Joe Austin’s childhood was filled with a love of music- especially live music.
Joe’s grandfather was one of the first crop dusters in Mississippi. He also happened to be one heck of a finger-style guitarist who played with several bands before he got into crop dusting full time. But that never stopped him from playing for fun. Musicians from all over the area would come over and they’d pick all night long. These were your quintessential Mississippi Delta front porch pickin’ sessions, fueled by friendship and laughter. People would dance and sing, drink and smoke- having an all around good time. Joe would sit there and listen, taking in not only the good music, but the way the music made everyone feel. He was hooked early.
He started singing when he was 6 years old at a little country church in his hometown of Randolph, Mississippi, learning to sing and harmonize from his mother, who had learned from her grandmother. Anxiety is a strange thing though, and Joe actually blacked out from the stress the first few times he sang solo. He would eventually get over that initial stage fright, finding himself right at home performing in front of others.
Sadly, when Joe was in the 1st grade, his grandfather passed away, but he left Joe his prized guitar.
Joe’s uncle Larry Fitts picked up the mantle, teaching him the tunes that jump-started his guitar playing. His uncles Robert and Roy Mills continued to teach him as he grew up and showed him pretty much everything they knew on the guitar.
When he was a senior in high school, around 17 years old, Joe really started getting into Bluegrass and he pretty much taught himself how to play the fiddle by locking himself away in his room. His sister had been learning to play fiddle through formal lessons, and Joe was her ride. After one of her sessions, he picked up her fiddle and started to play and the instructor was blown away. He convinced Joe’s parents to get him lessons as well, but after just 2 sessions, the instructor informed his parents that they needed to seek professional instruction for Joe, there was nothing else he could teach him.
Joe continued to hone his skills on the fiddle by jumping into jam sessions at Bluegrass festivals and even started a little Bluegrass band of his own. After less than 6 months playing fiddle, Joe received a full music scholarship to a junior college and hooked up with a Top 40 Country performance group as part of the music program, learning everything he could.
He didn’t care for class though, and all but ignored his academic responsibilities. Eventually, that caught up with him and Joe had to leave school, but not before learning every aspect of the music game. Joe said, “I learned everything about music, from how to tie into a sound board and how to mix, to adjusting the PA levels, to tying all the equipment together, setup and breakdown, packing everything in a tight space, making it to and from shows safely and on time, and how to work with other musicians well- the timing of playing live with a large group of folks. That time I spent in college taught me everything I would ever need to know to become a touring musician. It was great.”
His mom and dad never questioned or doubted Joe’s decision to pursue music as a career and have been incredibly supportive since day 1. Joe is deeply thankful that both of his parents are musical and that they’ve supported him every step of the way, even when he decided to drop out of college.
After college, Joe moved to Nashville, where he lived for several years, performing and writing while working.
In the early 2000s, he formed the band Crossin Dixon and then later, performed for several years with the Mud Flap Kings. Their Red Dirt style felt like home to Joe and he couldn’t get enough. It wouldn’t be long before Joe found the pull of the N. Texas country scene too much to resist. It was time to make another move.
He’s always been a huge fan of Texas legends like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keene and Ray Wylie Hubbard. After settling in N. Texas, and into the music scene there, Joe found himself gigging around town with several established local acts, including guys like Robbie White. Joe played at Robbie White’s record release party, and that’s where he met Tom McElvain.
Joe and Tom wound up playing a couple shows together and liked each others’ style. Fast friends, they found that they both wanted to hit the road and when they decided they could tolerate each other out there, they went for it. In Joe’s words, “It’s not easy to find someone who likes the grind of the road, but Tom loves it just like I do. We work great together and we love playing together. People seem to enjoy our live shows, too, which is always nice.”
While 2017 was an emotional year for Joe, he’s been able to do a lot of songwriting through it all. In fact, he’s done enough writing to pull together the basis of enough songs that a new album looks to be on the horizon (late 2018 or early 2019).
Joe’s main influences are Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Lighting Hopkins, Albert King and BB King- Delta Blues royalty.
When it comes to Country, it’s Merle Haggard and George Jones, whom he saw perform live at The Ryman Auditorium while living in Nashville.
True to his Bluegrass roots, he made sure to give mention to Marty Stuart and The Birds.
You’ll hear all these influences in his sound.
Check the Tour Dates tab for all of Joe and Tom’s upcoming shows together. The calendar is packed full of dates all across the U.S.