"Success is the result of a series of difficult but necessary decisions." -Michael Mecherikoff, author of Nowhere Near Manhood
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the music life is maintaining the boundary between business and personal within individual relationships, especially within the band. Each person is here to do a job, actually several jobs, and when everyone is doing their part, the product as well as the process thrill the senses, music fills the air, and feelings of accomplishment, excitement and potential reinforce bonds between the members--and easily can obscure the line between partnerships and friendships.
When things are going great, they're just that, going great, and the dual relationships strengthen. But when business problems arise, the thin line between professional and personal adds an extra layer to the problem. Discussing the issue becomes a personal criticism, as difficult to deliver as it is to receive, when in reality it's anything but.
Thus the decision to find a new drummer was a reminder of the business/personal boundary. We'd become friends with Jon; we saw that deep within him are a fundamentally good heart and the best of intentions. From a professional perspective, on the other hand, we saw that in order to grow, the band needed something from him that he felt he didn't have to give: time.
Parting ways with Jon was bittersweet; though the business relationship has come to an end, the personal connection we created in the process keeps us friends.
And who is the band's new drummer? Check out our newsletter
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All the best,
1. Can you describe the brand of country music that people are going to hear when they hit play on your debut album, “Neon Halo”?
Fun country, down-home country.
2. With so many bands playing a similar style right now, what one thing is it about Austin Law that is going to separate you from the pack?
The music on the album is all different; there’s something for everybody. You can listen to the record and go from one extreme to the next, with a rockin’ country song like “Stomp” to a “Friend of Sinners” that might have more of a Bible-belt gospel kind of sound to it.
3. You hooked up with producer Eddie Gore for the recording of the album. What input did Eddie bring into the studio that helped you ultimately shape the sound of the album?
Eddie’s a slave driver! (laughing). Eddie’s the kind of producer that isn’t gonna be satisfied until he hears out of you what he thinks the project should sound like. He’s been pretty successful finding my sound and making sure the music matches my voice and the delivery is an honest performance. If it isn’t an honest performance, he’ll either sit back and tell you that you’ve got another one in you or he’ll scrap it altogether. I have total faith in the fact that he can figure out the good from the bad.
4. Though a lot of your album has a rock based country feel to it, you chose the slower paced “Neon Halo” as the lead single. Why was this song chosen and what are you hoping for as far as mainstream attention?
The song was picked – it was one of my favorites from the first time I heard it and it almost didn’t make the record. I refer to it as “the little engine that could.” It just kept growing in popularity among the band and throughout management and the more we tested it, it was a song that everyone can identify with. Everyone has been out somewhere and seen the gal that doesn’t look like she belongs in a certain situation or you judge a book by its cover too soon and you never know what you’re gonna get. I think the song has a good message that you can’t always do that. It’s a good story song and like I said, there’s something on the record for everyone and we just thought this would be a good introduction to Austin Law.
5. Other than the single, which song from the album is your favorite and why?
“Friend of Sinners.” When we first heard the song, we were sitting over at Harlan Howard’s office, and I have a real big respect for Harlan Howard and just the knowledge that he had, the catalog that he maintained and the Number Ones that were scored out of that whole genre. Sitting with Melanie Howard in his office, you get that feeling that you’re in the presence of greatness, and Melanie actually had one of the writers of that song – Travis Meadows –play it live, and I was just so impressed with his performance that I knew it was a song that I could deliver. We came back to Nashville to set it all up and Eddie and I decided that we were gonna do that song first… We didn’t hit the song for six days! I just wasn’t successful in pulling that performance.
So, it was a Sunday morning, and we were leaving the next day and already resigned to the fact that we were gonna have to come back to finish that song, when Eddie called me and asked if I wanted to give it one more shot before I left. It was kind of a rainy morning, kind of dismal outside, and when I got to the studio Eddie had candles burning in the booth and I just walked over to the microphone, put on the headset… what you hear on the record is one solid take from start to finish, which really doesn’t happen a lot anymore with Pro Tools. “Friend of Sinners” is not fixed in any way - it’s one solid take from beginning to end, and we both looked at each other and knew we had the performance that we wanted and just left it at that – we called it our divine intervention song!
