Who is Austin Davis?
In this interview Co-Founder Payden Hilliard delves deep into Austin Davis' remarkable story. A glimpse of why Austin's name is etched into the very fabric of modern worship music!
Payden: I guess for me question number one. I mean, so you grew up in Hawaii. How long were you there?
Austin: So I was born and raised in Maui, Hawaii. And I lived there for 17 years. Just until I graduated high school.
Payden: That’s a lot longer than I thought.
Austin: Yeah. My whole childhood.
Payden: Yeah, and then into your pivotal teen years.
Austin: Yeah. 100%. After high school I moved to Dallas. I lived there for three years and then I've been in Nashville for 11 years now.
Payden - So growing up in Hawaii until you were 17. Like that's wild. What was the music scene in Hawaii like?
Austin: The music scene is mostly reggae or, like island style reggae which would be like local to Hawaii, we call it roots, which is completely different from roots music in you know, the states like the lower 48. Roots music is like a version of reggae that is specific to the island. It sounds very similar. It's just kind of sung a little bit differently. And so there's reggae and then there's kind of like traditional Hawaiian slack key music, or like, choir type music, in Hawaiian. But other than that there really isn't a music scene. There was a group of us, a very small group of us kids who found our way to rock and roll in junior high and high school and I was in a couple of bands with some of my friends. And there was like one show a year that a church would put on that was the one rock show. And it was always the same band that headlined and you were lucky if your little local band got to open for them because that was the only time you were gonna get to see rock music happen. And so yeah, it was very small. And honestly, you didn't really fit in if you liked that kind of music. But yeah, the music scene was sad. And I think that's why as a kid, I knew very early on that I wanted to play music and I knew that I couldn't do it there. So there was always a dream to go somewhere I could do music.
Payden: Oh, that's wild. Yeah. So like music in a way- even though you're living in paradise and it's your home you felt that music- was almost still kind of an escape for you to leave and go dream.
Austin: Yeah I mean, you're growing up in paradise and yes, you do kind of know that but you kind of don't, you know- the grass is always greener in some ways. And so I loved visiting the mainland. I loved going anywhere off the island because it's such a small place and though it's amazing, I just thought that there was so much more to do outside of it. At least for me, personally, music seemed like an avenue to do that. Like when I would see musicians I admired, they lived in Los Angeles or they lived in Nashville or they lived in New York or Boston. Or whatever. I was, like, that's where real musicians live, you know? And so I just associated those cities with where you could be a professional musician, and I just knew I needed to do that. So yeah, it was always it. It was always an escape. That was my place to dream.
Payden: Dream on dreamer. That's really cool. I think that's the beauty of music. It just, you know, it takes you to a different place, whether that's physically or mentally, you know.
Payden: So with that being said, you mentioned there was like a rock show once a year. Like, who were the drummers and the sounds that inspired your playing. What would you pull from?
Austin: Well, I've in general, I feel like I've had a fairly eclectic upbringing. And honestly, what I'm drawn to now is so eclectic. Anything from like, hardcore to funk, r&b. I'm about all of it. Yeah, but as a kid, I, for the most part, wasn't allowed to listen to a ton of, non-Christian music. My parents were pastors at a church. And so I grew up listening to kind of whatever was happening in the late 80s, early 90s in Christian music. You know. Like worship music, as it exists now, wasn't really a thing. There was kind of like, a new wave of these artists that were singing songs like Andre Crouch, and well, he wasn't new in the 90s. He had been around for a couple of decades, but for me he was [new]. But yet, we're still singing his songs. And, yeah, there was just stuff like that. So that kind of fell into, like that gospel world. And my parents wore out Kirk Franklin records and Fred Hammond records and so I was naturally just around listening to that stuff early on. And that was what my dad was drawn to. And he's the one who really started teaching me music. And I started playing piano and so- he's a pianist- those were the things that I was just ingesting. There was also like, a little bit of Motown happening, where it was like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and those things like that, so I was taking that stuff in. But I don't know that I was fully playing drums yet, you know? I started playing drums at 11. And that was kind of right before, I think a musical awakening for me- even as far as listening, not just playing. And I started, man. I don't know what grade I was in, but I know that somewhere around third or fourth grade I stumbled upon DC Talk’s Supernatural record, or my cousin showed it to me or something. And honestly, that's the first time I can truly remember hearing- which is funny to think of now since DC Talk is a rock band, but at the time, I had not really heard much rock and roll of any kind and there was a lot of that record has heavy guitars and intense drums and I was