INTERVIEW: Michael Austin Lead Singer of Austin Law

By Bev Moser, Moments By Moser

Austin Law calls it “California Country”; a country-rock group from Southern California releases its debut CD, titled Neon Halo, with the same name as their 1st release which has been receiving welcoming reviews and radio requests. I had an opportunity to chat with Michael Austin, lead singer, about the band, the music and the story behind this new group moving up the industry ladder two rungs at a time.

Bev: I am very happy to have this opportunity to visit with you. Neon Halo is out and is getting good reviews, requests for air play on radio, tell me how did you choose this song to be your debut?

Michael: When we were in the process of song selection, this song actually almost did not make the album cut, but I had good vibes about it and knew it was one that a lot of people could connect with. I knew it had a story I could deliver and kept seeing things in my mind, so I pushed for it. And we also then decided to name the album the same name.

Bev: How does it feel to finally hear your song on the radio?

Michael: It is so amazing. I have had this dream since I was a young kid and it is surreal. The first couple times I heard it I was driving and I had to pull over and make sure it was not my cd playing by accident. It is every feeling possible all at one time.

Bev: You have a “who’s who” list of some of Nashville’s best songwriters on this project. How did that come to be?

Michael: I have been working with Eddie Gore for some time doing demos for other artists and as we began discussing this project, we used my three song demo to shop for other writers and we were able to dip into the “A List” writers. I feel very fortunate for that. Nashville is a very family oriented city and once you are embraced by this, you want to give right back. So we really worked hard to put a voice to the songs and make the writers proud of what we did with their work.

Bev: When choosing the songs for this project did you try and incorporate a certain flow of similarity or did you simply pick the songs based on personal opinions?

Michael: It is exciting to say this album has something for everyone. We did not want it to be a project with one or two great songs and the rest tempted the listener to hit the fast forward button. I feel the tie in is that all the songs have great stories to tell and mean something. When recording a song if the artist does not feel some relationship in some form or fashion or a connection to it, it is not going to sound good to the listener. We really looked for songs that have good stories and something that all of us in the band can relate to somehow.

Bev: Eight musicians make up Austin Law, that is a pretty big hurdle in today’s music society, how did you arrive at a group this big versus you as a lead singer and a back up band?

Michael: I think the closest successful group to us would be Asleep at the Wheel, so yeah, we are bigger than most out there right now. I come from a big family and I think it takes a lot of people to make things work, there are so many parts that are crucial to getting the sound you want and I wanted that to come out in the music. We are all “family” now; we really did bond and have the connection. We want to share our talent, not become millionaires, but, if it happens, great! We really wanted the live sound to be what you hear on the album, and to do that, you need all the same contributions that go into making the album in the studio.

Bev: Had you considered being solo with a backup band?

Michael: In the beginning we did discuss it, but once we knew everyone, it did not seem right to me because they are putting just as much into it and sacrificing just as much, so in order to keep the values and connection, we opted to be a group.

Bev: How did you come together as a group and how long have you played together?

Michael: I had been in Los Angeles and was in line at the Nashville Star auditions and met a fiddle player named Aubrey Richmond and we got along great, sang a lot in line and chatted while we waited our turns. We both ended up making it through to the next couple rounds, and we spoke more at each one, and I brought up the band idea and she knew some people who were looking to put a band together too. We started the audition process small and it ended up almost like American Idol with numbers and name tags to keep track of them. By the end of the day, we had the line up we have now. So all this came to be because Aubrey and I met in line chasing other dreams.

Bev: The name of the Group is “Austin Law” based on your duties as a San Bernardino County Sheriff and Austin after your last name, had you considered any other names or how did you arrive at this name for the group?

Michael: We did consider others, but when we were going through the process of thinking of names as a group, everyone kept using Austin in the name and eventually we arrived at the combination we have now and it just felt right. It is an honor that everyone wanted to use my name in the group, but we truly are ONE and it is not just about me.

Bev: How long has the band been together?

Michael: We started in March of this year and for us to have put things together and arrive where we are already has really blown people away. We are having fun and working hard, but the greatest feeling is to silence the doubters when we play. We are a very tight group that blends together naturally. Everyone shines and I love each one to death, I am proud to be part of this group.

