Jeff Austin staying busy

Jeff AustinWhen we published a review of Yonder Mountain String Band’s show in Charlottesville, VA recently, we noted that mandolinist Jeff Austin was absent, owing to the recent birth of a daughter, Penelope.

So there was no surprise when we caught up with him for an interview a few days later, that she was the first thing on his mind. Jeff mentioned that it was good to be sleep-deprived, but for all the right reasons. New parents will understand exactly what he means.

But duty calls, and Austin is back on the road next week for a string of dates with Here & Now, before heading into the studio for his first solo project.

Here & Now finds Jeff with Larry and Jenny Keel (guitar and bass, respectively), and Danny Barnes on banjo. They have four more dates in early March before everyone starts touring in earnest with their own groups, and Austin says he can’t wait.

Here & Now: Danny Barnes, Larry Keel, Jeff Austin and Jenny Keel“I’m really excited to get out and play music with those guys. It’s an absolute blast. I feel so supported on every side.

Plus we all get along really well – we get in the vehicle and start laughing. Then I laugh for three more days when I get back.”

Those last few shows are…

  • March 5: Cabooze – Minneapolis, MN
  • March 6: Miramar Theatre – Milwaukee, WI
  • March 7: City Winery (2 shows) – Chicago, IL
  • March 8: Bell’s Brewery – Kalamazoo, MI

To help promote this final swing, Here & Now is offering a free live show download recorded August 30 of last year at the Elk’s Lodge of Troy, OH. There are a total of 19 tracks, including this version of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Breakdown.

But it’s the upcoming solo project that really has Jeff’s creative juices flowing. He’ll be teaming up with Danny Barnes again on banjo, with Ross Martin on guitar and Eric Thorin on bass. With Jeff on mandolin, this will serve as the core band, with “some cool guest artists” joining in.

Jeff Austin with Yonder Mountain String Band at DelFest 2013 - photo © G. Milo Farineau“I’m about to turn 40, and I didn’t always take really good care of myself. But with a lot of love from my amazing family, I see that living is so much better…

Not a lot of people get a shot of working as a musician. I am really grateful for that, and don’t want to waste any opportunities. Now I get to also do music of my own, that has a different identity as my music.

It will be a different kind of record. Some songs will be slower, some will have drums, and some may be more similar to what I do with Yonder. It will all be music I have co-written with friends.

Yonder will still be touring, but this is something that is really important to me.

Jeff heads in to work on this new project when the tour with Here & Now concludes. When he finishes that, it’s back on the road with YMSB, followed by a Spring tour with Barnes, Martin and Thorin supporting the solo record.

He explained how he met up with two of his new collaborators.

“Me and Eric have been playing music together since I moved to CO about 16 years ago. I heard Ross Martin playing with a jazz band in a club – they called it acid jazz – and he was shredding. Then I went to see a bluegrass band and Ross was in that band too.

o when Eric and I started talking about playing together more, I wondered whether Ross might want to be involved as well.”

Fortunately, he was and Austin began the discussions that have led to plans for the new record. There are also plans to film much of the recording process, so there is the possibility of a film to look forward to as well.

Keep an eye on Jeff Austin’s web site for more information about the solo album, and the tour starting in May.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.