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Unbroken Hearts: The Austin Lucas Interview

Name: Austin Lucas
Vocation: Musician, Lost Boy
Hometown: Bloomington, Indiana

 

From small town Indiana punk kid to a rising Americana star, those who have followed the career of Austin Lucas may find it hard to label him. He has had a long career in a number of genres, having been in and out of the punk and hardcore metal scene, putting out numerous bluegrass albums and most recently releasing an album that “while rooted in outlaw and hard country, was infused with 60s psychedelic pop like the Zombies and the Beach Boys circa Pet Sounds.” So who is Austin Lucas? Well we got to ask the man ourselves and dove into the life of a humble, hardworking musician that music fans have come to know and love.

“Sometimes I tell people I am a country singer, or a musician. I would say I have a kind of Peter Pan type existence, that I am a lost boy in some kind of way. I never really had to grow up entirely the way other people had to. It’s something I never take for granted. Now, that doesn’t mean what I do isn’t really hard or doesn’t have its own set of obstacles. It can be a difficult existence, soul crushing even at times. However, I can go to bed with the knowledge that the thing that I do to put food on the table is the thing that I want to do. When people ask what I do, I try to be as playful about it as possible, because I recognize most people don’t have the same opportunities that I have.”

Those opportunities did not come over night. Regardless of genre be it rock, country or Americana, Austin only had one thing in mind when starting down a path in music.

“All I ever really wanted was to make more friends and to have some fun – that’s all I was really looking for,” Austin notes of what made him want to be a musician. He got that start in the DIY Punk scene where authenticity and self-sufficiency are the cornerstones to a community who set out to break all the rules. And while his career began in the punk and hardcore genres, it were his influences outside of that scene that molded his craft and laid the foundation for the music we hear today.

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“My dad is number one.” He says of his musical influences. “He’s a songwriter and he started as a professional musician in the early 60s, he’s been around that block more than a time or two, I’ll tell you that.” Of course, talking of his father Bob Lucas who is best known for his work in the bluegrass community, reaching national attention for his work with Allison Krauss. Austin went on to say, “…he really influenced me a lot, I really don’t think he meant to. I think that he would of preferred it the other way, that I would look at his life and not find it so appealing, though unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”  As a teenager, Austin’s loyalties laid firmly in the punk scene but to him there was something more he wanted out of the music, he enjoyed the songwriting and storytelling of country and bluegrass artists he grew up with but were in a way frowned upon amongst his peers at the time. When branching out, it were artists like the late Jason Molina (Magnolia Electric Co.) and David Dondero that had Austin begin to take his music another direction.

“These guys, you know, came from the same place I come from and I started seeing them around and buying their records. It really hit me that a person didn’t have to always express themselves aggressively, there was an opportunity to be punk and still tell stories.” This approach to music was a stretch for hid band mates at the time, naturally they were focused on heavy riffs, loud, in your face, aggressive punk rock. Seeing guys like Dondero and Molina who retained the punk spirit while telling the stories that he grew up knowing and appreciating, “really changed my life” Austin said.

That new direction led way to the 2007 release of “Putting the Hammer Down” which put Austin’s songwriting on display, backed by traditional bluegrass rhythm and instrumentation. In the years following Austin released three more albums to his name, each maintaining that bluegrass feel with songwriting at the forefront. After all, it was in his blood.

In 2013 Austin put out the album Stay Reckless which stepped outside the realm of bluegrass and combined his honest storytelling with the amps plugged in and turned up. During that time, Austin had a lot going on in his life, both on and off the stage. His career was on the up, he was touring aggressively, all while dealing with the heartache of a dissolved marriage. The road kept him busy, at times shielding him from the outside world. The non-stop touring and the lifestyle surrounding it began to wear on Austin’s body and mind and in that time he set the ground work for an album that would take the Americana scene by storm.

Between the Moon and the Midwest was released in 2016, a concept album that tells his story through the eyes of three characters – best friends in a small Midwestern town, unraveling their stories so closely tied to his own. These songs were years in the making, as Austin spilled years of work into a masterpiece that blended old-school country, punk rock grit and psychedelic transitions wrapped in authentic storytelling. The title of the album is pulled from the lead track “Unbroken Hearts” which sets the tone for the entire album and carries a message that Austin has carried with him all his life.