like, drawn to it. I was just sucked in. I was like, what is this? I honestly think I had one of those WOW VHS tapes that had a bunch of those music videos on it. That might have been what drew me to it as well. Anyway, I'm making this a long answer. But that was kind of the beginning for me. Kind of like- oh, what is this rock music and then I remember some kid in fourth grade showed me Relient K and that was the first time I had heard pop punk music at least that I knew I was listening like their first record. And I loved it so much. I became obsessed. Yeah, it wasn't until later where I started kind of venturing out into, you know, music outside of church music where I was starting to like, understand who the players were and the Internet was becoming more of a thing which makes me sound really old. But the internet and YouTube was brand new. And someone had shown me Blink 182- or I had heard their songs like in a movie or something- and it was probably like All The Small Things or First Date or something in a movie and I was like, this is the greatest song I've ever heard in my life. And the drums. There were no records that the drums sounded anything like that. So somehow I figured out who Travis Barker was, and I remember my friend being like, Dude, there's this website called YouTube and you can watch as many Travis Barker videos as you want. I don't even know how old I was. I was probably in fifth or sixth grade. And just starting to play drums. So the short answer is that Travis Barker was a huge- probably the first person as far as like a famous drummer that I can think of- that had a direct influence on me. I could also say that probably my earliest influences, even before that, were just the guys at my church. Yeah. Because I started when I was 11. Like, there were maybe two or three guys that were pretty consistent drummers, and they were great drummers at my church, and I learned so much from them. So I have to give a shout out to those guys who are a part of my church. They honestly made me who I am even more than a lot of the famous drummers who played on records. They were the people that taught me the actual “this is how to do it” and “this isn't how to do it” kind of thing. Yeah, that's good, too. Yeah, Travis is a huge influence. I became kind of obsessed and Blink is still one of my all time favorite bands. I just admire someone who has that much longevity and is like a household name as a drummer. And yeah, just like a personality without really having a personality. He's not loud, but his playing is loud enough.
Payden: Yeah, I'd say you both have the same demeanor. Like you're both chill, you know. You're both level headed and very chill, but when you get on the kit, you just rip and it's just like, okay, there he is.
Austin: But yeah, he would be massive. There's so many guys. As I got older, I got really into heavier rock music and got really into Underoath and so Aaron Gillespie was a huge influence on me for a long time. I just learned those Underoath records as good as I could. And, you know, I'd be lying if I said I don't still work a lot of those fills and things like into what I do now, even though I don't play anything like that, or that kind of music very often, but yeah, I think those were definitely some of the guys. I mean, it wasn't until there were guys like John Blackwell that I used to watch a lot of videos of- he used to play for Prince. I just loved the way he played, and I used to watch Steve Gadd videos all the time, even though I played nothing like Steve Gadd and I will never play anything like Steve Gadd. I just thought this guy is the greatest drummer of all time. Yeah, I love him. I love watching Buddy Rich like I love the passion like any player that played with a lot of passion. I just love that.
Payden: Playing and just dripping with sweat.
Austin: Yeah, like I just was all about the animal mindset, especially as a kid. It was just like, drums are just the most angsty thing and that's probably what drew me to hard hitting rock and roll. But I will say the last and probably the most influential person on my drumming, would probably be Steve Jordan. That didn't happen until I was later in my 20s. After I graduated high school, I really dug in on John Mayer’s whole catalog. And after I saw the Where The Light is DVD, I sort of wanted to model everything after that guy. Even though I knew that I was at my core, a rock drummer, that maybe had some groove, like I really wanted to figure out how to settle into grooving like that guy and to play with as much- what do you call it- like just restraint. And he just seemed like the most mature sounding player to me. And I admired that. And I think at the time I was new to Nashville, and I just knew like, these are the guys who get paid to play drums. The guys who can have restraint, not the guys who slam cymbals as hard as they can. And all that- which I've somehow figured out how to do both of those things. But yeah, I think that that's where my weird turn [happened]- when I kind of honed in on this like groovy, hopefully more mature approach to part writing, playing and velocity honestly. And so yeah, Steve- Steve is probably my favorite drummer of all time. I just love his approach. I try to move just like that guy.
Payden: Fantastic. All right so Travis Barker and now Steve Jordan are inspirations. So, you've had several kits in your arsenal, but which one is the one that you've had the longest. Tell me how that came about and why that's special and why you've kept it all these years?
