Austin Lucas: A Man, His Guitar, & His Dog

austin_lucasBY Jean Detjen

Recently told by another Austin Lucas that he was a “disgrace to the name” for some unknown reason, Country/Folk singer-songwriter Austin Lucas isn’t quite sure if he’s been mixed up with a different Austin Lucas. Perhaps confused with the Christian woman preacher, the baseball player, the gay porn star or maybe the white supremacist? It’s a mystery, but it doesn’t matter. Musician Austin Lucas doesn’t feel a need to be appreciated by the masses. In fact, he thinks it’s a good thing that what he brings to the stage isn’t for everyone. Lucas is true to his expressive art that is more calling than career.

“Y’all, I’ve made it… Finally!!!” he responded after being inexplicably scorned by an Instagram troll. “Apparently a photo of me and my friends hanging out with my dog Sally offended someone. I just blocked him. Ha!”

The following scene from Wayne’s World is brought up as a grounding reference:

Garth Algar: Uh, Wayne?

Wayne Campbell: Yeah?

Garth: Do you ever get the feeling Benjamin’s not one of us?

Wayne: Good call. It’s like he wants us to be liked by everyone. I mean, Led Zeppelin didn’t write tunes everybody liked. They left that to the Bee Gees.

Words to the wise: You don’t want to mess with Lucas’s dog Sally. Cherished friend, traveling companion, workmate, stagehand, ambassador, performer, crowd tamer and more… where Lucas goes, Sally goes. Fortunately for Mile of Music (MoM) 2015 attendees, both Lucas and Sally will be road-tripping to Appleton, Wisconsin this August for several shows during the festival.

“I’ve always been a dog person. I lost my previous dog when I split up with my wife. I was completely gutted after losing that animal. I cried into the neck of that dog for three hours after the breakup. After that I got Sally and I’ve had her with me now for three years. She’s a rescue with separation anxiety related behavioral issues. I knew when adopting her that I was going to bring her with me on tour. She’s gotta have a companion all the time, and that companion is me.”

Lucas can’t help but chide himself a bit, however, for what he guesses others might view as a big of a “dog and pony show.” Realizing to some extent his furry sidekick scenario must seem “gimmicky,” he unashamedly surrenders to what he feels is the most easy, natural thing in the world. “If I saw me I’d think it’s the hokiest thing ever but I literally HAD to do it,” he says with resolve.

“Sally comes in and sits on stage when I’m performing, howls along with me, works the crowd a bit, and often is just happy to sit in my guitar case while I sing and play. She sees this as her work. We ease each other’s anxiety when we’re together and it’s good for both of us. Fans love her, too; I get asked about her all the time. They get upset if they don’t see her with me.”

For Sally, this August will be her orientation to new sniffing grounds in the heart of the Fox Cities. Lucas himself has “a long history with Appleton,” the first time back in 1995 with pop-punk bank The Quickies where they performed at places like the Knights of Columbus and a makeshift space at the United Auto Workers building. The Appleton summon came via the urging of a local fan who heard about him from Maximum Rock’n’Roll (MRR) Magazine, a publication that has covered the international DIY punk, hardcore and garage rock scene since 1982. MMR had created a resource guide to the global punk scene called “Book Your Own F-ing Life” and a connection was thus forged.

Lucas returned again to Appleton in 2006 to spend time with friends after a gig in Milwaukee. Recollections of gorging on jalapeño poppers and fried bananas foster scored from his buddy’s workplace remain embedded in his mind.

A more recent connection involves original music aficionado Scott Christensen who volunteers with MoM’s Artist Recruitment Team. Christensen enthusiastically recommended Lucas for this year’s festival lineup. “He’s such a cool guy and great musician. I started listening to him first because of getting into other bands/musicians who were on his label or did 7” splits with him. For example, Frank Turner and Chuck Ragan have both been on 7” splits with him. Before getting into the folk/country/bluegrass genres, I was into more punk rock. Many musicians like Tim Barry, Chuck Ragan and Austin all helped me slide more to that Americana/folk genre. All three (Tim, Chuck and Austin) were also big into punk rock. Seeing them move the direction they moved musically helped me shift also as an enormous music fan. Good musicians transcend their genres. They can turn heads whether they have a loud backing band or it is just them and an acoustic guitar. Austin Lucas is a guy that can do just that. I am super excited to see Appleton welcome Austin because I know they will appreciate what he has to offer.”

MoM talent coordinator Kurt Kempen was introduced to Lucas’s music by Christensen. “Our committee was sending me links on bands they had seen live that they knew would blow people away. Twenty seconds into the first song I couldn’t wait to hear the next one. The more I looked into him the more it was obvious that he not only would blow people away, but deserves to be seen.”

Perhaps it’s Lucas’s “open nerve” vulnerability and raw authenticity that draw people in.

“I write because I can’t function if I don’t. I almost always have a guitar nearby and I try to write and practice an average of about 2-8 hours per day when I’m home. I don’t want to get lazy. Writing allows me to be happy, to work through my emotions. I need to have that creative outlet. A person doesn’t have to live life with a big load of depression and anxiety. Music allows me to whittle away at it. I’m not an actor. What I share on stage is real. This is my path to redemption.”

Booked fully with a robust touring schedule, Lucas doesn’t need to win any popularity contests. He already has fans in Appleton, and he’s sure to garner many more this August. May all who are fortunate enough to see him perform find of little bit of their own cathartic redemption.


BIO: Raised in the backwoods of Monroe County, Indiana, Austin Lucas was born into a folk and bluegrass lineage. Learning to harmonize before learning to read, Lucas honed his vocal control early as a member of the nationally-acclaimed Indiana University Children’s Choir. Taking his music in the direction the Americana Roots and traditional country genre. Singing with the conviction of a preacher bereft of his faith, Lucas tackles recurrent themes of the soul, sin as personal purgatory, and the possibility of finding redemption in this life.

Following his solo debut, The Common Cold (2006), Lucas has steadily built upon his recorded output, releasing Putting The Hammer Down (2007), the Bristle Ridge (2008) collaboration with Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music, and Somebody Loves You (2009), which debuted at #7 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart, A New Home In The Old World (2011) and after signing with New West Records, Stay Reckless(2013). Lucas has consistently evolved and grown as a musician and songwriter, resting on no laurels and developing the songs’ framework further with each successive album.

Having raised his profile on the road touring with Willie Nelson and Jamey Johnson on the Country Throwdown tour, SXSW and MNFW. He has also extensively toured with Dawes, Langhorne Slim, William Elliot Whitmore, Joe Pug, Scott H. Biram, Cory Branan, John Moreland and Drag The River. Lucas has also bolstered his loyal grassroots following with appearances at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Canada’s Sled Island Festival, Florida’s Harvest of Hope. Folk music is for the common folk, and Lucas delivers, often ending his shows playing on the floor amidst the crowd. Lucas has also toured extensively throughout Australia and Europe building his fan base with each passing show and new audience. Lucas is currently on a west coast tour and then later in 2015 he will be back in Europe.

Watch Austin perform “Alone In Memphis”


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