Austin Jenckes’ ‘If You’d Been Around’ Tells His Story of Loss and Hustle
Austin Jenckes' fingerprints are all over his new If You Grew Up Like I Did album, but there's no song more personal than "If You'd Been Around," a devastating acoustic ballad that should come with a warning label for those who've recently suffered loss.
Of course, this is country music — we enjoy songs that make us cry. With Father's Day on the horizon, Jenckes released the song as part of his debut album on Ole Red Dot Records. The Washington native told Taste of Country about the song's origins during a casual sit down at producer (and the Cadillac Three drummer) Neil Mason's house in Nashville, admitting that he could only perform it live recently.
"Just so you know, I'm doing OK / The road ain't been easy but I'm finding away / Sometimes I think I might have turned out / More like the man I've heard stories about / If you've been around," he sings during the first chorus.
Tammi and Lynn Hutton helped Jenckes write the song over the course of a year. Both the singer and Tammi Hutton had fathers who died young — Jenckes' father died when he turned 16. The singer would later appear on NBC's The Voice (2013) and move to Nashville, where he's since married and become a father himself. Of course that makes these lyrics even more real.
"Oh maybe, just maybe we could be friends / We'd drink a beer and fish now and then / These are the things that I think about / I can almost imagine how it would have played out / If you'd been around," he sings as the song closes.
Fans have come to expect unflinching honesty from Jenckes, but each of the nine songs on If You Grew Up Like I Did comes with a troubadour spirit. "Fat Kid," the lone song he didn't write, represents all of the versions that he sees of himself growing up, he told ToC in March. "And I felt like I could be every person in the song. There's a difference between writing a song about the world around you and then seeing a song that is about you. I've always been the kind of person that feels compelled to say what I want to say and write songs that I want to write," he says.
Writing is what Jenckes focused on upon moving to Nashville. He set up a routine where he'd write for five hours, eat dinner, then produce what he wrote. Gaining a wife and kids made that more difficult, but the night before talking to Taste of Country, he was up until 2AM putting touches on something new.
If You Grew Up Like I Did is available digitally and at streaming platforms now. Fans may recognize one song: "American Nights" was previously recorded by Morgan Wallen's The Way I Talk EP and Lee Brice's self-titled album from 2017.
Look for Jenckes to perform "If You'd Be Around" on Father's Day (June 15) at the Grand Ole Opry.
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