Who is Shawn Austin? Introducing Canada’s next big country star

Canadian country musician, Shawn Austin, poses for a shoot. Sony Music Archives

Vancouver-born Shawn Austin is crushing it on country radio these days with a self-titled EP whose reception so far has been nothing but positive.

The emerging singer was a semi-finalist in SiriusXM’s Top of The Country 2018 competition. Since then, he’s signed to Steelhead Music (through Sony Music Canada) and dropped a number of melodic ear-worms and heartfelt jams, including his latest, You Belong.

Shawn Austin poses, June 2018. Red Umbrella PR Archives

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Austin’s newest single has been crushing it on country radio, and he’s been making the rounds across Canada to celebrate, play music and share what’s in store for the near future.

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Global News managed to catch him in the middle of the madness. We asked the humble man to join us for a chat to find out about his influences, how his swift climb to success all began and what’s in store for the next year.

Global News: You’ve just released your self-titled EP. How’s that going so far?
Shawn Austin: It’s been great. It’s certainly a milestone; something that we’ve been working towards for a while. In the couple of weeks that it’s been out, the feedback has been great. I’ve tried a lot of different stuff than what I usually do on this EP, so it’s nice to see that the feedback has been all positive so far. There’s seems to be a lot of different aspects that people are really connecting with.

There are so many different elements on this EP, do you find that country music is almost expanding into subgenres?
Massively. You could probably say there’s like eight or nine subgenres now. [Laughs] It works well for me, because country has always been the backbone of what I’ve done. So, it’s kinda nice to find a lane within the genre that’s not the stereotypical thing people might picture when they think of country. But I’ve always considered myself a bit of a “mutt” when it comes to music anyway, because I pull influences from so many different places.
Who would you say some of those influences are?
Oh man. Well, I started playing guitar because of Stevie Ray Vaughan. I’m a huge fan of all those iconic guitar gods. Y’know, like Jimi [Hendrix], [Eric] Clapton, John Mayer and naturally of course, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley. I’m a fan of anybody who can command an axe. Michael Bublé is even an influence of mine just because of his melodies. There’s a massive range. Twelve years of playing music in restaurants and bars meant I needed a hell of an arsenal of cover songs. I was playing everything from blues, to folk, to rock, to pop. I tried it all.
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Do you remember the events of that first live show and how it helped you as a performer?
Yeah, it was a small coffee shop in my hometown. I remember I played from about 2 to 4 p.m. and I thought, “Yeah, I can do this, I’m getting paid to play now.” It all kinda snowballed from there. I started playing bigger places, longer sets and bigger crowds all over Vancouver and Whistler. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

WATCH BELOW: Shawn Austin’s debut single, Paradise Found

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How does it feel to know you now have songs on the radio?
Every artist will always tell you, “The minute you hear yourself for the first time, it’s pretty wild.” It’s something that I don’t take for granted in any way, shape or form. To have the opportunity to reach such a high number of people is pretty amazing. It just reaffirms that you’re doing something right, hopefully. [Laughs]
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Do you remember exactly how you reacted when you first heard yourself on air?
It was a Friday afternoon and I had an idea that it was gonna be coming up, so I went for a drive. It was a beautiful day and all of a sudden they start talking about this new local guy, they said, “This is his new debut song, Paradise Found.” I lost my mind a little bit and said, “I can’t keep driving, I gotta pull over.” So I went down to the beach by my place, parked and just sat there to listen. I kinda went, “OK, there’s step one, we’re doing it.” It was pretty wild.

You’re a city boy, born and raised in Vancouver. How did country music make its way into your life?
I get that a lot. [Laughs] Growing up my parents listened to everything. Really early on, I gravitated towards the Garth Brooks sound. The wholesomeness and authenticity behind country songs. It was the feel and sound. Country music is so authentic. It speaks to specific events in such a broad sense, that I think most people can listen to it and relate in some sort of way.

WATCH BELOW: From the Shawn Austin EP, emerging radio hit, You Belong

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Can you tell us a little bit about your current single, You Belong?
This song actually wasn’t written by me. We were basically three weeks out from finishing the EP and then this song was pitched to us. We heard it, loved it and then wanted to record it immediately. All of us collectively kind of went, “This needs to be the single. This is the feel we want to kick off this EP.” Up to that point, most of the songs were at this lament mid-tempo point. This one has so much more rock influence and is easily the most vocally challenging song I’ve had to record yet. But it’s nice, too, because I think that everything we do in the long run is focused on the live show. You Belong is a blast to perform live.

How do you feel about how quickly everything has shaped up in your career?
This has been the part that I’ve been so floored by. We’ve done so much so fast, and the reception has been so good. We’re almost having to play catch up a little bit — and I don’t mean in a negative way — but the ball’s rolling so quickly now, that we’re really having to ramp up the way we operate. So we will continue releasing new content to keep people interested. The basic rubric hasn’t changed though, the best song wins and we’re going to keep making sure we’re always providing authenticity. Every week I’m even more shocked and amazed at where we are now, it just gets me more excited to continue to raise the bar.

Cover photo for Shawn Austin’s self-titled debut EP, released Sept. 28, 2018. Sony Music Archives

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Do you already have plans for more new music?
Well, we already started the second one [EP]. The way streaming works now, I think it’s important to really be proactive in having new music ready to go. Early in the new year we’ll probably release an album of some sort. We’re already shaping up to have a huge 2019. The summer’s gonna be busy, there’s a lot of shows lined up and I couldn’t be happier about it. But we want to make sure that there’s content that people actually know about. It’s always fun to play new songs to attest to a crowd, but I think it’s every artist’s greatest feeling to have an audience sing your words back to you. We’re really shooting to get a lot of material out soon. I think it just makes for better crowd reaction and participation.
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The Shawn Austin EP was released through Steelhead Music and distributed under Sony Music Canada on Sept. 28. It is now available to stream on Spotify worldwide.

As of this writing, no plans for a Canadian tour have been confirmed, butaAustin said it himself — “There’s a lot of shows lined up.” You can find all the latest updates on the official Shawn Austin website.

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