Austin: Yeah. So it's a ’68 Ludwig Champagne sparkle. I forget what kind of kit it is, like big beats or new beats or something. Real drummers know what they're called. I've just never done the research. Honestly, I think so, to go like way back, I think the real [answer is that] I never really had a kit growing up. My parents bought me one that I begged for that was a drum kit that was 500 bucks. And I was like, if you get this for my birthday, then you don't have to get anything else for me. You don't have to give me anything for Christmas, which they didn't give me anything for Christmas. But they got me this kit. They didn't buy me cymbals or hardware. So I actually never got to set it up or play it. Anyway, I just ended up taking it to my church. I didn't have a kit growing up and then even when I started playing and touring, I didn't have a kit for a long time and the MD was like, yo, you need to buy a drum kit. So someone I knew just had this Pearl, this like low level Pearl, Pearl vision, I think. And it came with cases. So I played that for a long time. I can't remember if I had another kit in between then and the Ludwig but I was playing with this silver sparkle vision kit because it was like, this is all I could afford. Somebody gave me a good deal on it. But when I was a kid, I was about 12, I went and spent the summer with my grandparents in in Illinois and my uncle had this champagne sparkle vintage Ludwig set up in his house and it was kind of beat up and but I was like a fresh drummer like I had been playing for about a year and I thought I was really good.
I'd go over to my uncle’s house and play it all the time. I just thought it was a cool drum. I don't know that I thought much of it other than I was like it just looks cool. Yeah, and I think some of that obsession, which became an obsession later with vintage drums or vintage looking drums, was that my favorite movie is That Thing You Do. For those who don't know it's about a drummer in the 50’s or 60’s. I think it’s the 60s and he has all these cool kits. Like the first scene in the movie he rips off this blanket of this vintage Slingerland and it's a natural wood and it's just beautiful. As a kid I was just like that is the sickest looking drum kit I've ever seen. Then when he gets rich and famous in the movie, he gets a brand new Ludwig. Anyway, yeah. I think that that's where that came from. I was just kind of enamored with that. And so anyway, as I got a little bit older, and I started to get more serious about drums and then eventually I started touring when I was about 17, almost 18, and anytime I would see my uncle, I would say, yo do you still have that kit at your house. He was always kind of like he wasn't gonna give it to me. He got it in the 80s and he learned how to play drums on it. He was like, that's my drum kit and I was like, well just let me know if you ever want to get rid of it. Then when I started touring a couple years into touring I started bothering him again about it. I started getting really into vintage drums. I had finally kind of gotten out of that custom drums era, you know the very cool emo era of like everybody had gaudy custom drums, that I had finally started maybe maturing and realizing that oh, maybe that kit my uncle has in Illinois is really sick. And I, oh yeah, I had bought another vintage Ludwig. I forgot that I had that kit for a while. Oh, well. It's kind of a natural wood stain that I traded in the last few years but um, so I already had one but I was like the champagne Sparkle is the ultimate finish for me like and so I had this like live recording coming up with Kari and I really wanted to play this kit so I hit him up on Facebook and was like, yo, do you want to get rid of this kit? Like I will buy it from you. And he was like if you can drive up here and pick it up like it's yours. Well, he was like it's mine. But you can use it and he said you can take it as long as you never sell it, like if you want to get rid of it, you have to give it back to me, so that's still the condition. But so yeah, literally me and my wife packed up, we drove to Illinois, went into his attic , it was just sitting there under this big American flag and it was dusty. And yeah, I just drove six hours to go pick it up and drove home. Got it all cleaned, had to put new hoops on it. I had someone at Forks build new hoops for it. Well actually, they restored vintage hoops so the whole thing is still vintage. I had to get a bunch of new lugs for it anyway. I really worked on it and had it ready for that live recording and that's kind of been my staple kit / my go to for a really long time. It's just really special that it's in the family and that's kind of my favorite looking kit and favorite sizes. Yeah, it's just kind of gone with me everywhere. I took it on the road for a lot of years, even though most people wouldn't take a vintage kit like that on the road. I did and I was like I want to play this thing. Yeah, it's very special to me. It sounds good. It looks good.
Payden: Still on the hunt for that matching 14 inch floor tom?
Austin: Oh yeah, I have spent a ton of time looking for a 14 inch floor or rack and an 18 inch. But those are so hard to find and rare because they didn't really make them much in the 60s. You can find 14’s, but you can't really find rack tom 14’s, which is fine. Yeah. I sort of given up on the hunt, to be honest, but it's there. I’m just kind of like, maybe I'll get a kit that has smaller toms or something.
Payden: And you did eventually.
Payden: I like the “keep it in the family” and like, yeah, I mean, there's nothing better than a champagne sparkle, 60s Ludwig- you just can't beat that era. You can't beat that style. Like they just- they're perfect. All of them are special and by itself is such an iconic sound, it's the sound we've all known for a long time. And so it's like yeah, that is your sound as well. That's awesome that you actually went to go get it for a Kari recording because that was actually my next question; how did you get that gig? So you moved from Hawaii to Dallas? Was that because of the connection to Kari? Or was it just on a whim and then you know…?
