Not every young musician who one day finds himself featured in the hallowed pages of Guitar World actually had dreams of growing up to be a famous guitarist - some, such as Austin Meade, aspired to be the next great drummer along the lines of Don Henley, Paul Leim or Tommy Aldridge.
But when Meade, the son of a church minister who grew up deep in the heart of Bible-Belt Texas, was suddenly asked to learn to play a few religious songs on a guitar because his father’s church was in a musical bind, little did he suspect that the course of his life was about to be forever altered.
“My dad pulled an acoustic guitar off the wall and handed it to me,” recalls the 26-year-old, “and told me I had to learn these songs because service was in a few days and we didn’t have a guitar player. I was like, ‘Oh shit!’ But that got me started on the basics of guitar: learning a couple of chords and things like that. Luckily, I was able to make my way through it. Thank god they were patient with me. [laughs]
“Once I started playing, I really liked it,” continues Meade, who now fronts his own Americana-country-rock outfit, “and that’s when I started branching off and getting into my own style of music and discovering guitar players rather than just focusing on the drummers. And that led its way into the songwriting, which is when this kind of turned into what it is now.”
You might not know it from listening to Meade’s countrified mix of blues and rock with piercing licks from bandmate David Willie, but the singer/songwriter is no stranger when it comes to the heavier side of music. Interestingly, his exposure to hard rock and metal came at the hands of his father, an Air Force veteran who found his calling in the ministry when Austin was only a tiny pre-schooler.
“He’s definitely not all fire and brimstone,” says Meade, who cites John Mayer and Tyler Bryant among his current faves. “He’s really relaxed and chill and just the opposite of the standard finger-shaking pastor.
"He was always a huge fan of rock, especially big guitar-based bands. He would take me to see Cheap Trick, Journey, Styx, Tom Petty and stuff like that - but his favorites were always heavier bands like Iron Maiden, Van Halen and Megadeth.
"That’s kind of what got me into the whole thing to begin with; he was always talking about the guitar players in those bands. One of my favorite things is to just disappear into my own space for a while and listen to someone shred on a guitar.”
Meade’s second full-length record, Waves, was released March 1, 2019, via 7013 Records, but the guitarist who grew up in rural southeast Texas is already getting excited about where he’s headed musically.
“Waves is definitely a great step in the right direction of where I want to go, but now I want to start taking things in a heavier direction,” says the guitarist, who also has a degree in agriculture from Texas A&M.
“We’re already writing for the next record, and we’re starting to lean toward the heavier side of Waves, which tends to be more guitar-heavy. Songs like that give us opportunities to do more guitar tradeoffs, which are really cool moments live - like watching ping-pong. I get that feeling when I see a Maiden show - you have great guitar players on all parts of the stage, and then you hear somebody hit a lick and you go, ‘Whoa, where’d that come from?’”
Until Meade and his cohorts return with new music sometime in the future, we’ll just have to keep admiring his songwriting, playing and singing skills on Waves and his three previous releases, the EPs Long Ways to Go and Heartbreak Coming, and his first full-length from 2014, Chief of the Sinners - as well as his ability to maintain a world-class mustache. Exactly how does he do it?
“That’s a good question,” he responds with a hearty laugh. “Hotel shampoo on a decent basis, a good trimming at least twice a week, and definitely smile a lot - it looks better when you smile.”