Thankfully, it’s not often that our entire view of the world can change in such a short space of time. When Six Shooter Country interviewed Austin Jenckes and Kyle Daniel in a London hotel last month ahead of this year’s C2C festival, it was pretty straightforward. What were they looking forward to most…What did they enjoy about playing in the UK…What were the audiences like in Europe…? That kind of thing.
Less than 48 hours later, it was all change as they literally grabbed their bags and scrambled to find flights back to the US before President Trump’s travel restrictions really took hold.
As we now know only too well, C2C 2020 is consigned to Coronavirus history but as SSC caught up with them both on the phone a few days after they arrived back home, we were pleased to hear that they are each hoping to come back as soon as possible.
Weaving the two interviews together, Alison Dewar spoke to Austin about life unexpectedly back home in Nashville, why his three-year-old daughter Ravenna is set to be a future star of the stage, and the favourite movie he’d love to have written a song for.
It’s not that long since we were having a nice chat and it was your birthday. One minute you were flying high on your C2C plans and the next you were literally flying back across the pond. How did it all come together?
It all changed very fast. On the Wednesday night we played the One Night in London private showcase and by then it was already feeling a little different. Towards the end of the night I could just feel that people were seeing things on their phone. Nobody was really talking about it, but it was almost like we knew something was coming.
We were aware that Trump at some point was going to make a statement and address everything and we were just kinda hoping there wasn’t going to be travel restrictions. Then about 1am or 2am UK time Thursday morning, I got a text that said we’re looking at flights, be ready at 8am, so I slept for a few hours and we just headed to Heathrow.
I think I was really lucky, because we got out and flew back to Atlanta and it was really easy, a pretty normal flight, but I know there some people who had to re-route via different cities.
And of course, there had been the tornado which hit Nashville too.
Yeah, I wasn’t here for the tornado, I was already away, so coming back and seeing that, and then having all this happen, it really felt like Alice in Wonderland.
We’ve been enjoying your Instagram gigs Same Beer Different Sunday, and you held one in support of the Nashville Rescue Mission. I guess with bills to pay and no money coming in from ticket sales, it’s about making sure you stay visible and at the front of people’s mind’s too, encouraging them to download your music, buy merch etc.
Yeah, I’ve been trying to find something to do with myself ‘cos I’ve been sitting in the house all day, so I’m gonna do some more of that (online gigs). I’ve been doing online songwriting sessions pretty much every day, I’m writing a lot and working on songs and demos and a couple of little projects around the house.
We’ve been remodeling our bathrooms, we had some gift cards from Christmas so just went and got some stuff and been trying to stay busy, keeping in touch with friends and family and trying to be as normal as possible with the hope that we’ll be back out playing shows in a few months.
The good thing is, playing music every day, I feel very blessed to be able to do that and I am constantly reminded of my situation compared to a lot of people.
It feels like the Nashville community has been pulling together.
Everybody is very quick to give, the songwriting community and music row are very quick to pull together. We’re family and we’re all in it for the long haul.
When we met previously at The Long Road, you were talking about your next album which you’d been recording at Abbey Road. Where are you now in terms of release dates?
We’re still mixing and fine-tuning it, it’ll be a full-length album, there are most likely going to be some acoustic tracks that go with some other stuff we’ve recorded in Nashville. My goal is to have something done by August or so, we’ll probably put at least a song or two out and then finish up the album by the end of the year.
And I guess in light of everything going on right now there’s definitely some new things to talk about. It’s also a good time for me to be home and just kind of let the dust settle a little because I’ve been on the road for a really long time.
Will the new music be different to what we’ve heard before?
I don’t think it will be totally different, I’m definitely trying to grow and be inspired, but I feel like I’ve found a certain energy in my life, especially coming over there to the UK. I’ve been coming over solo a lot, but back home I play with a band, I’m on the record with the band and I think the biggest challenge is how to incorporate different band elements, but try to focus on the songs still.
That’s one thing I’m very proud of on the last record (2019’s If You Grew Up Like I Did), I really love how the songs came out. I love the production and instrumentation too, but I think I’m most proud of the songs. For this one, I wanna figure out that balance of taking my time so I can be inspired in the studio, sometimes it’s easy to focus so much on the songs that once you get into the studio you kinda hurry up to get through it, for this one I would really like to spend more time in the studio – the last record took five years but we were only in the studio for five days.
