The Grand Rapids singer-guitarist who releases his debut solo album next month opened up about the project for Local Spins on WYCE, which also premiered tracks by several Michigan bands.
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As engineer and producer Greg Baxter puts it, Alex Austin’s debut solo recording feels like an album that “really puts a spike in the ground.”
Austin, frontman for the rootsy Grand Rapids rock band Deerfield Run, sees his soon-to-be-released “Nobody’s Home” as “another facet of what I do and who I am as a musician, singer and songwriter.”
The solo album from the guitarist and singer has been a long time coming, launched at Baxter’s Second Story Sound on Christmas Day 2020 “with no real plan” but an intense desire to document songs, experiences and “some personal things” that Austin had encountered.
“There are a lot of different styles on his record, ranging from confessional to story songs to what I would call genre exercises and tributes, purely because I have so much love for certain styles of music,” Austin said.
The project differs from Deerfield Run – which has released two full-length albums since 2017 – in that it unfurls some styles and moods that the band “might not be able to tackle so easily.”
“There are certainly some songs that I feel could suit Deerfield pretty well, and we have played a couple of the songs live already,” Austin said. “There are also a number of songs on this record that stylistically feel like they are out of Deerfield’s wheelhouse, but I still felt they were good songs and worth recording.”
For this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, Austin debuted two of those songs – “5th and Broadway” and “Don’t Leave Me Here.” Watch a Dogtown Studio video of “5th and Broadway” here and scroll down to listen to the full interview and radio show.
VIDEO: Alex Austin, “5th and Broadway” (Dogtown Studio)
The new album – being released digitally on streaming services Feb. 16 – features “a bunch of top-notch musicians,” including Michigan brothers and multi-instrumentalists Andy and Joe Wilson who Austin said he’s idolized for many years.
Others contributing to the album include singer Carrie McFerrin, bassist Ian Thompson, keyboardists Dutcher Snedeker and Joe Hettinga, drummers Loren Kranz and Eric Ellis, pedal steel player Drew Howard and harmonica player Morgan Haner.
Austin, 35, a Wayland High School and Grand Valley State University grad, noted that Baxter was “an indispensable part of the recording process, and I feel this record became a genuine collaboration between the two of us.” Baxter also contributed some guitar, bass and keyboard parts to the project.
Austin unfurls a mix of styles on “Nobody’s Home.” The singer-songwriter who’s been listening to The Beatles, Jason Isbell, Waxahatchee, Eric Clapton and Ryan Adams noted that tracks such as “Don’t Leave Me Here” were heavily influenced by “old blues, jazz, New Orleans music” and Michigan’s Steppin’ In It, while “Oh Pretty Mama” pays homage to Delta blues. Elsewhere, the album has an ambient, stripped-down vibe.
The solo project comes amid a busy stretch for Austin, who’s also a member of the band Nicholas James & The Bandwagon (along with Baxter), which is wrapping up work on a much-ballyhooed new studio album.
New music from Deerfield Run also is on the way, along with a live album based on performances at Bell’s Brewery Eccentric Café and The Starlight Room.
“One of my favorite things about Deerfield Run is how versatile we are stylistically,” he said. “Justin (Dore), Mike (Kanoza) and Luke (Lenhart) are all fantastic musicians and I am grateful they are willing to play my songs and work with me to create great arrangements, and play covers that span old blues to classic rock to country.”
Austin, who also has contributed some parts to the debut album from The Still Wonder, plans to perform regularly with Deerfield Run and as a solo artist in coming months.
Deerfield Run plays Hilliards Corner Lounge in Wayland on Saturday night, with a solo show Feb. 2 at Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids, when Vespa and The Blue Pines will also perform. Austin and his band will also perform at SpeakEZ Lounge on April 24 for the Local Spins Wednesdays series, with Annagail opening the show.
This week’s episode of Local Spins on WYCE — which spotlights Michigan-made music at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org — also featured new music from The Marsupials, Katie Pederson, Roosevelt Diggs, Mustard’s Retreat, Fangs & Twang, Tony Manfredonia and Kyle Evan Pluta, as well as a 2020 track by Jeff Daniels, who hosts this weekend’s Ann Arbor Folk Festival at Hill Auditorium. Listen to the radio show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (1/26/24)
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