Born in 1963 in Sussex, New Brunswick, Julian Austin had what some would consider a troubled youth, having more than one brush with the law. But it was that culmination of experiences that years later would help lead to him writing the honest, heart-felt lyrics he’d become known for.
He began writing and playing music as a teenager after his family moved to St John, soaking in everything from heavy metal and classic rock to ’80s pop, but as he got older, he turned towards the new wave of country in the ’90s and began playing the bars on the East Coast, heading up his band, The Austinators. At this stage in his life he also started soaking in the rest of the cowboy culture, and began competing in rodeos.
While honing his chops, he struck up a friendship with aspiring songwriter Stephen Robichaud. They began working together and Austin eventually landed a deal with Vik Records, distributed by BMG. With Daniel Leblanc producing, the result was his gold debut album, WHAT MY HEART ALREADY KNOWS in 1997. Recorded in Toronto at Wellesley Sound and Outcast Studios, the first single, “Little Ol’ Kisses” was an instant hit, topping the Canadian country chart, and four more songs also made it into the top 20, including a cover of Meatloaf’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”
When all was said and done, he watched the album climb to #9 on the charts, and spent the better part of a year and a half on the road with the likes of Terri Clark, Michelle Wright, and Marty Stuart. He also saw his videos rank among the most played on CMT, picked up a Juno nomination for Country Male Vocalist of the Year, won a pair of CCMAs (Canadian Country Music Association), and the Best Country Single award for “Little Ol’ Kisses” at the inaugural Canadian Radio Music Awards.
He moved to Calgary in ’98, and although his follow-up album was 90% complete, a bull-riding accident shelved it for several months. When BACK IN YOUR LIFE finally hit the shelves in the spring of 2000, it was with a bang. Leblanc returned as producer, and the bulk of the material was co-written by him or Robichaud. It eventually became his second gold album and peaked at #10 on the charts. Five singles kept him on the airwaves for over a year, including the top 5 hits “Take the Money and Run” (a Steve Miller Band cover) and “Forever Loving You.” Along with the title track, “Baby Bye Bye,” and “Should Be Over You,” they helped him earn another Juno nomination, as well as six CCMA nominations.
After another Juno nominatin in 2001, BULLETPROOF was released a year later. By this time Austin had decided to do things independently from the big labels, and switched to Civilian Records, owned by April Wine‘s Myles Goodwyn. Goodwyn also served as producer, and co-wrote two of the tracks – “Ain’t Taking It That Bad” and “She’s Getting Lonely.” Unlike its predecessors, the album was all original material, most of which was co-written by Robichaud. Although it served up three singles – “Pussycat,” “I’m So Over You,” and “Only God Knows,” none of them broke the top 20.
Following another set of cross-country tours, he moved to Manitoba (his wife’s home province), and returned with one of the most patriotic albums in Canadian music history. 2007’s THE RED AND WHITE predominantly paid tribute to the Canadian Armed Forces, and four singles ensued – the title track (set up as a fundraiser for the Sapper Mike McTeague Wounded Warriors Fund), “Harbour Town,” “Back To Me,” and “Marie.” Once again Austin surrounded himself with others to help write the songs, including Gil Grand, The Cruzeros‘ Barry Mathers, and John Landry.
He not only trekked back and forth across Canada, but he also paid visits to Canadian Forces bases across the country, and also performed for the troops in Bosnia, Southwest Asia, and Afghanistan, as well. Another song he wrote as tribute to the troops that didn’t appear on the album was “Still Over There,” with Capt. Steve Giberson of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. The song was a generalized account of how many personnel feel empty when they return home, knowing their hearts and minds are still in the battlefields. The song was used as an awareness campaign that helped sign up around 650,000 people in the Thank A Soldier cause.
He decided to form his own label, Little Ol’ Records, and hooked up with friend Daniel Leblanc once again to record his next album, 2009’s ONE FOR ONE. Returning to his rock roots, it was made up half of classic rockers he’d grown up with, including the first single that once again set the country airwaves afire – a honky tonk cover of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls,” ZZ Top’s “Legs,” Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May,” and even a cover of Elvis’ “Burning Love.” To re-do the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton smash ’80s hit “Islands In The Stream” (written by Robin and Maurice Gibb), he called on fellow Maritimer Melanie Doane for the duet. The original material on the album was straight-out no-nonsense country, indicative of songs about getting over a lost love – “She Knows Abut Cryin'” and “Goodbye Exit Sign.”
Aside from his support for the Canadian troops, Austin has also lent his name, time and energy to several other causes, including the Camp Trillium Foundation, Children’s Wish Foundation, Alberta Sick Kids Hospital, and the Canadian Professional Rodeo Sport Medicine Association.