Austin: Yeah, so I keep making these long stories long. My dream was always to be in Nashville. I wanted to go to music school. I wanted to go to Belmont. I visited Nashville a bunch in high school and I auditioned and pretty much bombed my audition because I couldn’t read music and I couldn't play a snare sight piece and all that. So yeah, long story short, I didn't get into Belmont. I tried to go to North Texas. I didn't get in there either. I was just dead set on needing to be a drum major because I was like, I love drums, so I should learn drums more. Yeah. And so it was kind of the last month of high school. I was pretty distraught. And my parents were moving to Dallas to plant a church. And so my move was just going to be to get off the island and go to Texas. And I'll figure out my life in Dallas- or at least I was going to try to do that. And right before maybe two weeks before I graduated high school, my church had a worship conference and Kari Jobe was the guest. She was fairly new. Like had just put out her first label record and all that kind of thing.
Payden: What year was this?
Austin: 2009. Yeah, she came to my church and she used the house band. She didn't bring a band at the time. And you know, from what they've told me is that she had some people there with her and one of the people who was there with her was like, you need a drummer like that, like that kid, and she was like “okay”. And then I played with her in our house band. We didn't nail it. I think she sang a couple of songs to tracks because the band wasn't great. But yeah. Or we just didn't know the songs very well. Anyway, I think she must have seen something in me or I played well I guess. But she found out from my parents who were the worship pastors at the time, they were having dinner after one of the sessions and my dad was telling them how they were moving to Texas and she’s like, wait, is your son moving with you? Like, yeah, he's moving to Dallas with us. They asked, would he want to play drums for some summer camps? For us? He said I’m sure he would. They're like, he'll just have to leave soon. We have them in like four weeks or something. So, you know, after a Sunday morning service, my dad comes up to me, he goes, hey so Kari just asked if you would go play some summer camps with her. But you'll have to leave like two weeks after you graduate. And I was like yeah! I was freaking out. And, you know, as far as I knew, it was only those summer camps. But I mean, that's my connection to kind of the start of my career as it is now, I suppose. So I graduated high school knowing that I was going to go to the mainland and start playing drums. I didn't know if I was gonna get paid. I had never been paid to play drums. I was just like, I'm just going to play drums because that sounds fun. And yeah, I went and did two weeks of summer camps. Then I told Kari, I was like, “hey, thank you so much for letting me do this. This was like the opportunity of a lifetime. I had the most fun I've ever had.” And I was 17 at the time. And, and she was like, no, I want you to stay and be my drummer as long as you want to be, kind of thing. I said, bet. Let's go. So yeah, I mean, that was like the beginning of my professional music career. I toured with her pretty solid for 11 years and I still do often.
Payden: Yeah, often. Wow. So behind every great drummer, there's a killer summer camp that cut their teeth.
Austin: You got to do the summer camps.
Payden: You must have been just on cloud nine.
Austin: It was huge. I mean, I was extremely nervous. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't own any drum gear. I only brought two pairs of sticks that my parents bought me because I never had a job or money and I had like Skullcandy iPod headphones. I didn't have any in-ears. I didn't even know what that was. So I mean, I was a lost little boy.
Payden: But there's a beam of light just on your face. "I made it, bro". And I mean that'll preach right there. Hey, listen, all you need is two pairs of sticks and some Skullcandy headphones. And if you're good, you're good and that'll showcase.
Austin: And if you know how to play and show up knowing your parts.
Payden: Yeah. That's a lesson for all of us to learn. That's amazing. So okay, so that happened. And you know, obviously your trajectory was just kind of like, going up and you're along for the ride, which is awesome. What was it like, did you guys start touring then? Or did you move to Nashville, and then start touring with her? And what was that timeframe like?
Austin: Yeah, so when I moved to Dallas, we were mostly just doing fly dates. We didn't really do any bus touring. It was like we were still kind of doing van and trailer vibes or not even a trailer just van. We would drive kind of all over Texas or drive to Louisiana. We're playing in the south a lot. It was just like Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma. It was exclusively like that for a pretty solid few years. Just doing fly dates. Then our first bus tour was right at the end of 2010. We did a Christmas tour, and it was kind of the first time we did a little bus run. I think it was only two weeks or something like that. Then after that in 2012, we did Winter Jam, and that was the first time that we started really doing long bus runs, and started flying to Nashville. I mean that tour is three months long. So we would fly to Nashville and get off the plane, get on the bus. Then get off the bus on Monday morning and fly back to Texas and then every week for three months. I had gotten engaged at the time and my wife was like we should move. We were just wanting to start fresh on our own in a new place. And I was like well I'm already in Nashville all the time, this is where I've always wanted to be, so it felt like a really exciting place to be. So I was in Texas for three years and played with Kari, but we didn't start truly touring until we moved to Nashville. So while I was on that Winter Jam tour, I found an apartment and the tour was over. We got married and we moved to Nashville two weeks after we got married, and have been here ever since.
Payden: How long have you been in Nashville? 11 years?
