If you’re reading this and following the “status quo,” there’s a good chance society expects you to be settled down right about now, with a ring on your finger and building a life with your significant other.
But what if that’s not where you fall? Kyle Austin has delivered an album that doesn’t fall into the trope of wallowing in sorrow over being single, it embraces it. Things can’t be rushed, and if the right one hasn’t come along yet, sometimes it’s best to wait things out.
In doing that, Austin marries a myriad of influences on his self-produced album, ranging from traditional country to rock to punk and beyond. Having played all of the instruments on the album himself as he navigated through quarantine, Austin’s touch is all over Out-Law, and to that point, makes it feel genuine.
We chatted with Austin about his family ties in music, recording during quarantine, all about Out-Law and what he hopes listeners take away from it, his plans for the rest of the year and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Kyle Austin: A lot of my country influence comes from traditional country, but I have lots of genres that I love. I try to make it all relevant in the music that I make, because if I’m not making music I enjoy myself, then why am I making it, you know?
I’d say out of the modern country scene, a lot of my influences are Eric Church, HARDY, Morgan Wallen, Tyler Childers and Colter Wall. I also receive influences from Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Keith Whitley, as I’ve been playing country music by names like that since I first picked up a guitar.
PC: Your bio mentions that you began playing music in high school. What was it about music that connected with you at that point in your life?
KA: I actually got my first guitar when I was 10 years old. My grandfather played and wrote country songs, and him and I would perform every week at some different retirement village in South Western Kansas, as well as putting on a show once a month at our local Community Building for anybody who would want to come and listen or join in! He and I picked our guitars just about every night together, and he showed me everything he knew about music, writing, or anything really.
I started performing with my brother around high school age, in a rock band, playing in local bars and stuff. We continued to do that through college for a bit until I fell back to my roots, writing and performing country.
PC: At what point did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
KA: I’ve always wanted music to be my career, but I viewed it as such an unattainable goal, unless I was massively famous somehow. Telling myself that lie led me to move down other pathways to what I viewed as “real jobs.” I did construction for a while and had my own company until I was on my way to a jobsite when it was raining, my trailer hydroplaned and pulled me off the highway. I broke my back in two places, and was on bed rest for a while. I started making videos of me playing and singing, and I was getting some attention from it during that time. After a few months, I tried to get back into construction, but it was difficult. I had picked up a few shows here and there and that started paying my bills, instead of my construction. At that point, I knew I couldn’t go back to construction knowing I could pay my bills doing what I love, so I’ve dove in head-first ever since!
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release your first full-length album, Out-Law, this July?
KA: I was completely overwhelmed at the time. Quarantine was going strong, I was out of shows, and I was doubling down on my internet presence, trying to make sure I could pay my bills somehow, or keep growing even though I wasn’t out performing for people. I was doing fully-produced covers and videos for YouTube, on top of writing skits, shooting and editing videos for that, doing three Tik Toks a day, shooting and editing a vlog, doing live performances on Instagram and Facebook, as well as a morning show I started on Twitch every weekday morning from 9-11am called “Coffee Chords and Country.” I had set the deadline for July 15th, and it had come to the end of June, and the only song I had started or finished was the single I had already released. I was so overwhelmed and stressed, I just had to stop everything. I put a halt on everything and recorded/wrote the rest of the album, finishing on July 12th, I think? The last three days, I had three unwritten songs, so I had to write and fully produce three songs in those three days. One of which became the title track “Out-Law.” Looking back, it honestly wasn’t handled in the best manner, but given my circumstances, I am extremely proud of how everything came out, as I produced and performed all the instruments on the album!
PC: What went into the decision to release “Kearny County Kid” as the lead single from Out-Law?
KA: “Kearny County Kid” is what I call my autobiography song. It’s all about growing up and living in a small town. The way people talk about everything that they’ve watched pass them by, be it opportunities, girls, whatever the case. Being stuck back there, it’s hard to let go of the past because it’s all you have to hold on to. There’s also nothing to do back there but drink, so that’s all we do. We sit in a circle, drink and talk, so it’s kind of surprising to people when they drink with anybody from our town, because it’s hard to keep up. We’re born and bred drinkers, because that’s all we ever did for fun.
This song also talks about my grandfather, who was sheriff of my hometown for 20 years or so, and his and I’s experience together. Playing guitar most nights, writing songs together. He taught me how to play guitar, and write and sing country songs, so it’s only right I included him in a song that talks about where I come from.
PC: “Anything but Being Here” is the top-streamed song from Out-Law so far. What do you think it is about the song that is allowing it to connect with listeners the way it has?
