Austin Jenckes has had quite a musical journey. From releasing several solo projects over the last decade, to joining a group (called “The First Call), to being a Team Blake contestant on Season 5 of The Voice. While most people are familiar with him from the TV show in 2013, the Duvall, Washington native has taken a step out of that television spotlight and returns with a full album, his first since the competition.
Released via Nashville artist development company and indie label Red Dot, If You Grew Up Like I Did gives listeners a very personal glimpse into Jenckes’ journey as he lets the art take individuals on a ride through love, death, hardship, and celebration. Proving himself as both a vocalist and songwriter, Jenckes had a hand in co-writing eight out of nine tracks on the record.
Album opener “We Made It” celebrates triumphing over all odds to lead a beautiful, satisfying life that is not perfect by worldly standards, but the couple’s own. Penned by Jenckes, Jaren Johnston (of The Cadillac Three) and Jonathan Singleton, the song paints imagery of a life with joys and hardship co-existing together but still living, the couple is grateful enough to say it ain’t got what we want but got what we need, hey, we made it.
A sweet, nostalgic look back on love so sweet is then followed with “Never Forget” (Jenckes, Brinley Addington), and the feel-good “American Nights,” a celebratory anthem about the carefree in-the-moment feelings of fun and earning our stripes underneath the stars.
Lead track “Fat Kid,” which features Grammy-nominated songwriter Lori McKenna (Tim McGraw, Little Big Town), encompasses one word in 4 minutes: nostalgia. We all have felt, at some point in our almost-picturesque life, like outliers. We may be happy with our choices, but something unsettles us about a certain aspect of it. This is when Jenckes’ emotional delivery shines, along with the writing of McKenna, Neil Mason (1/3 of The Cadillac Three) and the late Andrew Dorff. The one lyric that hits? “That summer before your senior year, you lost a damn good friend. / And finally on a Sunday morning, you learned how to say Amen”
Penned with one of Sony Nashville’s newest artist, Jameson Rodgers, “Bet You’d Look Good” pays compliments to his significant other about her unceasing beauty, whether in a Willie Nelson shirt [he] bought from a southern thrift store for a couple hundred pennies or in a world that keeps on spinning. “Never Left Memphis” is a rocking, soulful, feet-thumping song that showcases Jenckes’ evident rhythm and blues influences.
An undeniable highlight on the album is the deeply personal “If You’d Been Around.” Co-written with Lynn Hutton (Eric Church, Florida Georgia Line, Jon Pardi) and Tammi Kidd Hutton (Scotty McCreery, Kellie Pickler, LeAnn Rimes), is delivered as a personal letter to Jenckes’ late father (who passed away when the singer was just 16) about what he would’ve witnessed in his son’s life, if he had still been around. The heart-wrenching tune explores the what-ifs and emotions entailed in a loss too soon. “The road ain’t been busy, but I found my way / Sometimes I think I might’ve turned out more like the man I’ve heard stories about / If you’d been around”
Proving the universal power of music, the same three writers team up again on “There’s A Song,” a track that lists some of the biggest songs across all music genres, in a convincing invitation to listeners to realize how there truly is a song for the roller-coaster journey of life. Jenckes then wraps up the album by taking a step back and promising his wife he knows what matters the most at the end of the day; and he’ll “Ride Away” with her anytime, wherever she wants to go
After listening to this record, we dare say, he’s “made it”– both as a writer and artist. Our guess is, it won’t be long till a major label takes interest in his artistry and the irrefutably perfect storyteller that he is. Not only is the country singer readying to bring his music across the pond to Europe later in the fall, but he is also slated to make his big Grand Ole Opry debut in Nashville on June 15.
“If You Grew Up Like I Did” is available now. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released music here on our ‘New Country Music’ playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.
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