Is making music like being on a treadmill sometimes, you have one album in production and you’re already thinking about when the next one comes out?
I think that internally, it’s actually the opposite for me. I’m fortunate to have a really great team around me that continually remind me of checkpoints and due dates and things that need to get done. I’m fairly unorganised in my brain (laughter) but with my team, everybody is very on top of it.
I think my biggest goal is to come back over to the UK as soon as possible and as many times as possible, I can tell that there’s something really cool happening there.
Are you using this time to start learning any new skills, playing the piano or something?
I thought about that, it’s not as big of a joke…I’ve been playing a lot more electric guitar, usually I play acoustic guitar, so I’ve been trying to work on that. I used to play electric all the time in bands when I was a kid, so it’s been fun kinda trying something new and I like rocking out.
We saw you did something with German band Bunt, I listened to that track and it’s certainly different.
Very different. In 2015, a friend said ‘hey, I wrote this song, would you like to sing it’ so I did. About a year after that, a guy at Interscope Records emailed me and said we have this new EDM group and they want to cut that song and keep your vocal on it. We went through all the contracts but then we never heard anything, the song never came out and no joke, a month ago, I get an email saying we’re putting this song out. It’s kinda funny, as since then I’ve been through different deals, different companies, but as it was such an old recording we just kinda got the go ahead from my team and so they put it out. It was a very long time ago.
I’ve had a lot of that actually, if you look on Apple music there’s a couple of pop tracks I’ve had on film and TV. One this year was on the Superbowl, another one on the Assassin’s Creed video game; there was another Netflix show called Riverdale that I had a song on, and Madam Secretary, all kinds of songs that I write or sing with people, but not necessarily songs that I play.
Would you like to write the soundtrack for an iconic movie…say like Top Gun 2?
I would love to do that. I’ve actually thought about it, I’ve had a couple of songs and I’ve thought how do we get this to Top Gun? I love that movie, I’ve seen it over 100 times.
Have you ever done anything crazy like flying in a fast jet?
My craziest thing would be bungee jumping. It was scary, it was in Canada, outside Vancouver, about 150 feet up and it was on a bridge. I remember, the guy was tying my feet up and I said how are you doing today, and he said ‘I’m a little hungover’, I was freaking out. And he said ‘how close do you want to get to the water, cos there’s a little river down there and from up top it looks like that big’ (ie tiny). I said I’d like to be able to reach out and touch it – and he did it even further than that, to where it was like the water was right there (in front of my nose) – it was pretty amazing.
Would you do it again?
Nope, I was like 15 when I did it. If I did it now, I would not be good!
Your daughter Ravenna is three now, I bet she loves having you around more?
Oh yeah, I don’t know if you follow Frozen, they had the second one come out a few months ago and I think in light of this, knowing everyone would be stuck at home, they released the second movie early to Netflix so everyone could watch it, which is really cool.
We watched that last Monday night and every day since. I get to be Kristoff and she’s had to be Elsa, playing make-believe in the enchanted forest. It’s pretty awesome.
You’re making some special memories with her at a very weird time.
Yeah, she’s at that magic age where it could be anything, it could be a cardboard box and to her it would be a rocket ship.
Previously, you posted some pictures of you taking Ravenna backstage at the Opry.
It was pretty magical, she had been there before but only in the crowd, so she finally came backstage and she thought she was going on the stage. She was like ‘ok, I’m ready’, she’s quite the little performer. She loved the popcorn they had back there, she’s a socialite, she likes to talk to everybody.
It must be hard, leaving Ravenna and Brittany (Austin’s wife) behind, are they going to come over with you sometime?
Yes, I hope the next time we can make that happen. Even this last trip, my wife was like, ‘I’m coming with you’ and I had to say no, which I hate doing. It wouldn’t have been a whole lot of a vacation, she was here last May with her girlfriends and they went to Scotland for two weeks, she loves it here.
You don’t have any Scottish ancestry, do you?
I think she does, I have some Welsh and a lot of Dutch.
So, it slightly feels like home for you, when you are over in the UK?
Yeah, there’s a lot of things that I recognise.
Then let’s hope it’s not too long before we see you back over here on familiar ground.