Payden: Wow. That's crazy dude, long time. Did you get to Nashville before Kari did and like the rest of the crew?
Austin: Yeah, well, me and a guy named Hank Bentley. He was playing guitar for Kari at the time. We both kind of moved at the same time. It was kind of like a let's do this together kind of thing. I moved and then her keys player moved too, eventually. She took a bit longer to move.
Payden: Yeah. So you lead the way- basically you and Hank.
Austin: Hank and I yes, we were the first ones for sure.
Payden: I love that. Nice alright, so you landed in Nashville. And you know you're still doing all this stuff with Kari. Because of that, did it make a way for you to be doing sessions and other touring because of your already established gig? How how did that look for the first few years in Nashville?
Austin: Yeah, that's a good question. I thought that would be the case. It wasn't the case. I moved to Nashville and thought I had a pretty good gig. Like maybe this will give me a foot in the door early. No, the answer is no. I had no sessions, no gigs. If Kari wasn't touring, I wasn’t working at all. And that's just you know, that is kind of the brutalness of moving to a city like Nashville or any city where you want to do art for a living or be freelance. It just takes a lot of time. My first year in Nashville was so beautiful because that was my first year of marriage. So the marriage part of it was awesome. But yeah, as far as work, it was honestly depressing. And you know, I just didn't have the connections. And you just think, oh, I should be doing sessions because I'm a decent drummer. But it's not really the case. And honestly, I was very inexperienced, and I shouldn't have been hired for sessions because I wasn't ready. And I had a lot to learn, but that first year was pretty musically depressing for me. When I was on the road, it was good, but when I was home, I was just at home. And so fast forward, it really took three years of being in the city before I started getting any sort of gigs outside of that. You know, getting to know people, I probably did a couple random things where I hopped in a van with somebody that I don't even remember, that's like a worship leader and we did some run in Oklahoma somewhere that I don't even remember. You know, you do those kinds of things. So like, you probably got paid less than 100 bucks a day. And so I definitely did a bunch of those sorts of things. But honestly, one of the best things that happened to me was like, there was kind of a year where Kari was going to take a bunch of time off and she had let us know that and I sort of freaked out because she was my gig. Like that was my work. And it ended up kind of being one of the best things for me and for my career in some ways because I had maybe the worst work year of my life that year, but it was the most available I've ever been. And so it just forced me to get in different circles and I started playing local shows like with pop artists and friends of mine and I did a country tour. And I just started taking all these random things because people were like, well, Austin is not on the road. Like there's this free drummer and so, you know, when you're kind of locked in with a gig people just assume you're gone or you're busy or you're spoken for which is really frustrating as a freelance musician, but totally understand it. But something that I thought was going to be a curse ended up kind of being a blessing even though it was a very hard financial year. It really started to open up the thing of like, Oh, Austin does more than just play for Kari and, and that Austin does more than just play worship music. In a lot of ways people just saw me in a new light. And then the next year I really had like, the biggest touring year of my life and was gone an insane amount and got to play some amazing shows. So yeah, it was like it felt like a seed sowing kind of year. But I will say like in that first first year of being here, like I was pretty depressed. I started to get sick of how depressed I was. And so I literally just was like, well, I wanted to do all these things creatively when I moved to Nashville. But I'm like drums is what I'm the best at but I'm not even the best at that in this city. So I'm gonna work hard at being the best drummer I can be to prep for sessions to prep for whatever- I just wanted to get better. I literally started getting my practice pad out because I lived in an apartment. I couldn't play my drums. Got my practice pad out and I got on YouTube and I learned a new rudiment every day because I didn't learn rudiments as a kid. I would do a rudiment a day and I'd practice for an hour to click and just got super motivated. And then even when we moved out, got a house, I would practice drums for two hours almost every day. And I would play records from top to bottom and try to play them exactly like the original drummer. Like that's why I was talking about Steve Jordan. I would just play Continuum from top to bottom. But I had time, you know. I think so many people despise the small beginnings in that like I'm not gigging I'm not doing this or that. But I try to encourage people that like this is your shot to practice before you don't have time to practice anymore. And I don't get to practice anymore. I don't have time to practice. And I missed that… So I really took that on as a discipline. I didn't work another job and so I was just home alone before I had a kid and my wife was at work so I was just grinding playing drums for hours and I feel like that helped prep me.
Payden: I suppose that's the deal, it's so crucial. It's like, you know, I see all these wealth accounts and you know, like entrepreneurs basically they all say the same thing. It's like lock yourself away for like six months and learn. Like you know, just separate yourself not isolate but separate yourself and that's what you did. You just said you know, listen, I'm going to be the best I can be in whatever circumstance.That’s inspiring. And I think that's good for people. You know, the listeners, the readers right now they're gonna read it and think well, crap, you know, I can be better, and, and yeah, that's another dynamic too is like it's hard. You know? Not everybody has that situation even like, you know, where their wives can go work and husbands can stay home. But, you know, you guys I'm sure you guys as a marriage and as a couple we're in constant communication you know that that's a sign of clear communication.