Bev: How did you choose to use Eddie Gore to produce this project when you are from California and he is a Nashville producer?

Michael: I had been doing demos in Nashville for awhile, and met him at a studio and had a very comfortable feeling. We decided to do a couple projects together and things just went from there.

Bev: When you play live, what is the most requested song?

Michael: There are two songs we have right now that people sing back to us, one is “You Had Me From Hell-No” and “Friend of Sinners”. Both are great songs.

Bev: As a group, or individuals, do you write as well as sing and play?

Michael: Everyone is a writer, some have degrees and can compose symphony music, they are awesome and amazing, and it brings so much to the table collectively. We only put one cut of our own on this project because I am a firm believer in supporting the writers in this community.

Bev: You have been in the Air Force and served during the Panama Crisis, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, you are an active member of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office and now releasing a country CD – how does all of the life experiences you have been through come through in the music?

Michael: I think that with me seeing life on both sides of the fence you see everything so much differently. I have seen the bad, ugly and negative sides of our society in war and daily in my job, but I also see and experience how music can balance that out and bring joy and peace to people. I explain it as DUALITY. I have support on both sides so the realist in me knows that you work what you have as best you can and as long as you can and see where it takes you. I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people in the world.

Bev: Had you played in bands prior to forming Austin Law?

Michael: There were a couple hometown local bands I had played with and we did well for where we were, all professional people who did not want to explore the next level.

Bev: Who have you enjoyed sharing stages with, or been the opening act for so far?

Michael: I have opened for Michael Peterson and Ty Herndon, Keith Urban way, way back. I have been on the same line up with some major artists, which exposed me to the dream I am following now.

Bev: Future plans? What is all in the works?

Michael: We have ten dates at the National Finals Rodeo and have some great offers for New Years, then some fairs and festivals coming up, including the Wagon Wheel festival working with Miranda Lambert.

Bev: Focusing on you a little, since you have ties with both the military and law enforcement they both tie in somewhat with our political system. What are your personal feelings on politicians using a song in their campaign?

Michael: Well if it fits and makes sense, then I am for it. I do not think anyone should just use a song without the artist or writer’s blessing and being behind them. If there is a writer and artist who agree with the values a politician stands for and it enforces those values, then music is a great voice and can reach people far and wide.

Bev: I know you have a bonus track on the CD, is there a story about the bonus song?
Michael: There is an interesting story behind this. We just were invited to the White House to sing a song called “In America” that I wrote and it is going to be the bonus track on our CD. I had been out one night at a night club and heard these four guys bad mouthing our country and I went home disgruntled and upset with what I heard. I am a very patriotic person. When I woke up the next day, one of my guitar players called me with a melody in his head and together we wrote this song. It was one of those moments when we knew we had a good song. We laid the tracks live for the demo version and it had so much impact we really knew it had to go on the album.

Bev: Are you hoping or planning to write with anyone specific now that you are more familiar in the music circle?

Michael: I have written with Randy Hauser, and am working on locking down a couple sessions with John Rich soon, I will write with anyone who has a story to tell. Gary Hanna is a great writer, I would love to write with him. Troy and Eddie of Montgomery Gentry are a couple more I would enjoy writing with.

Bev: The infamous question of what you want people to say about you 50 years from now, what is the impression you want Austin Law to leave behind?

Michael: I would love to have a song like the impact the song “The Dance” has on people, but as a group image, I hope people will see how we made an impact on society. I hope we are known as the band that remembers everyone, and we made no one feel little.

Bev: If you could pick someone to do a CMT Crossroads show with, who would you want to be your opposite from the Rock world or a different genre than country?
Michael: I would have to say, the original group of Journey. “Faithfully” is like the anthem of this business. Sharing the stage with them would fulfill my dreams. I think we could do some great things together.

Bev: Michael, I really want to say thank you very much for your time, and again for inviting me to share this time with you. I want to wish you much success with the CD project and your future in country music. I look forward to meeting everyone in the group and seeing the show live.

Michael: Bev, you are so welcome and I look forward to talking again soon and thank you for your time and interest in Austin Law.

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