6. The songwriters on this album read like a “Who’s Who” in country music ranging from John Rich to Randy Houser to John Mabe. How did these songs find their ways to you and how did you select which ones to use?
That’s the best part about this whole thing… we always refer to Nashville as being a big family atmosphere. We want to be a part of this city and want to be a part of this industry and everything that it has to offer. So what I did was, I came back and did a little three-song demo with Eddie, and he went out to the publishers and said, ‘This is my artist, this is what he sounds like, do you have anything for him?’ I was pleased as punch to find out that they thought enough of the vocals to give it serious consideration so that by the time we came back for the pitch meetings, we were getting everybody’s top stuff. When I heard about the writers that actually pitched songs to this project I was in awe, because when you work with guys like John Rich, John Mabe and Randy Houser, who’s been a friend of mine since the day that I met him, these are guys that are at the top of their game right now and they had the faith in me to deliver the performances. Everybody calls songs their children back here (in Nashville), so we raised some pretty good kids!
7. With the album out now, what are your plans for the immediate future as far as promoting it and your music?
We lay our fate in the hands of the fans and the great people we work with and the relationships we have here in Nashville. We’ve got a great team behind the song right now, the song is charting and the fans are speaking out – they’re really letting us know that they like “Neon Halo.” Internet sales are doing really well, keeping us employed and doing what we love to do. We’d love to break out on a good spring or summer tour next year and meet everybody across the nation. You get in this business to go out and meet people and share what you have to offer with everybody, so that’s really what we’re looking forward to.
8. You have a personal history that includes being a part of the Airforce and now you are a deputy sheriff for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. How did these aspects of the real world prepare you the most for the music business?
Ohhh, man! Always watch your back!... It’s funny, if you’re walking around a corner, chasing a suspect, you’re gonna peek around the corner first. I’ve learned to peek around the corner in the music business. The unfortunate circumstance in any business is that there is some smoke and mirrors involved with what’s going on, but this time around we feel more accepted. It’s like you get a hug from this city, and all we wanna do is just hug it back! We’re not feeling in any way like the step kid, we feel like part of the family now, and that’s great for us.
9. Though you’ve worked with Nashville songwriters on your debut effort, how did playing shows around California influence you early on that if you had lived anywhere else may not have?
I don’t know if this is from my experience, but what I’ve always heard is that California is a tough market for country music. But I’ve found that it’s thriving just like the Midwest and everywhere else. You just have to find it. And once you find it, you start playing your music and getting a feel for what everybody likes. It’s a good gauge, I guess, for what the rest of the world is thinking about where Country is going. I enjoy the California audiences, just like I enjoy every audience that we play in front of. I do know that they’re a little more harsh if you do something they don’t like and they’ll let you know, but fortunately we haven’t had too many of those!
10. What piece of advice can you offer to someone that is looking to break into the music industry right now?
Well, the old cliché is that if you want it bad enough you’ll keep chasing your dream, but my advice is to learn from everybody else. Talk to people that are in the industry – from people that are just breaking in, to somebody that’s been there, if you can get a minute of their time. The music business is a constant learning experience for everybody involved in it, a constant growing pattern - where the music’s going, how the fans are reacting… Get with people that have been around a little while, learn the dos and don’ts. And the most important thing is to be humble. You’ve got to be humble enough to not only say, “Am I good enough to be here?” but to admit that you’ve still got work to do. And you’ve gotta put in that work if you want it.
Michael Austin (lead vocals); Billy Roberts (lead guitar, vocals); Bill Shapiro (steel guitar, slide guitar, lead guitar, banjo); Alex Wilkerson (bass); Roberto Cerletti (drums); Roger Malinowski (keyboards); Travis Raab (lead guitar); Aubrey Richmond (fiddle).
CITIES OF ORIGIN:
San Bernardino, Highland, Anaheim, West Hollywood, Los Angeles.
Neon Halo (Breakin‘ the Law, 2009).
The band tells us names like Hank Williams Sr., Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed and all the Outlaw Pioneers, plus contemporary artists Montgomery Gentry and Toby Keith. They’ve even got a rock kick, a la Lynyrd Skynyrd and Def Leppard.