Austin: And, you know, a healthy relationship, obviously it has ups and downs still, but there was a lot of figuring it out.
Payden: But you did it and it paid off. So yeah, that's killer. All right. I've got like three more questions, but I see that we're on a weird timer, and we can go lightning round. I'll make it fast.
Austin: Alright, cool.
Payden: Okay, so now you're you're in Nashville, you're doing sessions you're gigging and then bam,
little did you know, this like worship/ Bible study night happens and it's called The Belonging Co. Tell me about that and the transition. Because would you say that you've kind of helped start it in a way?
Austin: I wouldn't say that I'm a founding member but I was there in the very very very early days. I think I got invited to the first one. Yeah. But I thought that it was going to be awkward. So I didn't go. This one was actually the first year of us being here. This is before I started gigging pretty consistently. So it's like that's all three pretty early on. My wife had been going to churches with some friends we had here and trying out a bunch of them and honestly, we're like, no shade, we just didn't feel at home anywhere. Yeah, and kind of getting discouraged. And it's really the first time we ever had to like church shop. Because I had grown up in the same church my whole life. And so we're getting kind of discouraged and our friend Mia Fields kept inviting us to this thing and I just kept being like that is never gonna happen. And that sounds terrible. And I didn't really know the Seely’s very well. Yeah. A few months of that went by and then at some point, I literally felt like I just felt like I was supposed to reach out to Henry. We started following each other on Instagram, and this is when following each other on Instagram was really cool. And so we followed each other and we had met at some parties and I just felt like this weird feeling of like, I feel like I'm supposed to get to know this guy. And so I got his number from someone. I texted, [and] I was like, hey can I go out to lunch with you, so we went out and we talked for a few hours and just about church and life and Nashville and we just like saw eye to eye on a lot of things. And he invited us again to his house. And I was like, we'll be there. And I remember like, I got on the phone with my wife after that and was just like, I wish this guy would start a church because I want him to be my pastor basically. Yeah. Which is funny. I was like, we're gonna go to this thing on Tuesday night and so we ended up going and there were about 10 people there and we met in Henry's little studio room and I didn't know just about anyone except for Henry and Mia. It was just a bunch of random people. And it ended up being extremely powerful and just kind of life changing, to be honest. And we're just like, this was a little bit awkward, but it was powerful. And I think we need to keep coming to this. So we did whenever I was home and not on the road. We went and about the next year after going it started growing pretty rapidly, just by word of mouth and didn't have a name or anything. And I remember one time I was on the road and saw like an Instagram post. And it was called The Belonging. I was like, oh, I guess our Bible study has a name now. So yeah, it's crazy. But um yeah, it's been a crazy thing to watch. I've never been a part of anything that's grown like that or seen any sort of trajectory like that from the beginning. But yeah, I mean, in the early days, I wasn't playing music there. It was just Henry usually playing piano and never really asked anyone to play anything else. It was just like a place to be fed and it was really, at the beginning, geared towards musicians that toured because they couldn't be at church on Sundays, which is why we had it on Tuesdays. And it was just, that it was amazing. But yeah, special.
Payden: I love that. And I like the Tuesday night thing. It was so refreshing coming home from the road when I first moved here and you know, and then like, yeah, we'd always do the same thing that I liked when I was like, oh, I want to go to that. We're not in a building like where are we at? I gotta wait for a text. Like, you know, I gotta follow, like, it was very underground. My first night was a hot box and I was like, wait, there's no AC? It was pretty rough. But it was good. And now I mean, obviously doing big things and the conference y'all just had was amazing. Yeah, it sounded incredible. Looked incredible. And I heard it was very powerful. So my next question would be like, obviously, you're, you're a drummer, you're established. You're doing stuff, you know, in the recent years without a shadow of a doubt. What led from, drumming, doing all these amazing things to this like the switch to now producer? And what was that transition like?
