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Austin Mackay Photo by Ben Watson

Words by – Tracey Moyle {Music Maven Events}

Talented singer/songwriter Austin Mackay has been working on his career longer than you would ever imagine. Hailing from the NSW central coast, this up-and-coming artist has been playing live shows since he was 14. Now still in the dawn of his 20s, Mackay has released his sophomore EP ‘Dancing Through The Fire’ with a national tour kicking off earlier this month that is taking his latest music out to his adoring fans.

‘Dancing Through The Fire’ is the follow up EP to his 2020 debut ‘The Distance Between’ and has seen this gifted folk rock musician branch out and create a diverse musical offering that showcases not only song writing talent but his ability to keep his music fresh but still completely Austin.

Austin took some time out of his busy schedule to chat about his music, touring with friends, and life in general.  

Congratulations on your EP Dancing Through The Fire. You recently released the title track and it’s has more of a poppier edge than your previous music. Can you give us some insight into how this new EP came about?

Towards the end of last year, about September, I got in touch with a producer based on the Gold Coast, Tim Goodburn. I didn’t know him at the time but he’s now good friend of mine.

I sent him a bunch of voice memos said I wanted to start recording some of these tracks. I was like, do you have any availabilities? Are you keen? Then within a few weeks we were in the studio. We basically just dialled down my first single from that EP which Breath Again. And then from there we just did not stop recording. It felt like every time I walked into that room and worked with Tim, we just created just this magic. It was so amazing because it felt so effortless, and everything just flowed. He’s one of the best people to work with.

This, this latest single Dancing Through The Fire is definitely a different sound for me. I really wanted to experiment with genres and refine my sound with this. I think through being able to experiment with folk and rock and pop I’ve been able to create this this sort of sound that I guess bridges a Heartland Rock sort of thing.

It’s like it’s really ‘me’. Really different to a lot of other things that are happening in the Australian scene right now. I want to be able to bring that ‘bigger’ energy and that ‘bigger’ production sound to your standard singer/songwriter base. With this EP I wanted to experiment with genres, not box myself I think. Dancing Through The Fire definitely did not come out the way that we expected it to but I am so over the moon and stoked with it because it’s such a fun track. So far on tour we’ve been opening the show with it and it’s just goes off its chops.

It’s good that you are bringing out this creativity early in your career so you’re not pigeonholing yourself for anything you want to do in the future.

Artists like John Mayer are a perfect example of someone who has just been able to just branch out and experiment and toy with different genres and create his own sound. He’s one of those artists that no matter what genre he’s playing, as soon as he starts singing, you know that it’s John Mayer. As soon as he starts playing the guitar, you know it’s John Mayer. I think that’s what I tried to do up to this point and what I will continue to try to do. I love listening to country music, it’s one of my favourite genres, so there will be a point where I want to release some sort of country music as well. I think it just keeps it interesting for for the audience and for myself.

The one thing I sort of don’t necessarily like is when an artist just keeps basically blueprinting the same song and just releasing it with different lyrics for different chords and it just feels like it’s the same song. So that’s my aim, to just keep it interesting. Musically, I have been loving everything. When it comes down to it, no matter what genre it is, if it’s a good song, it’s a good song. Being able to create my own sound through experimentation with genres has been so much fun and it’s been such an experience.

I think music is appealing if it has meaning behind it. I find that meaning with your songs along with many of the young artists within Australia’s amazing folk rock scene. It shows especially when you perform live, you are playing to the crowd and you’re not just up there performing because you have to perform. You can always tell how much you’re enjoying yourself and that reflects on to the crowd as well.