It’s perfect that the Weekly’s selected a band like Austin Law to be featured in this week’s Band of the Week section. After all, with the Fourth on the horizon, putting patriotism on full display, this country act seems to fit the bill rather swimmingly.
First up, the group’s not playing one, but a full pair of Fourth of July gigs in the Inland Empire (plus a stint at hometown honky-tonk, The Brandin‘ Iron, this weekend). And secondly, they’re not bashful about letting their love for the country (plus country music)—and particularly the maintenance of law and order—show.
“We are a very patriotic band and we would like to give a big shout out to our men and women in the armed forces who put it on the line every day so that we can enjoy our freedoms,” says Austin Law’s Billy Roberts. “Austin Law appreciates everything you do and we want to say thank you, to you and your families, from our heart of hearts.”
Of course, the concepts of protecting one’s country—or in this band’s case, one’s county—isn’t far off the mark for the group. After all, Austin Law’s named after frontman Michael Austin’s occupation, as a deputy sheriff for San Bernardino County.
But, Austin trades his flashlight for a mic when hitting stages across the region with his crew, as they’ve done for well over two years. And this deputy’s even performed outside his jurisdiction, trekking across the nation, opening for artists like LeAnn Rimes, Toby Keith, Big and Rich, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. They’ve also recorded their Neon Halo debut with producer Eddie Gore in Nashville.
“This CD has something for everyone on it,” says Roberts. “Even if you’re not hardcore country you will find a song or songs that hit you in a good place.”
And there’s plenty of good coming from the act, as police pursuits are swapped for charitable pursuits, including the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital and the Wounded Warrior Project.
“It’s a great way to start giving back to those responsible for the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday,” says Austin.
Hermitage, TN – Since its debut to the Nashville area, the Waddell & Reed Charity Golf Tournament has had the whole community buzzing with anticipation for its next turn of events. This one day, April 7th, golf extravaganza will feature many stars of the music and sports world competing for a great cause – Christmas 4 Kids – all co-hosted by country hit-maker Andy Griggs and Tennessee Titan Cortland Finnegan.
The beautiful Hermitage Golf Course will host the golf tournament for some fun competition ending the day with a memorable evening of non-stop entertainment by the musical golfers.
The Waddell & Reed Charity Golf Tournament will raise funds for Christmas 4 Kids, Inc. Christmas 4 Kids is a not-for-profit organization that has been in existence for over 25 years providing many children, each year, with their very own shopping spree. The funds generated by the golf tournament, annual concert, and the Tour Bus Show/Artist Meet and Greet event are used to give children from 30 different schools, a total of more than 400 children, a day-long shopping excursion.
April 7th / Hermitage Golf Course / 1 pm Shotgun Start
Entry Fee: $125 per golfer / $500 per team
For more information visit: www.Christmas4Kids.org
Nashville, TN - Grammy Award-winning artists Riders In The Sky are scheduled to perform immediately following the STS-133 Crew Return Ceremony at Ellington Airport's Hangar 276 in Houston on Thursday, March 10, 2011. Saddle Pals of all ages are invited to come out and welcome home the "Space Cowboys," and enjoy the best in Comedy & Western by "America's Favorite Cowboys," Riders In The Sky! Gates open at 3:30pm to the public.
This was the Space Shuttle Discovery's 39th and final flight
and the 133rd flight of the Space Shuttle program. During
the STS-133 mission, the shuttle and its crew of six
Americans docked with the International Space Station,
delivered the Permanent Multipurpose Module, the Express
Logistics Carrier 4, a humanoid robot called "Robonaut," and
provided critical spare components for the station.
About Riders In The Sky
For thirty years Riders In The Sky have been keepers of the flame passed on by the Sons of the Pioneers, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, reviving and revitalizing the genre. And while remaining true to the integrity of Western music, they have themselves become modern-day icons by branding the genre with their own legendary wacky humor and way-out Western wit, and all along encouraging buckaroos and buckarettes to live life "The Cowboy Way!" Riders In The Sky are exceptional not just in the sense that their music is of superlative standards (they are the ONLY exclusively Western artist to have won a Grammy, and Riders have won two), but by the fact that their accomplishments are an exception to the rule as well.
For more information on Riders In The Sky please visit: www.ridersinthesky.com.