music and leave over 25 odd jobs behind him. When asked about the weirdest one, Austin said, “I’m not sure, I used to sell cotton candy on the forth ring of Jupiter but I dont like to remember those days…Just kidding. I’ve never sold cotton candy. But seriously, my oddest job had to be cutting grass for a funeral home when I was 16.”
Austin is now in the process of working on his debut album with producer Byron Gallimore (Lee Ann Womack, Tim McGraw). “Byron called me about two years ago on a Sunday morning. At first I thought it was a bill collector like usual at the time so I didn’t answer. I checked my voicemail and called him back.” Austin recalls. “I went to his house the next day; played him two songs and he offered me a publishing deal with Red Vinyl Music immediately. A few weeks later he offered me a record deal with his label Streamsound Records.”
Austin describes his sound as a mix of “country, soul and rock n’ roll.” His influences range from Billy Preston to Willie Nelson and he lists Quincy Jones and Jason Aldean as two of his most-played on iTunes. If he could hit the road with anyone, he’d pick Aldean or Tim McGraw.
Although Austin is still in the process of putting together his album, he promises his fans it’ll be worth the wait. “My debut album as a signed artist will be much like a quilt. Each song will stand on its own, but together they will make sense as one piece of artwork.”
One piece that is already standing on its own and caught my attention was his current single, “Slip on By.” When I first heard the track, I literally stopped in my tracks and got chills from it, a sentiment which Austin echoed about his first listen. “I was driving near my home in Nashville, and I heard “Slip on By” from start to finish. I felt the same way you did.” He recalls, “I immediately called my producer and sent him the song via a YouTube link. A month later, my producer was at his daughter’s softball game and a gentleman approached him with the same exact song on a disc and handed it to him. Excited and shocked, Byron immediately called me. We went into the studio and cut the song right after.”
In November of 2013, Austin experienced the biggest ‘pinch’ me moment of his career thus far, performing on the legendary stage of the Grand Ole Opry. “Being asked to play the Opry is unbelievable. It’s the highest honor in Country Music. Walking on the stage was the most nervous I’d ever been,” He says. “Playing the Opry stage at the Ryman was the most spiritual humbling thing I’ve ever done. I’m so grateful for that. My whole family was there as well.”
We had to quiz Austin with a lightning round and he revealed that his favorite tattoo is of his late Bassett Hound, Archie, his New Year’s Resolution is to eat healthier and his guilty pleasure is hot wings. He also revealed that his celebrity crush is either Christina Hendrix or Emma Stone and his favorite songs to cover are “Louisiana” by Randy Newman and “Why Me Lord?” by Kris Kristofferson.
As we head into 2014, Austin has big plans, listing off hopes for a “first top 10 single, more involvement with Autism Awareness and Feeding America and a first major tour as an opening act.” He’s also extremely thankful for his fans. “I’d like to them to know I’m thankful for them reading an interview about me. I’m still shocked I’m somewhat interesting enough to read about :).”
Here’s Austin’s video for “Slip On By.”