In the last 10 years, scores of middle-aged
punk rockers have returned to their folk-based Americana roots. But Austin Lucas stands out in this bearded, tattooed, flannel-clad crowd because of what drove him from the international crust-punk community back to the country and bluegrass music he grew up listening to with his singer/songwriter/actor father Robert.
It wasn't boredom or burnout or a baby — instead, after 10 years spent screaming with Twenty Third Chapter, Rune, K10 Prospect and Guided Cradle, Lucas found himself unable to sing properly, a frightening prospect for someone who grew up in the acclaimed Indiana University Children's Choir. So, while living in the Czech Republic, Lucas started spinning acoustic-based yarns that reminded him of his rural home. And, upon returning to the States, he found a like-minded community of erstwhile country-punkers like Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry and Jacksonville native Christina Wagner.
Folio Weekly: Your new album, "Stay Reckless," came out last week, Austin. Shed a little light on what the time between finishing a record and releasing it is like.
Austin Lucas: Nervous and anxious are both excellent words to describe it. You spend so much time on something and then don't know how it's going to be received. I spent a good year-and-a-half putting it together — and then the real stress starts. Not only are you trying to satisfy yourself, but you're worried about whether it's going to satisfy other people as well. But so far the reviews have been positive.
F.W.: "Different Shade of Red" is another standout from the album. Where did the inspiration come from for such an astute examination of America's generational gap?
A.L.: I was listening to a lot of Waylon Jennings when I wrote "Stay Reckless," and I was thinking about what it must have been like for guys like him coming up in Nashville in the 1960s. I was thinking about his parents and my parents and their parents, and I realized that him and people like my mom and dad, who were seen as radical hippie types, had a hard time with their parents understanding them. In other words, my parents' parents probably didn't understand them, just like my parents didn't understand me when I was growing up. Every generation pretty much faces the same thing: It's a misunderstanding that you're the first one being misunderstood.
F.W.: After more than a decade in the punk and metal worlds, was your evolution to folk-based Americana organic?
A.L.: Very organic. And the real reason why I started playing this kind of music instead of punk and metal was realizing that I couldn't sing anymore, which was really depressing to me. I didn't turn my back on punk and metal — I just stopped singing in those styles to focus on playing guitar and performing solo. And as those bands became less active, this project became more active. As they say, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.
F.W.: Yet it's been such a common shift in the punk world, with guys like Chuck Ragan and Tim Barry following a similar mid-career path. Is that a point of pride for you?
A.L.: It is, and it isn't. I lived in Europe for five years, and it wasn't until I started coming back to the States to tour that people said, "[Your music] is just like what those guys are doing!" I was like, "Huh?" I had no idea. Then, Chuck Ragan discovered me and brought me into that fold with his Revival Tour. I honestly think that we all started shifting gears organically around the same time, and next thing you knew, we had a scene. In some ways, it's really incredible, but when you're sitting in your room by yourself writing these songs, you're not thinking about any shared experience. What's really shared about myself, Tim and Chuck is that we all grew up in rural areas with this music in our homes.
F.W.: You've performed in Jacksonville several times in the past. Are you a fan of the city?
A.L.: Florida has always been really kind to me. I used to snowbird in Gainesville, and after playing Jacksonville for the first time on the Revival Tour, I met Christina Wagner, who's become a really good friend. We've recorded together, and she played in my band for a while, so I'm excited to get back down there and play at Rain Dogs, which she actually owns.