Twenty-year-old Austin Paul grew up in a strict Christian household, spending a majority of his childhood teaching himself the piano. Then, 15 months ago, Paul moved out on his own, experiencing life outside his religious upbringing while tending to his burgeoning music career in a new and unfamiliar industry. That experience of sudden maturity and complete culture shock helped inform the six tracks that make up Velvet, which takes its musical cues from James Blake, Clams Casino, and John Legend.
While the effort is clearly in line with the sleek, stripped-down stylings of the aforementioned influences, Paul’s life choices and unique perspective lend the tracks a refreshing sense of vitality. Whether he’s crafting a modern-day church hymn/affirmational in “Hallelujah (I’m Alive)” or a synth-powered love letter in “Bones”, Paul’s minimalist approach, subtle air of sensuality, and voice filled with equal parts heartache and wisdom make for an indelible mix. Not bad for a guy who can’t even drink at the clubs he performs at.
Velvet arrives April 25th via Symbols Recordings. CoS recently caught up with Paul to discuss his upbringing, his favorite Velvet track, being a 20-year-old in the music business, and receiving a cosign from Pharrell Williams. Read the chat in-full below.
You grew up in Miami/South Florida in a very strict Christian household. How did either of those aspects influence or hinder who you are as a musician?
I’ve seen our culture from two extreme perspectives. This kind of brings light to the subtle similarities in people and obviously the major differences which deeply effects my writing. It reinforces the relation of being a human, rather than the relation because of a belief.
Are there any contemporary artists that inspired you or that you feel have something in common with you musically?
I have more of a curiosity as to why they write what they write or why they are the way they are. I would say right now musicians that I admire in that sense would have to be Gorillaz, Kendrick Lamar, Jessie Ware, Tyler, the Creator, Little Dragon, and a few others.
Is there a track on the EP that you think stands out and helps encapsulate your personal aesthetic or how you approach music?
“This Life” stands out to me as the most descriptive of how I approach situations and how I reminisce on moments a bit too much. I’m in love with time.
You (somewhat) recently left home for the first time. How does that impact you as a young artist, just starting out? Do you think that sense of newfound freedom is reflected in your music/the EP?
Freedom is kind of a broad term in this case, in reality we’re free at anytime to do what we want. All it took was taking a risk.. Freedom from the weight of consequence. Obviously there is a consequence to every action; but when you focus on the effects and the outcome, you forget to experience the action that created that effect.
Already, you’ve gotten sizable cosigns from the likes of Pharrell Williams. Does that kind of attention do anything for you, creatively, in terms of your own esteem, or does it maybe distract from the task at hand?
I’ve fortunately been blessed to be in association with these wonderful human beings. Yet at the end of the day I still have to write good music.
At only 20, you’re still kind of a “kid”. What’s it like to be sort of young and new and moving through this industry? Any stories or sentiments that pop out immediately?
It’s interesting to see how people treat me because of my age. I don’t feel like any age, I just feel alive.
Any plans for a full-length debut? Anything you can share for what comes next after the EP, maybe touring, side projects, etc.?
A creation is in progress, I guess you could say.