Ask anyone in the Canadian country universe and they’ll tell you, the name on everybody’s lips these days is Shawn Austin — and it’s not hard to see why. In addition to riding high on the success of last year’s collaboration with American country superstar Chris Lane, Tailgate to Heaven, Austin’s latest single, Slip, has quickly become the artist’s fastest climbing release to date. Add to that an opening slot on current CMA and ACM Vocal Group of the Year, Old Dominion’s, No Bad Vibes Tour — hitting London’s Budweiser Gardens Jan. 30 — and you could say 2023 has already been quite the ride for the multi-CCMA nominated singer/songwriter.
We recently chatted with Shawn during a break from rehearsals in Nashville about what inspires him, who he’d like to collaborate with someday (hint, it may not be who you think), and what he’s working on for the future.
After having just been in London last June with Dallas Smith and the gang, how excited are you to be returning to the Forest City, especially with one of the biggest players in the game today, Old Dominion?
Honestly, I can’t wait. I’ve always loved spending time in London. I just feel like the city so cool to begin with, but then obviously when you when you work with the country side of it all, the fans are different than anywhere else. There’s more vibe. There’s just something about London — you know you’re in for a party every time you go there and getting to perform with Old Dominion is a dream come true. The show’s going to be insane. And I have nothing but good things to say.
Now how exactly does something like that get put together? How do you get a spot on that line-up? Is this something your team pitches to them? Do they ask you? How does it work?
It’s a little bit of everything. We had a few shows lined up with them in 2020, which obviously fell apart. But I think as an artist one of the most important things that we can try to do is to stay visible — stay relevant, you know? Stay in the in the loop of things. And that’s kind of all I could do over the pandemic was just trying to be at the front of people’s minds and let everyone know that I didn’t disappear and that kind of paid some dividends because I guess Old Dominion kept their eyes on what I was doing. Once we released Tailgate to Heaven and things started to pick up again, I was told they were still super happy to stay in touch with me. And then when this opportunity came up, that I was one of the people they wanted to work with. I mean, it’s a hell of a compliment. You know, I was I was covering Old Dominion stuff 10 years ago in restaurants around Vancouver, so the powers that be and my team, their team — all the teams — made it work. Thankfully, I got the nod from them because they ultimately make the final decision. And like I said, it’s one of the biggest compliments I think you can get professionally, when you get support from your peers. Now I just can’t wait to get started.
Going back to Tailgate to Heaven — that’s kind of been a huge song. Massively huge. Was that something you expected? Or was it kind of a lovely surprise?
I think when you when you record a song and write a song, you’d like to think you have a good idea and that it could have some legs to it. In this case, I didn’t ever think it was going to be such a life changing song for me, in addition to getting to work with Chris Lane, who I’ve been a fan of for so long. To have him as a buddy now through a song is amazing. It’s opened up so many doors and I kind of feel like it took a lot of weight off my shoulders. After sitting for two years, you know, I think we all felt like we were starting from scratch to the degree. But then when we put that track out there, it just lit up and everyone had such great things to say about it. After we all started playing live again, it was incredible seeing the crowd just sing it back to us with so much passion. I mean, that’s why we do this. That’s really like a drug for an artist — that connection of energy with your crowd. When lightning strikes, you try to try to capture it the best way you can.
I think it’s safe to say we’re hearing Shawn Austin on the radio now more than ever before, especially in London. How does that feel?
Those guys at Country 104 in London. Let me tell you — wow. Matt Weaver has been such a great supporter for so long. I think the people that are involved in all aspects of the business make the genre as great as it is, especially in Canada. You can meet anybody in this industry and go for a beer with them and have a great time, and Weaver has been that guy for me for so long. We’ve had some great chats, and I’ll send him songs that we haven’t released yet just to get his ears on it, getting his opinion. He’s always been there for me, and I’ll always be there for him and for the entire Country 104 radio station. If you’re hearing a lot of me lately, that’s all we as artists can really hope for, and it’s a great feeling.
It can’t just be happening in London, but across the country — since Slip is getting really close to that Top 15 spot at Canadian country radio, in addition to 12 million audience impressions and 100,000 streams per week.