Austin: Yeah. So producing kind of happened by accident in a way. I don't think it was an accident to God, but it was an accident to me. I mean, to go back a little bit like I started writing songs in high school, and we write songs in my church, my youth group. I was like the worship leader of my youth group and started writing songs because my youth pastor told me to. And my dad is also a songwriter, and my mom as well. So, you know, it was just like something I was drawn to early on, and when I moved to Nashville, I had always hoped that songwriting would be a part of what I got to do here. And like I said, earlier, I realized like, you know, drums is what I'm best at. So I'm going to lay down everything else. And songwriting was a big part of that. I was just like, I think drums are what I need to focus on. And so, you know, like going back to the timeline a little bit. Some of like that really rough year of not touring for me was 2015, 2016. I had maybe the best touring year of my life. I was probably gone 200 or 200 plus days. And after that year, you know, that was like the best financial year for me and like the most fun I had on the road. But it was actually while I was doing my taxes in 2017 for 2016 that I was like, I just had this moment of like, that was the best I've done, the best year I've ever had, and I can never do that again. Like I can never be gone that long. I had just had a kid. That whole year I had like a one year old or younger and missed a lot of that. And I was just like, cool. Like that was super fun, but I could never do a year like that again. And you know, financially you're just kept to be completely vulnerable. I felt that way. And, I was just like, you know, there are other things in my heart. And I had started to just feel this pull to want to do some other things. Like I think songwriting is something I want to go after and it wasn't even for monetary value, even though I just sort of talked about money. I think it was just like that there’s always been a dream in my heart, but I never felt released to do it. And then I had been working in Ableton kind of in that first year of marriage where I was depressed, and I started learning rudiments. I also bought Ableton because I was like, this is what the pros are using. So I'm gonna get it. I'm gonna figure it out. I figured everything out the hard way. And so I had been in Ableton for years. I started chopping up stems in Ableton and I would do random drum programming things for my dad who writes musicals. And I always wrote songs by myself, but it was never co writing. And all those years leading up, I would try to lay down demos in Ableton. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I was just messing around. And I don't know that I was trying to be a producer either. Actually, I definitely wasn't. I was just like, this is fun. And, songwriting was always kind of a goal. And so I don't know what the switch was, but I definitely started digging in thinking about that kind of stuff. Being like, I feel like there's something coming. Now that I've had this amazing cheering year, I feel like there's gonna be a shift in what I'm doing and I've always sort of had that sense about something. But it was just 2017. It's just like the doors just kind of opened for me to start co-writing with some people. I remember I did one that was kind of the first one I was invited to and that was cool. And then I got invited to another one with some friends. And we were all writing this like uptempo song, which at the time like dancy worship songs were like, cool. Yeah. And so it was like writing to an acoustic guitar. Three acoustic guitars was very uninspiring, so yeah, I was like guys, we need a beat. We need at least four on the floor to write to and I was like, I know I could plug my laptop in to your monitors and I could do that. So I did and then that ended up being why I played keys a little bit. So I put the chords down. And then yeah, one thing led to another and I started making a demo. like on the day of the write that was fun. And that was a Tuesday morning. And then we went to church. And then I remember I was driving home from church and I got a call from my friend Andrew and he was like, hey, do you want to come to this co-write tomorrow in Franklin with these people? And to me these people were like, massive deals and and I was like, heck yeah, I do. And it was like, Yeah, can you bring your stuff to make a track? And I was like, absolutely. But I had no clue what I was doing. I had no clue. I didn't even really understand what an interface did. I didn't know how to transpose on a MIDI controller and I didn't own a MIDI controller, and I didn't know how to record a vocal. So I spent the night like watching tutorials on how to record a vocal correctly. And anyway, it was really just like a saying yes kind of thing., I realized that night that this is opening doors for me, fast. So as a songwriter it opened up more doors and then I just started making demos for free. I ended up, you know, writing songs and then making demos for songs. And then started getting really into programming and by that time I was just going in constantly every day trying to figure out how to be better, and kind of grinding in that way…asking other producers how to do stuff and yeah, I just jumped in really quick and then co-writing became a thing.And maybe like the next year, I sort of started having the first inklings of actually producing things. I think I produced a song for myself that I released. And that was kind of my sort of like a coming of age party of like, hey I do this. You know, I do think there's things you have to do to make sure people know what you're capable of. I did that. And then I started writing with people who asked me to finish up their songs because they liked the demos. But yeah, it just came from accidentally making demos to people liking my taste, I guess. And learning that I might have a knack for working with artists. And so yeah, it was an accident.
Payden: Yeah, it's an accident. You know, pre-planned. Yeah. The unprepared. What is an interface? I do not know. Yeah, it does not compute.
Austin: I really didn't know. I think I always knew that I understood how music should be arranged but I had to know what a modern producer needs. Like the knowledge of recording and engineering and mixing- which I didn't know. Yeah, maybe I still don't know. You know, you just figure it out and it takes years to get good at and so I just kind of accepted the challenge. And you get better as you go back.
I think anybody that's ever done anything great has just been like, I'll figure it out as I go, you know?
Payden: Yeah. You're never you're never fully prepared for it. And then obviously, I mean, now you're producing and you're producing absolute bangers. And I think the coolest thing about it is I know for a fact that a lot of people feel this way too you’re a drummer at heart. And like you're producing the songs that are very drum forward. I’ll still never forgive you for “Take You At Your Word,” though. Because anytime I try to play that, I am a sweat fest. I'm like, I'm done. I'm done. I don't want to do this anymore.