“The statement of [Between the Moon and the Midwest] was basically, the idea that these characters have dreams. That people all over the world are growing up imagining who they are going to be. [Unbroken Hearts] was about continuing to dream, you know, continue to believe in yourself even though you keep on losing. That whole entire song is about the fighting spirit, the idea that you cannot crush that will to fight and that will to make your dreams come true.”

Isn’t that what it’s all about? From his years grinding in the DIY punk scene, the miles on the road, the closed doors, the critics, the failed relationships, the wear and tear on body and mind, the side jobs to pay the bills, it is the dream that keeps Austin moving. Now, this isn’t just Austin’s story, it’s the story of many Midwestern musicians. Something that Austin has noticed in his time.

“I see a lot of Midwestern bands and artists that work really, really hard and everybody is trying to build something from the ground up. When you talk about artists from the Midwest who have made a name for themselves a lot of the times those folks are not flash in the pan at all, they are people who have worked themselves to the bone to get where they are.”

Austin Lucas embodies that ethic. He is an artist that has built a loyal following of fans all around the country that are drawn to that relentless spirit. It’s inspiring. It shows that it can be done regardless of where you come from. For the many doors that have closed on him in his career, there are many that opened up, opportunities that artist’s only dream of. Say for example, touring with Willie Nelson. Even with all that he has accomplished, with all that he has built and experienced, Austin’s reflection on his highlights are humbling, which shows that he is simply a Midwestern boy at heart.

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“The biggest highlight of my career so far is the fact that I am still doing it. I’ve got a lot of things that I am proud of, I’ve been able to work with my family a lot over the years, I’ve met a lot of heroes, sang with people I never thought I would be able to sing with, shared the stage with folks that blew my mind, stood in the same room as people I had no business shaking the hands of and talking to. You know, I am still here, I am still moving forward and I am not sliding backwards, I can’t say enough, I feel completely lucky to be a human being doing things they want to do with their life. Every day no matter how hard it is, I am doing something that most people dream of. You just can’t fuck with that. That’s the thing I am most proud of.”

With everything that his career has brought him, today you can find Austin right back where he started. Like many Midwestern artists, the road has led him back home. Having planted his roots deeper into Bloomington, Indiana with the recent purchase of a new home, Austin is focused on the road ahead. With a new energy towards his health and his career, there is a lot in store for Austin Lucas in 2017. When not recharging at a local Thai boxing class, Austin is planning and preparing for a new tour and a new album.

“I am going to be doing this House by House tour and I’m going to be recording a lot, I’ll be recording live shows and going to be making a new studio album. People can expect to see some new things from me live, some new covers and a very diverse set list. On this tour I will be recording every single show and there are people who have pledged to the crowd source funding campaign who will get a download of every show. That that has put the pressure on me to remember some of my back catalog that I wouldn’t normally be playing. It will remind me to ensure I change the set up every night. I mean, I am going to have to get some new jokes.” he says with a laugh, “I am going to be trying out some new material. I am going to be doing dates all year, I will be doing house concerts here in the spring but will be doing clubs towards the fall and maybe even have a couple new records to be promoting over the next year and a half. So a lot to look forward to in my world for my fans and for me.”

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We want to thank Austin Lucas for taking the time to chat with us at Midwestern Gentleman. Be sure to stay tuned to for more from Austin Lucas, you can track him at www.austinlucas.com, follow him on Instagram @AustinLucasMusic but most importantly, dive in, pick up his catalog and continue to support this Midwestern Gentleman. Wait. Midwestern Gentleman? The most important question! You know no one leaves our hot seat without asking the age old question. What does the term “Midwestern Gentleman” mean to you?

“When you say Midwestern Gentleman, I can see something similar to the archetype of a Southern Gentleman but to me if you say a Midwestern Gentleman, I am going of think of someone a little more rougher around the edges. I always felt there is a grittiness about the Midwest that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the United States… I imagine some sort of like rough and tumble dude that comes from the Rust Belt, that’s just the thing that pops into my head”

Cheers boys.