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Austin Meade on tracking against the clock, nerding out with pedals, and why his PRS Mira is the best of both worlds

Austin Meade
(Image credit: Steven Contreras)

Austin Meade can barely keep up with himself. The singer-songwriter from rural southeast Texas witnessed the release of his third full-length album, Black Sheep, in mid March after a rather long pandemic-related delay, yet the 28-year-old guitarist is already looking ahead to the album’s successor. 

“This record just came out and I’m sitting on a goldmine of other songs I’ve written during the break,” Meade says. “I’ll be in the studio again soon to make another record.”

The “break” Meade refers to is, of course, most of 2020, which was largely a period of inactivity for the majority of people on the planet. Black Sheep was completed in November 2019 and originally scheduled for release in May 2020 – but Meade spent most of his idle time composing new songs rather than reworking the ones on Black Sheep

“We did everything from top to bottom in nine days in the studio,” he says, “and I wanted to keep the record as a snapshot of where we were at the time. I didn’t want to go back and change anything because I really felt that what we had done was pretty special.” 

Black Sheep might very well be Meade’s most varied album to date – it’s bluesy and soulful yet at times psychedelic and even somewhat Sabbathy. Regardless of which song you’re spinning – from the swampy album opener Dopamine Drop to the swirling title track that closes the album – the bulk of the music on Black Sheep would feel right at home being played between laps during a televised NASCAR race.

For most of Black Sheep, which was recorded at The Panhandle House Recording Studios in Denton, Texas, Meade turned to his faithful PRS S2 Mira electric guitar: “It’s kind of a mix of the cleans you get out of Fender-type guitars and the dirtier sounds you get from Les Pauls with humbuckers,” he says. 

With the new music he’s creating, however, Meade – who sports the most bitchin’ horseshoe mustache since Hulk Hogan, not to mention a tattoo of his “favorite band in the world,” Whitesnake – is writing much of it on an acoustic. 

“I’m looking to simplify things with the next record a bit because, on Black Sheep, we really nerded out with pedals and things. I don’t want to get too lost in guitar sounds and stuff with the next record. It’s more like, if I hum this melody, is it something that’s going to stick in somebody’s head? That’s going to be my approach.”

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As a teenager, Jeff Kitts began his career in the mid ’80s as editor of an underground heavy metal fanzine in the bedroom of his parents’ house. From there he went on to write for countless rock and metal magazines around the world – including Circus, Hit Parader, Metal Maniacs, Rock Power and others – and in 1992 began working as an assistant editor at Guitar World. During his 27 years at Guitar World, Jeff served in multiple editorial capacities, including managing editor and executive editor before finally departing as editorial director in 2018. Jeff has authored several books and continues to write for Guitar World and other publications and teaches English full time in New Jersey. His first (and still favorite) guitar was a black Ibanez RG550.