Austin: I was very nervous to play that song. Yeah, the fact that it turned out is a miracle.
Payden: Hey, It works. I can tell, because I had to play it not too long ago at church and I was listening. I love it because like it's subtle, but you kind of start off you know, pretty chill. But you can tell after you did that bridge, you're like oh here we go. Just- like it smacks.
Austin: So honestly, the beginning of the song being really simple is because of how intense it gets later that I was trying to conserve my energy. Because my initial instinct on that song was to go really busy from the top and realize that it wasn't working and it was sloppy, and I couldn't keep it up for three minutes. So I just kept it simple because it made it easier. And I think it was maybe a more mature offering. But it took a second to get there.
Payden: Love it, dude. That's amazing. All of that is just, it's cool. It's encouraging. I love to hear it. I think people are gonna really love reading this or watching it wherever it is. Now, the big question. The golden ticket. Why we are all here… Why a drum sample pack? And why now?
Austin: The hardest question of the day.
Payden: You have 12 minutes, so…
Austin: It won't be that long. Um, yeah, obviously, like, drum samples have been around a long time, very long time. That's honestly a stupid statement haha. But I think there's been a lot of opportunities for me to do that in the last 10 years. And a lot of friends and people who have been like I love the way your snare sounds or like the way you play and all this kind of stuff. I've had people offer to pay me for my snare sound. Just like mix engineers asked me for that sort of stuff. It just never felt right. I don't know how to explain it other than it always felt like it wasn't right. It wasn't the right timing. Not the right people to link arms with in the season. And to be totally honest, I don't think I was ready. I don't think my career was at a point where people cared as much as that one guy who wanted to pay me, you know what I mean? So I think it's just waiting until I felt like I had something to say and that I had that my drumming had more of an identity. I think after I don't know how long I've been touring and playing on records, but maybe 13-14 years, I think, coming into my 30s I started to feel like I finally had something to say. I've had some time under my belt. You know, I had a decade under my belt of touring by the time I was 27. And, I started to feel like I was always the young guy. And I feel like I'm not the young guy anymore. There's a new generation of players and people. But like people that would love input and my thoughts on things and I think my personality is to shy away from giving my opinion on a lot of things. Like when it comes to drums and people are like what's the best this what's the best that, to me, it's all subjective. About anything. I'm like, if you love it, then it's awesome. And, I don't want you to be a clone of me or whatever. I do the thing I do because I think it's best for what I do. But I'm never gonna say this is the best. You know for worship music or this is the best thing for funk music or, it's not my personality. So I did feel like it was time for me to start speaking up about just the way that I process and all of that sort of thing and I think speaking with my mouth as well as speaking with my playing, yeah. Really stepping into the role of somebody who likes to help create drum culture for the church. And I think that I just always felt like that was maybe arrogant to think but I think it's like a parent now that like, you know, this is the sort of the platform the Lord has given me. I'm not the only guy doing that. But you know, I'm one of them. And so, I just feel like yeah, this is like an opportunity. For me to get to share my sound and just my voice through my playing like the way that I process, especially worship music. It feels like the right time to share that.
Payden: Yeah, that's amazing. Yeah, I think the amount of humility that you carry to that, speaks louder than the noise you would make when you probably weren't ready. I think, you know, even from the guy who was on this side of the glass, you know, experiencing you, creating your sample pack. Well, first off, you're showing up and your sounds are already dialed. It was like boom, okay, they're good to go, you know. You know your stuff. And I think that's like, observing you over the years, it's like man, Austin is confident in who he is. And that's so cool. Because he knows what he's gonna do and what he wants to do and it's just it works. And yeah. You know, seeing your your wheels spinning in the tracking room, and he's like, you know, we'd play those, you know, loops Free to Play to and you're just, you could tell he's like, Alright, I want to do this and then you would do it like, yep, that's, that's what we want. And that's what we need. It was like, yeah, it's perfect. So thanks.
Austin: Yeah, no, it was cool.
Payden: And they sound incredible. I know, you know. We’ve been just blessed by the ears that God gave Sam and Johnny both. I'm very grateful.
Austin: My biggest fear is that they would suck on my account. That my drum sounds worse than I think they do.
Payden: I wish we would have just replaced it with like really crappy sounds when you came back into the control room to listen. That would have been hilarious!
Austin: That would have been discouraging. Sounds are the only thing that carry you through tracking for three days.
Payden: Yeah, exactly. That and just endless, endless amounts of coffee. Bro, Thank you so much. This has been incredible. And I can't wait for everybody to read/ watch this. Well, that is our official sign off of all things!