Gimme a Break: Austin Basham
Austin Basham creates smart folk that impresses with ambitious compositions and insightful lyrics while it touches a nerve with the perfect dab of horn, glorious harmony or lone instrument or voice. His debut, Little Foxes has a pastoral feel and the journey it takes you on feels like one you're taking with a travelling band of players; the songs have the improvisational feel of campfire songs played by skillful and joyous musicians. We've got a special treat for you, Launch readers. Austin is releasing a new mp3 which you can stream after the article. The softly beautiful "Hollow Head/Hollow Heart," with Basham's deep voice living in a spacious world of rolling banjo, hummed harmonies, building, atmospheric strings and surprising, yet oh-so-well-placed horns. Get to know Austin a little better in the following interview!
Hometown: Austin, Texas
RIYL: Mumford and Sons, Johnny Flynn, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Laura Marling
I come from a family of musicians. My father was a singer-songwriter in his younger years, and I grew up hearing his songs. Consequently, I fell in love with music early on and have been playing ever since. I first began to play the trumpet when I was in the 6th grade. I started playing guitar in the 7th grade (which I thought was cooler) at which time I stopped playing the trumpet. From that point I started writing songs, and I’ve been writing ever since. Early on my writing style was solely based on the acoustic guitar. As the years have progressed I have learned several other instruments, such as banjo, piano, trumpet, harmonica, mandolin and dulcimer to help accompany the songs. It’s always hard to cram music into one genre, but I think I’d consider mine to be loosely folk with indie/alternative influences. Fun fact, I’m a twin.
What was the inspiration behind your single/ album?
The inspiration for my new single “Hollow Head / Hollow Heart” arose out of the constant search for a truth that can indefinitely satisfy, while simultaneously choosing paths that can only momentarily quench our fleeting desires.
Who or what inspires you? Why?
I am regularly inspired by the nature around me, seasonal changes, good relationships and bad, the struggle to be good, and primarily the persistent desire to attain closeness and reconciliation with God.
What have you been up to in the last six months? What are your plans for the next year?
I am currently studying Petroleum Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. I am in my last year, so it has been quite the challenge juggling school and music. Most people find it odd that I have a passion for music and art, yet am studying engineering, and they’re right—it’s pretty weird, and even ironic, I know. So to answer your question, I’ve been doing a lot of studying, while recording/ writing songs for my upcoming EP. When time permits, I play as many shows as possible around Austin. Upon graduation, I plan to put forth all my efforts toward playing shows, writing new material, and getting my music out there as much as possible.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve actually followed?
Treat people with kindness and respect.
What are you currently working on? Do you have an ETA on release?
I am currently working on a new EP. As for date of release, I am not quite sure of an exact date. Most of the songs are written. It’s just a matter of when I can get them all recorded and sounding the way I want. It’ll consist of four to five songs, with one of them possibly being an instrumental. Hopefully there will be some new instruments and sounds incorporated.
Can you talk in detail about Johnny Flynn and why he is named as one of your greatest influences?
I started listening to Johnny Flynn a few years ago and was immediately drawn to his unusual lyrics and diverse instrumental proficiency. I had never heard anything like it. His lyrics echo the Shakespearean era and really make you think while you listen. I admire his ability to make new songs sound as if they’ve been passed down for generations. It was refreshing to find a folk artist as creative and talented as him and it certainly helped shape the vision for my music. To top it off, he’s an incredibly nice and genuine guy.
You music is full of a diverse instrumentation, do you have a favorite and why?
There are so many things I love about each instrument so it’s hard to say, but I’d have to say guitar is my favorite. My acoustic guitar is typically the starting point in writing each of my songs and was the instrument that inspired me to start writing in the first place.
You mention that song "Lost at Sea" is troubadour-esque. Can you elaborate on this?
Medieval troubadours were known to be wandering musicians who traveled through Europe singing songs that were usually about love and courtship -- essentially romantic ballads. I think some even entertained royalty with whimsical tales from faraway lands. I consider myself a bit of a nomad or a journeyman; I'm in my early twenties, trying to figure out who I am and what I want out of life. I think a lot of people my age feel the same way, and that's what I wanted this song to encompass. "Lost at Sea" may not be a love song, but it's definitely a song of want, of desire...for meaning and purpose. It's something that I could play on the street by myself, with a theme that can be universally understood but is still intimate and personal.
Are you a coffee drinker or a tea drinker? Do you have a favorite blend?
I’m definitely more of a coffee drinker. I’m a big fan of Colombian roasts.
What are you currently reading? Do you look to literature for inspiration?
I’ve been reading a lot of poetry by Lord Byron, John Keats, and William Shakespeare recently; their writings inspire me as a songwriter. Their ability to encapsulate a moment, idea, belief, or feeling with such beauty and emotion is a powerful thing. I am currently reading Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
How would you describe yourself?
That is a very tough question. Growing up I was always a very shy kid. Music and art are a significant source of expression for me. Like anyone else, I struggle every day to be a morally good person and to do the right thing.
As an Austin resident, what are your views on SXSW?
I think SXSW is an amazing event. There is so much going on that it can be a little overwhelming, but the atmosphere of the city is one of a kind. It is a great opportunity for independent artists as well as signed artists to get their name out to a music-hungry audience full of trendsetters and influence makers. Not only is the music incredible, but the film portion of SXSW is also packed with creativity and originality.
Texas is known for having outstanding eats, could you recommend a place to check out?
Austin, Texas has so many incredible places to it; just depends on what you’re in the mood for. My favorite Mexican restaurant is Matt’s El Rancho. One of my favorite BBQ places to eat at is a small food trailer called J. Mueller’s barbeque, which in my opinion has some of the best, authentic barbeque. These are just a couple; like I said, there is an amazing restaurant to go to for anything you’re in the mood for. The list could go on and on.