At the age of 19, Austin Burke made the move from Phoenix to Nashville to chase a dream that had taken a hold of him when he was just two years old.
A fifth-generation native of Scottsdale, Arizona, Burke began singing while he was still barely walking, learnt the National Anthem and started to travel the country performing it for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns.
He dropped out of college when he was 18, moved to Nashville and spent the next four years waiting tables, writing songs and saving enough money to record his debut single. When it finally came, that single was more than worth the wait. ‘Sleepin’ Around’ was a slow-burning instant classic, one that owed as much to the rap and rock music that Burke listens to as it did traditional '90s country.
The success of the single gave Burke the foot in the door he’d been looking for, and he burst through it, releasing a series of songs that captured the hearts of country fans all over, as he honed his distinctive blend of rap, country, EDM and rock, opening for Vince Gill and Dierks Bentley and building up hundreds of millions of cumulative streams.
“I want you to listen to my music when you’re cruising down the highway or a back road with your windows down”, Burke says. “Or when you’re about to tell someone you love them for the first time”.
His big breakout single ‘Whole Lot In Love’ first catapulted Austin to streaming stardom - with his total streams now exceeding 145 million - while ‘Town Home’ became one of those songs that seemed to fit a million different moments perfectly.
The Grand Ole Opry invited him to play his debut in 2019, and a few months later, he caught the attention of country superstar Thomas Rhett, who in turn signed Burke to his first publishing deal with Home Team Publishing.
His new Changed Everything EP feels like Austin Burke’s most complete artistic statement yet as he cooks up all the delicious ingredients of his sound and flavours it with a bold freshness that continues to set him apart from the current crop of country singers coming out of Music City.
The title track almost rolls the car windows down for you, as he begins to take stock of all the ways he’s put his wilder days behind him and changed everything but the object of his affection’s mind. “I’m a little less screw up, a little more grew up / Since I messed it up with you”, he sings in a gloriously grammatically incorrect two-liner that even Loretta Lynn would be proud of. The brooding country-pop of the wonderfully titled ‘Slow Kissin’ In A Fast Car’ sounds like an Eric Church deep cut, while ‘Let It Burn’ adds a soulful twist to his sound.
‘I Don’t Care’ is a boasting litany of all the different ways Burke definitely doesn’t care about his ex, that cleverly manages to imply that he really does care; a lot. The country singer doth protest too much, methinks. The EP winds up with the sweetly romantic ‘Even On A Bad Day’, a song that already sounds destined to soundtrack a million Valentines Day photo montages on TikTok.
All he needs to do now is take these songs back out on the road: “My shows are what I take the most pride in”, he says. “2022 is going to be a big year, so be sure to expect a ton of new music”.
Holler sat down with Burke to talk about his new EP, growing up in Arizona and becoming TikTok famous.
Where are you from and how has that influenced you?
I’m originally from Scottsdale, Arizona. I grew up there and then moved to San Diego in my freshman year of high school. My parents used to take me to the rodeo and dress me up like Garth Brooks, so I was destined to follow in his footsteps. I’d say that both Arizona and San Diego have influenced my music though. I’ve tried to mesh Arizona country roots with San Diego's influence of reggae, pop and rap.
Tell us a bit about your new EP, Changed Everything?
This project is very special to me because I haven’t put out a body of work since 2017. Thankfully, I feel like I’ve finally found my sound and who I want to be as an artist. It’s so nice to know exactly what I want to say now. This EP has many different types of songs, but I think more than anything, I want people to roll down the windows while they’re driving and sing along with every word.
How does it feel to see such an incredible response to the EP via all of the fans online?
It’s incredible. I don’t have a record deal. I don’t have a big investor. But what I do have are the best fans in the world. They continue to push me and inspire me and make me want to continue doing this. I just want to make music that they like. Everything I do is for the fans.
What music did you grow up listening to?
I was raised on true country music. Garth Brooks was my hero. To this day - '90s country is my favorite. However, when I moved to San Diego I started rapping in my garage, I started surfing and listening to reggae, and I fell in love with pop melodies. I think all of that music has really inspired my current sound and allowed me to be different in my own way.
When did you first notice something was happening for you on TikTok?
I started showing my wife the songs I wrote that day and people gravitated toward them. They loved seeing her reaction. I’m a songwriter first and I think that is what people love about my TikTok. They really listen to the lyrics and that’s exactly what I want.
When I got a no.1 song on iTunes with ‘Town Home’, I was shocked. I think that’s the moment I realized things are really happening. You can build a fanbase and make all of these crazy dreams happen. Because of the fans, ‘Town Home’ became one of Spotify’s top country songs of 2021. It wouldn’t be possible without all of them and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.
What’s it like playing the Grand Ole Opry?
Honestly, that’s an experience that will stick with me forever. I said it there but that moment really solidified me in the country community. It doesn’t matter what happens from now on. It was and always will be the biggest honor of my career.
What time do you wake up in the morning?
I normally wake up around 9am. I’m not a morning person, at all. I never have been. But I try to stick to a routine of coffee, breakfast, gym and then get started with my work things after that. I’m fortunate to have a job that requires much more of me at night than first thing in the morning.
If you could travel back to any time when would you go back to?
Without a doubt, I would go back to the ’80s. '80s music is iconic and I just think it was a time when technology was starting to become more relevant. I’m also a huge Ronald Reagan fan.
What’s your favorite meal?
Nothing beats my best friend Christian’s carne asada tacos and a beer. I have had some incredible meals but nothing beats authentic Mexican food. And I’m sorry to say, you have to go to San Diego or Arizona to get that.
Which person from history would you most like to meet?
I actually got to meet this person. I have gotten to meet Garth a few times. He is and forever will be the greatest country entertainer. He’s also one of the nicest people ever and he truly is as nice as he seems. He remembers everything and gave me some encouragement when I really needed it. Those moments of advice will always stick with me.
What advice would you give to the younger you?
It’s advice I continue to tell myself. Stop looking side to side, keep your eyes straight ahead. I tried to be everyone I wasn’t when I first moved to Nashville. I am so happy with where I’m at and happy with who I am as an artist.
What’s next for you?
I think this is going to be an exciting year for my music. After this EP, I have so many more things lined up for the year. I’m going to continue to lean on my fans for support and I can’t wait to see how they continue to push me to the next level.
Austin Burke's Changed Everything EP is out now on Bolo Records.