Definitely something that I’ve learned overtime, is how important it is to write from the heart, to feel a connection through your music. I think the first EP that I released that collection back in 2020, ‘The Distance Between’, I was so young, and I still am fairly young, but I’d only just come out of high school that year. I had no real inspiration about things that I wanted to write about. And I think those, those first songs, I love with all my heart, but I feel a deeper connection with my newer music because it’s come from a place that’s true and raw and real to me. It’s the things that have happen over the past few years of my life from that period of releasing my first collection of music. Things I’ve learned through travelling the country and going out and doing life on my own as a young 19/20-year-old, really just figuring life out. I think a lot of these songs are about those life experiences and dealing with everything that sort of comes with that.

In this dominant digital age so many artists just release singles. What does it mean to you to release an EP? Do you think it’s more of a showcase of your music? It’s not easy making money from music these days so would you use it as a tool to release CDs or vinyl to help generate income?

Yeah, I think so. I think with this EP we did release it single by single. I sort of knew what I wanted the collection of music to be at the end and I had a plan for it the whole time. What I wanted it to be with the different dynamic of each song. And for me, I always knew that I wanted this EP to end up on a vinyl, so I wanted it as a collection of music. But as you said, like you basically hit the nail on the head by saying with today’s digital age, it’s not fit, especially for an upcoming artist, to just drop a whole collection of music. Because as much as it sucks, songs get lost and the attention span of a listener nowadays is quite small. So, you release an album or even an EP with five songs, and you get you see it in streaming analytics, by the time it gets to the fifth song, the streaming has just dropped completely from the first one. It’s just because we’re in such a single based world now that it’s like most artists are dropping single by single and then putting it on a collection of music, which is sort of what I’ve done with this EP.

There were four singles, Breathe Again, Borderline, On The Way Down and Dancing Through The Fire. Then I released the EP with just the one extra song, a song called Some Things Aren’t Meant To Last which is this song that means a lot to me. I thought it was just a perfect way to finish off the record and to wrap up the collection of music.

Where did your love of music come from? Where did it begin?

I think Mum and Dad bought me my first guitar when I was about six years old, and I’ve been basically playing ever since. We moved over to China when I was seven years old, and we lived there for about three years. So in between mum home schooling me and my sister and obviously all the travelling that we had to do, I basically was sitting in my room learning how to play the guitar. I taught myself the very basic things on the guitar because it was  hard to figure it out as an eight year old on my own. Then we finally moved back to Australia, I started lessons for both guitar and singing because I knew that I wanted to do it for a career. So, it was when I was about 12 or 13 years old that I started by doing singing and guitar lessons and then I started playing gigs at like 13 or 14.

Basically, between the time I was 14 and 19 I’d played something like 250 pub gigs, just around the cover scene back home in Newcastle. It was probably a good income for a kid going through school because pubs don’t pay too bad. But Mum and Dad were the most supportive parents that I could ever ask for. They came out to probably about 200 of those gigs because I wasn’t allowed to play in pubs and venues on my own before I was 18. That was like, bloody dedication from them because I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. That’s how all that started.

After I left school I felt this pressure to take it a little bit more seriously which was good in a way. Then not long after, Covid hit, so I was basically stuck. I was like, what do I do now? So, I just sat in my room and wrote songs and then eventually release them. Then I got a couple of opportunities to support people like The Dreggs and a bunch of other friends as well. It just snowballed from there. I moved up to Byron, started busking and sort of did the whole, like, acoustic singer songwriter thing for a while.

The whole time I knew I wanted to play indie rock music and it’s always been where my hearts at. I’ve grown up on artists like Cold Chisel and AC/DC and now I’m into artists like James Bay and Sam Fender and Gang of Youths. I’ve always felt drawn to that big rock production. I love to go watch these and there’s a front man and with the stage presence and that’s what I want from my shows. That’s what I want people to take, I want to be captivating in a way, not just a singer/songwriter who just stands there with acoustic guitar and sings my heart out. I want to be energetic and captivating in my own right as well.

