American country singer Austin Jenckes has released his debut album titled If You Grew up Like I Did this past week. For fans of The Voice, you may recognize Jenckes from the series’ fifth season, back in 2013.
Music has always been part of Austin Jenckes’ life; from a childhood spent listening to his father play the guitar, to perfecting his own craft as a country artist, Jenckes has always found refuge in the art.
The album features a seamless blend of blues, folk, and country, combined with his unmistakably soulful vocals.
Review of Austin Jenckes Album If You Grew Up Like I Did
“We Made It” is the album’s leading track, featuring electric guitars and powerful audio. Jenckes’ voice is really leveraged in this track for its emotional and raw, yet strong, sincere voice. The song is about fighting together and working hard for what you have, and having faith in a relationship to accomplish life together. That’s me putting it lightly. The song is reflective of the hard work Austin put into his career, having a supportive family, and being able to celebrate life’s accomplishments.
“Never Forget” is a soulful track about the little things that make life special, the brief moments that mean so much, and you never forget. Jenckes is known for being a down-to-earth, and after having the opportunity to chat with him, he is really here to experience and appreciate the opportunities he’s been given.
“American Nights” truly is an all-American track. Small town kids, filling time with what small town kids do, kicking around town at night, learning teenage lessons. The song is the albums’ transition to a different audience. There’s a fine balancing act when it comes to trending country music, and “American Nights” speaks to a young audience.
“Fat Kid” is biographical; a nod to the experiences Jenckes has encountered on his journey to where he is today. He acknowledges “growing up in a small town in a big world” like he did can really impact your life, how you experience the world and really be shaped by those experiences.
“Bet You’d Look Good” reflects on the experience of what could have been, how amazing this life is and how one would fit so well into it. I can’t help but think this may be about a past love and a reflection of their impact on his life path.
“Never Left Memphis” gives traditional jazz vibes, while also tying in the electric guitar. The versatility in Jenckes’ voice is really on display with this track; his voice suits music, not just a particular genre.
“If You’d Been Around” is the story of Jenckes losing his father at the young age of sixteen, the experience of growing up with a hard-working single mother, and growing up fast. After experiencing his parents’ divorce, Jenkes’ father took his own life, and the song is a reflection of how different his life may have been if his father were around.
“There’s a Song” is Jenckes’ connection to the people; his kind heart is evident in the song’s second last track. Music is good for the soul, and there is a song to help you through anything. Jenckes is often commended for being so down-to-earth, and this song really reflects on his care for the human experience and finding peace in what you’ve gone through.
“Ride Away” is the first song that caught my attention- and the album’s closing track. Jenckes’ soulful voice captured my ears with this one. It’s for the adventurers, the wanderers, and the lovers. “If you want to ride away, baby I’ll ride with ya;” taking a chance and following your heart, and if that’s not something we’ve all heard before and are needing continuous reminders of.
“If You Grew up Like I Did” is a look into the life of Austin Jenckes, the influences that have developed him as an artist and a person, and also an opening up to people who are willing to listen and share their own experiences.
I had the opportunity to ask Austin Jenckes some burning questions after listening to the album.
Interview with Austin Jenckes from The Voice
Front Porch Music: Let’s start from the beginning- introduce yourself to the Front Porch.
Austin Jenckes: Hey! My name is Austin Jenckes. I’m 31 years old and my wife and I live in Music City, USA with our 2 and a half year old daughter.
FP: You’re from Washington, your life growing up was anything but ordinary. Music has always been part of you- when was that moment when you decided you couldn’t do anything else? Music was it.
AJ: I was 14 when I knew it was what I wanted to do. I was 24 when I actually starting taking it seriously. I still actually dream of being a high school football coach or a counselor/therapist someday but I’m pretty sure I’ll be playing music forever. I’ve just always loved doing it and people have continued to support and encourage me to keep going. Of course there are the constraints of time and money as in any profession but I’ve been blessed and lucky enough to be surrounded by people that make it fun and feel like more than that so it’s really the best job in the world.
FP: I have a selfish question- the first song I came across by you was Ride Away on a New Country playlist on Spotify. I’ll passively listen to new music playlists all the time and I get so excited when one catches my attention. So I’m a little curious about that one- what’s the story, was there a life experience that inspired it, or just a creative thought?
AJ: That’s amazing!! Ride Away started with the guitar like and melody. I actually recorded it before I had any words and then sat down with my friends co-writers Tammi Kidd and Lynn Hutton to hash out what the song should be about. We ended up keeping the vocal and guitar that I recorded the day we wrote it. It’s probably my favorite experience of creating a song front to back! So I’m glad you like it : )
FP: The Voice was a few years ago now, but are there things you learned during your time on The Voice that you carry with you as an artist today?
AJ: I definitely learned a lot about myself but also took away a little bit of Hollywood and all that craziness. I loved being on that show and having the chance to experience a hit TV set for an extended period of time was priceless.
FP: The album is finally here, and I can only imagine the blood, sweat and tears that went into this process- how does it feel to be releasing your debut album?
AJ: It’s an incomparable feeling but the closest thing I can think of is remodeling a prized possession like an old car or even your house and then showing it off for the first time. You know every scratch and dent that it took along and then it’s out there for everyone to see and you realize people just love to see you smile at your own progress. I’m proud of this record!!
FP: Tell me a little bit about the album as a finished product. What story(ies) does it tell?
AJ: Every one of these songs means a lot to me. They cover the memories and life lessons I’ve had up until now. From losing my dad to meeting my wife, becoming a dad myself and struggling with how to be a good one while following my own dreams. Hearing from fans and fellow musicians has been the coolest part of the release because I’ve realized there are people out there just like me and that’s a very good feeling.
FP: What’s one thing you really want people to know about you- related to music or not.
AJ: Honestly anything. And mostly I want people to feel like there is someone that wants to know more about them. I love talking about life and what it all means and I like to laugh about the imperfections that we were all born with. The only thing I love about being a musician more than making the music is itself is talking to people.
FP: I’ve done my research, and there’s this commonality among people who’ve been able to connect with you. You’re genuine, humble, down to earth. How does that make you feel, knowing you’ve made such a genuine, positive impression on people wherever you are?
AJ: Just reading that makes me happy. Thank you so much!! My family growing up was very social and inclusive. I think accepting everyone and being open and vulnerable is important. Not just for musicians but anyone that is seeking to find a feeling that they might be missing. Being honest about how you feel and also knowing when not to take yourself too seriously is hard to do. I’m inspired by meeting new people and sharing conversation is just something I need in my life.
FP: Your voice is soulful and rich. Who did you grow up listening to and who are those artists that you feel really influenced you as a musician?
AJ: I listened to a lot of classic rock and also being from the Seattle area guys like Chris Cornell and Layne Stayley. I played music in a church for quite a few years so that had a huge impact on me. Mostly though, I sang loud because I wanted people to listen haha, and when you don’t have a mic or speakers that’s harder to do. So it’s a combination stylistically and spiritually but also can be a parlor trick for barroom survival 😉
FP: What are you listening to right now? Do you have any recommendations for who we as country music listeners should be listening to?
AJ: John Moreland, Zack Logan, Travis Meadows!!
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