KA: It’s an extremely fun song about golfing, fishing and drinking; three things that I’m sure anybody who listens to country music probably enjoys. It’s also about self-care in a way, like there’s too many things out there in the world dragging you down, so when it’s your time to be free, do what you want to do, do what makes you relax and enjoy yourself. Every situation has a bright side if you look for it, like a girl leaving you or getting let go from a job. You have more free time for yourself! Who doesn’t want that? It’s also the first song on the album, which has really helped it’s play count.
PC: “Out-Law” is one of the standout tracks on its album. Why did you decide to make that song the title track for the album?
KA: It was by stroke of luck, really. There’s a lot of cowboy imagery in the album, with “Tie One On,” “Lone Rider” and “Out-Law.” I grew up watching westerns with a real-deal, tried and true cowboy, my grandfather. It had a lot of influence on me, and it was mostly what he sang about, being a cowboy.
This song just came to me in an instant. I thought of the idea of breaking a girl’s heart, so her family doesn’t want you around anymore, so you’re no longer an in-law, you’re an out-law. And I just thought about her family members being full of hate about me, “Her daddy says I’m gonna get it bad, Her sister says she’s twice as mad, her mamma don’t wanna see me around…” and by that four seconds of thinking of just her family members hating me, I had pretty much the entire chorus written!
It’s a song about being single, and also included the cowboy imagery like I said with a lot of the phrases like, “now I’m an unWANTED man” and “Dead or alive, she don’t care at all” stuff like that, that pertained to outlaws from the wild west that I could tie into being about a girl and her family not wanting me around anymore. It’s REALLY similar to what it’s like breaking up in a small town also, because the whole town picks a side.
So with the cowboy imagery, the song about being single and everything in between, it seemed like the best candidate to really speak what the album was about.
PC: “Lone Rider” is one of our favorite songs on Out-Law. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
KA: I’ve had my heart broken a few times (as anybody has), but it seemed like in the relationships I’ve had, the girl didn’t want me for who I was, they wanted me for who they thought they could change me into. Most times, I’d give into their wishes and change things about me that I knew they’d like, but ultimately, it wasn’t me. So that’s tainted my views in a way about how to go about relationships; they have to like me for who I am. People need to change and grow of course, but you also have to stay true to yourself. But it’s kind of developed a viewpoint of “maybe there’s not somebody out there for me,” and I know other people have felt this way too. So the song really talks about it from the perspective of, “Maybe I don’t have a shotgun rider, I’m just a lone rider, and girls think they can change my mind, but I’m not who they want me to be,” kinda thing. It’s the most personal I’ve ever been in a song; this one was a tough one to write/put out there, but I’m really glad I did, because with this song specifically, I can tell when it resonates with someone, and they really understand and feel the lyrics as if I wrote it about them. That’s an extremely good feeling to receive on my end; that I connected with somebody in that way through my music.
PC: Throughout Out-Law, you feature a classic, 90s country-esque sound, while on other moments, you feature a sound that feels closer to southern rock. Is it at all important for you to have that level of sonic diversity in your music at this point in your career?
KA: I think so. I think it’s important to show all of your sides and let the music speak for itself. I get a lot of inspiration from other genres like pop-punk, pop music, traditional country, 90s country, 90s rock, rap; you name it, it’s in my Spotify, so I like to show that kind of diversity, because like I said, I’m also making the music for myself, you know? How can you create music you don’t like? I think it makes it to where you have a song for everybody, and you can connect with more people that way. It’s also interesting to see which ones are people’s favorites, because it’s always a different answer from everyone!
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from Out-Law after listening all the way through?
KA: This whole album is about being single (and drinking of course), and the not so hidden message behind it all is it’s okay to be single. Don’t rush into something because society tells you you’re supposed to be married by 24. You’re not. There’s no “supposed to,” take your time, learn to love yourself, find the person who loves you for who you are, because going through life miserable is the most absolute worst thing on the planet you could do.
I think I covered a lot of what it’s like emotionally being single, whether it be loneliness, acceptance, freedom, sorrow, pride, whatever it may be, you can find it on this album, as well as bangers about partying or getting drunk [laughs].
PC: 2020 has altered many plans of artists so far. Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
KA: I’m gonna try to really push this album, build my live show and build my social media platforms. I have an amazing band backing me with really great, talented guys, and I just hope to grow more and more with them. I really love creating and sharing my process, as well as the behind the scenes of projects I’m working on, or even just hanging out with my friends. I also really love to make people laugh, so if I can get a chuckle out of somebody, or make somebody smile, I did something right that day.
*Images courtesy of Kyle Austin Facebook page*
**Visit Kyle’s website**
***Find Kyle’s music featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!***