Back when I was home in Newcastle, I played in a band with a couple of my mates, and I think I just realised that I wanted to be a solo artist. I wanted to take creative control I guess, and do the things that I wanted to do, which I don’t regret at all. I love my job so much and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

There is such an amazing folk scene in Australia. Call it indie folk, folk rock or whatever you want to identify it as, it’s just amazingly good. Years ago, I referred to it as coastal folk with so many artists coming from coastal towns and their focus on the coastline. It must feel great to be a part of it?

What I really like about the folk scene and the Australian singer/songwriter scene is, we have such an organic audience of, not only young people but people of all demographics. It’s so great to see because no matter what, if you put on a show, you see the same people there and more the next time you play. It’s like this organic growth, which is cool, and I don’t think that happens with a lot of other scenes in Australia. It’s gives us peace of mind that the music is reaching people. I guess it makes us comfortable that we’re going to come back to this place and we’re going to build an audience here and you see that a lot with the regional towns in Australia but obviously the cities are so fun as well.

It’s incredibly important for local artists to tour regional areas. For both the artist and the smaller towns that miss out on seeing the bigger shows that are always heading to major cities.

For sure. Last weekend I played down in Canberra and that’s one thing I notice. I have only ever played in Canberra once before and that was a support show for my friend Felipe Baldomir back in April of this year. Then basically I went straight back and did a headline show on this run and so many of the people that were at the Felipe show where at this show. It was a real nice intimate storytelling night, and it was really special because so many people were coming up to buy merch at the end of the show. They were all saying thank you so much for coming, we don’t get many artists through this area. I was so shocked that people were just so just strapped for options down there, because it’s the nation’s capital. It made me feel this sense of urgency to return there to create that sort of organic audience, not just focused on cities that are so flooded by musicians. Just going out and building that organic growth around the whole country.

Talking about your tour, you are currently on your national run taking Dancing Through the Fire To the fans. I know how supportive of each other the indie folk/folk rock scene is, so who have you got supporting you on this tour?

So, for this run I have a bunch of different support acts. I hate calling them support I’d rather call them special guests. I think that’s a better way to put it, I just got a bunch of my mates and people that I that I enjoy their company more than anything. So, for this Victorian run this week I have to my mates Lachlan Edwards, another musician from Newcastle, and Jack Willis from Wollongong. They’re both amazing singer songwriters and they’re just people I enjoy being on the road with. I’ve had Angus Kaftan on the Adelaide and Newcastle show. I’ve had Jai Sharp on Central Coast. An amazing singer called Tori Nikias who’s a local girl in Canberra and Fletcher Pilon as well and then making my way up to Brisbane I’ve gotten Nana’s Pie who are from Sunshine Coast and on the Sunshine Coast I have Nana’s Pie and band called Lounge. Oscar used to play lead guitar in this project with me and he’s gone out and started his project called Lounge. They make this sort of pop-punk, really fun music.

So we can’t and don’t want to pigeonhole you into a specific genre, and at the beginning you described your music as heartland rock. You have that pop, rock, indie, folk, country mix. It’s like a bag of everything.

It’s Austin Mackay. That’s what it is.

Austin is currently taking his authentic sound out to the country capturing the hearts of music lovers as he goes. You can catch Austin and his special guests on dates below. Don’t miss out on this brilliant young artist in action.

Dancing Through The Fire’ Tour Dates – TICKETS HERE

Sat Oct 29 – Commonfolk Coffee Company, Mornington VIC
Mon Oct 21 – Western Hotel, Sen Remo VIC
Friday Nov 4 – The Chippo Hotel, Chippendale NSW
Sat Nov 5 – Bitter & Twisted (lunchtime show), East Maitland NSW
Fri Nov 17 – Beach Hotel, Byron Bay NSW
Sat Nov 18 – Felons Barrel Hall, Brisbane QLD
Sun Nov 19 – Solbar, Maroochydore QLD
Sat Nov 26 – Summer Sesh Coffs Coast Food & Wine, Coffs Harbour NSW

Dancing Through The Fire’ EP is streaming now

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With thanks to Habit Music Co

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