We're continuing the conversation with new artist Austin French in part two of this exclusive NRT interview. Austin French is an inspiring Christian artist who just released his newest EP, Wake Up Sleeper. I chatted with him about the new project, his musical influences, and more in the second half of this interview. Don't forget to read part one.
In part one, we discussed your new single, "Wake Up Sleeper." Speaking of the single, you just released a brand new EP with the same name. What's the inspiration behind the project?
I've always tried to write music that I've needed. I operate in a songwriter world. And I operate on the idea that if I write a song for one person, maybe God will use it to reach 1,000 people. I'm usually that one person. A lot of these songs that I write are either prayers that I need to believe, or based on situations that I've walked through and lived through. This project is full of vulnerability, honesty, and seasons of life that I've been walking through recently.
In this project, I break down the relationship with my family that I talked about earlier. There's a song on this record called "Jesus Can." I wrote that song with contemporary artist Matthew West. I've looked up to Matthew for a long time. He's one of the guys that I think is amazing at what he does. He's a legend in the music industry.
He looked at me and said, "Austin, what's the song that only you could sing? Let's write that song today." The song that I was given is what I've lived through. If you look at my life statistically at where I should be on the map, I should be in jail.
I should have a failed marriage. I should be abusive because of what I've walked through and the history that I lived through. As a statistic, it doesn't make sense for me to be a gentle and humble human being with a family that is raising children in a healthy environment. It doesn't make sense, but Jesus doesn't make sense. Jesus does the impossible. He heals relationships, and He shows forgiveness. When I can't, Jesus can.
Because of "Jesus Can" and my story, I decided to write an autobiography about all the things that I couldn't heal, the pain that I couldn't walk through, and the circumstances I couldn't overcome. I point to the fact that if it wasn't for Jesus, I wouldn't be who I am today.
There's not a situation that Jesus can't make a way. He always can make a way. When you can't, Jesus can. This song began as a song and ended up as a book that is coming out this fall. I'm really excited about that, as well as every other song on this project. These songs are about seasons in my life.
We have three kids, so we're in the very early stages of their lives. Their ages are five, three, and eight months, so sleep is not a commodity that we're full of in our house. We're tired pretty constantly. I figured out quickly that rest isn't a state of being, it's a person.
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus promises rest when He says, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Meaning, he's not going to give you a state of life to live in. He's saying, "I see the state of life that you're in and I promise to give you myself, and myself is rest. Myself is peace beyond your understanding." That's where we're at as a family, so I wrote a song called "Rest For Your Soul." That song came from a prayer in the middle of the night saying, "God I need rest," and God saying, "I will give you myself. You don't have to carry this season alone." That's been freeing, and I'm still praying that to this day. It's something I have to remind myself of every day. It's not a season of life I'm working towards, it's God meeting me where I'm at, and He promises rest for my soul.
I also did a cover on this record called "Ooh Child." It's from a Motown Records group back in the day. When COVID-19 hit, I was on Winter Jam, the biggest tour I've ever been a part of. I was heading into the most successful touring season of my career, and it all came to a halt.
The rest of my year got canceled. So many things got postponed to 2021, and I freaked out. I remember talking to my wife saying, "I'm afraid. I don't know what's gonna be next." My wife spoke some really wise words to me and said, "What if what the enemy is using to bring the greatest fear you've ever experienced is actually what God is going to use to bring you the greatest peace you've ever experienced?"
So I started looking at this season as an opportunity instead of a curse. I wanted to write a song in response to COVID-19, and someone sent me the song "Ooh Child." When I first heard it, they said, "What do you think about this song?" I said, "It reminds me that God is still in control." It's not a Christian song per se, but it talks about how things are going to get easier, and things are going to get brighter.
Romans 8:28 says we have a promise from God that He works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. If I believe I'm doing those things, then God's promise for me isn't for me to walk around, kicking myself, saying, "Man things could be way better for me. I'm just going to focus on the negative."
No, I believe God is working and He's building something beautiful. Whether it's in this life or the next, I can trust that God is still good and He's working through me.
I put "Ooh Child" on my record in response to COVID-19. It's a reminder to everyone out there and myself that we still have a God who's working for us, and He's on our side. Things are going to get better. He promises in Romans 8:31 that He's for us, and who's for us is greater than anyone who could be against us. This whole project is in response to the life that we've lived, and what we're currently living through.
Who has been some of your musical influences?
I started playing guitar because of John Mayer, so John Mayer has been an influence for a long time for me. In the Christian world, I'd have to say Mark Hall from Casting Crowns. He's a legend, and he's a guy that I've always looked up to. I love their writing, and it's always challenged me to write music that didn't just feel good, but music that challenges people.
There's a lot of music that does just make people feel good, and I think that has a place. But, it's challenged me to write music that has a challenge in it. If you listen to the lyrics of my song, "Wake Up Sleeper," it's a challenge to say, "Thank God for what has been done for me."
If God has done something for you, then you have a challenge and a call to go share that with someone else so you aren't a "spiritual glutton." Give it out and talk to people who are asleep and show them how God rescued you from death. A lot of that inspiration in my music came from people like Mark Hall and even Matthew West. The way they write music is, "Let's do something with what's been given to us, not just talk about it." Those are two big influences in my life.
I also love to tell stories. There's an artist that I've looked up to since I was in 5th grade named Mark Schultz. (As a kid, I didn't even know that he was a Christian artist until later on.) I think he's one of the greatest storytellers in Christian music history. As a kid, I loved the songs that he wrote, and I still geek out over them. I met him once, and I was a total fangirl. I was sweating—it was crazy. He's the nicest guy in the world. He was super cool and down to earth.
Those are some people who have really influenced me and are still influencing me. I shared earlier about Matthew West when I wrote a song with him. He said, "Don't write a song that I would sing, write a song that only you can sing." It's amazing what these guys do. They challenge and encourage new artists, and they've exceeded my expectations.
What's next for you in 2020? Do you have any more upcoming new music after you release the EP?
Yes. I'm working on a Christmas song. I've never released a Christmas single before. I love to make music. And, on my first project, my wife sang on a song with me. On this second project, Wake Up Sleeper, I didn't have a song that worked out for her to be on. But, I wrote a Christmas song and I convinced her to sing on it. There will be new music after I release this project, but the one that's coming down the pipeline after it is a Christmas single that I'm excited about.
Finally, how can we be praying for you?
This season has been great for me to be the dad and the husband that I don't normally get to be. I've been home a lot, and I'm grateful for that. The thing you can pray over me and my family is, first, for our health, and, second, the intentionality of being a dad.
A lot of people work nine-to-five; Normal life is being home in the evening and in the morning. But, for an artist, sometimes we're gone four days at a time. Now, I'm home every day. I've been praying for intentionality over my family, and I've been trying to soak in these moments. Things are slower right now. I get to be the dad that I don't normally get to be, and that's a blessing.
I'm not touring as much as I normally would be. I don't want to see that as a curse. I'm grateful to be doing what I'm doing, I just want to continue to be intentional with my family and learn what it means to be a stay-at-home dad in some way while I can. I want to view this season not as a setback, but as a set up to be a blessing in the future.
Grace Chaves is a fan of all things Christian music. She is one of NRT's youngest writers. Homeschooled, Grace loves concerts, Jesus, and songwriting.
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