Yeah, it’s a song that I completely didn’t expect to do this — become my fastest growing song. It’s kind of had a little bit of the overwhelming amount of support so fast. I thought initially this was going to be a great live song, and a really good album track — but I honestly never thought it would be a single, but clearly, I was wrong and I love being proved wrong. I’m really excited to see where it ends, and the timing couldn’t work better with the tour going on. It’ll be fun to get out there and play it live, while hopefully everyone’s getting their ears on it on a regular basis. We have goals and we have numbers that we try to hit just for our own peace of mind to make sure that we’re doing something right. But these numbers for Slip are far beyond what we were hoping for. I’m constantly a student of this industry and music and every day brings some kind of surprise or some lesson that I haven’t learned in the past. This has certainly been one of them.
Not very long ago, we chatted with a young man named Nate Haller. And upon doing research on Mr. Haller, we discovered your name as a writing credit on Lightning in a Bottle. In addition to that, Kelly Prescott let us know you’re the duet partner on her track Running Out of Road. Where else can we find some hidden Shawn Austin?
I absolutely love to write, and I love being able to work on that part of the process. It’s actually been years since Lightning in the Bottle was written, and that was one I cowrote with Gavin Slate and Travis Wood. I think it was back in 2017. I thought I was going to be able to put it out as my own, and it just never kind of worked out. So, it went into the wilderness. When I found out that Nate was going to put it out, I mean, as a as a writer, I don’t think there’s a bigger honour than when somebody wants to put out a song you wrote. That kind of lit a fire under my butt on top of the stuff that was going on around the same time with Songland. And so really, writing has been that muscle that I haven’t really flexed as much as I wanted to. But now that things are starting to settle a little more, and our years are planned out a little bit better, it’s something that I really want to dig into more.
Lightning in a Bottle was Nate’s debut and it hit the Top 10 — that’s incredible. It’s fun to be part of someone else’s growth and career. We all want the headline slots and we all want to build on our own momentum, but at the same time, we’re still just supporting each other and we just want everyone to win in any way possible. And that’s a pretty nice place to be. As for when Kelly asked me to be on that song, it was another unbelievable compliment. That someone would trust me enough to be part of their project — I just love it and can’t wait to do more. When you find those little easter eggs and you get a kick out of it, it’s just fun.
Who are you listening to right now?
Oh, everybody. I’m a big Kameron Marlow fan. I think his voice is insane. The stuff he’s putting out as wild. I really like all the new Kane Brown stuff — and I love what he’s doing with his wife. I love Madeline Merlo and I’m excited for everything she’s putting out — her latest stuff has been fantastic. I go onto all the different playlists new releases every week — it’s one of my favourite days of the week — just because I want to see what people are doing what they’re up to. It’s always fun to hear somebody break something new, and that’s all part of the learning process, as well.
If you could collaborate on a new song with anyone, no matter what genre, who would it be?
I’ve thought about this for many, many years. I’ve a mutt when it comes to music and pull influence from so many different genres. And the truth is, anytime an opportunity comes up where you can collab with somebody, it’s unbelievable, and I would never turn down any opportunity. That being said, over my — you know — however many years I’ve been on this planet, Michael Bublé has been a huge influence on me. I’m a huge fan of him. It’s kind of corny, but I’d love to do a Christmas track with him. Or one of the old standards. I would love to work with Maren Morris. I would have loved to work with people that have passed away too. Freddie Mercury would have been incredible. Stevie Ray Vaughan would have been incredible. There’s just so many people out there that I’d love to work with. Now, after doing the song with Chris Lane, I’m kind of hoping some more opportunities come up. I’m starting to reach out to a few people because I’ve got some things that I think would be great with collabs, and so hopefully that stuff comes through and in a year’s time we can have this conversation again.
Is there anything else you want London — and I’m going to say area fans because I feel like people from all over are going to be descending on the Forest City for this— to know about the show?
I think we’re truly as excited to be there as they are, hopefully, to see us. It’s going to be a pretty wild show, and it’s going to be one you’re not going to want to miss. I promise we’re going to keep everyone on their feet. We just can’t wait.
For more on Shawn Austin, visit his website.