Club Red: Jeff Austin, Your Valentine?

Club Red: Jeff Austin, Your Valentine?

With major support from the Telluride Ski Resort, Denise Mongan’s Beyond the Groove is pleased to announce the Jeff Austin Band. The show is Sunday, Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2016, Club Red at the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village. Doors, 7:30 p.m.; show, 8 p.m. Tickets, $25 (GA) – $35 (Preferred Seating) here.

“Jeff Austin blew the crowd away with his standout, electro-driven bluegrass…Austin and his bandmates have reinvented Americana music in a way that moves the genre forward.”

Please scroll down to the bottom of this blog to listen to my podcast with Jeff Austin, formerly of Yonder Mountain String Band.


The boy (most recently) from Neder-Nederland, CO., is flying high. But with a new pair of wings. In 2014, fleet-fingered mandolinist Jeff Austin left the group he helped found with Adam Aijala, Ben Kauffman and Dave Johnston 17 years ago, Telluride Bluegrass Festival regulars Yonder Mountain String Band, to make new music.

After a much-needed time-out to be with his family (and not on the road), Austin returned to the scene with new-found passion. He now shares the stage each night with a band of like-minded adventurers, attacking each performance with a fire and desire to move and shake the house.

See for yourself when the Jeff Austin Band makes a stop in Telluride to perform at Club Red in Mountain Village on Sunday, Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2016, 8 p.m.

Austin’s enthusiasm for music goes back to his boyhood.

“I was always raised very musically. My mom always had music playing; she always sang.”

It’s no surprise then that Austin grew up singing too. From beginning to the end of his years in grade school just outside of Chicago, he sang in classes, choirs, and musicals, allowing his musical influences to lead him wherever they may – initially, musical theater in college.

“I started listening to Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings,” Austin says. “And then the Beatles, that turned into Bob Dylan, and then the Grateful Dead and Phish.”

The career of the Colorado-based artist has already seen him break through jam and bluegrass scenes, play stages from The Fillmore Auditorium to Red Rocks Amphitheater, and outdoor events like Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and Telluride Bluegrass among many others. But with the launch of his solo career, Austin is now building on the foundations of previous ventures, while honing his own sound and charting new courses.

“I’ve learned a lot from the people I’ve played with,” says Austin who has shared stages with such luminaries as Del McCoury, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Earle Scruggs, Jon Fishman, and Phil Lesh.

And it’s artists such as these who have helped crystalize Austin’s idea of what he wants to do as he moves forward with his eponymous project.

“From both the rock side and the bluegrass side,” he explains, “I’ve learned a lot about song structure, solo ideas, playing with guts, and being who you are.”

Although he considers the Jeff Austin Band his primary focus now, the mandolinist and singer is also known for embracing collaborations.

Jeff Austin

Jeff Austin

In 2004, Austin released a full-length album with Chris Castino (The Big Wu) that featured guest appearances by Noam Pikelny, Darol Anger, and Sally Van Meter. Just two short years later in 2006, Austin teamed with Keller Williams and Keith Moseley to record a live album of bluegrass takes on Grateful Dead covers. The project, released under the name Grateful Grass, benefited the Rex Foundation. And most recently, Austin revived 30db, an initiative with Brendan Bayliss of Umphrey’s McGee.

Truth be told, Austin’s musical accomplishments are even more impressive given the fact he only began playing the mandolin a few years before co-founding Yonder. But picking prowess aside, he has always considered voice his first instrument, a passion still evident in his approach to song craft.

On his newest project, Austin sought out musicians on the cutting-edge of the acoustic and jazz music circles. Artists proficient in theory and technique, but not afraid to lend themselves to some “far-out arrangements,” the likes of Cody Dickinson, the Royal Horns, Todd Snider, Jennifer Hartswick, Brendan Bayliss and Sarah Siskind, as well as Jeff’s touring band, which includes Ross Martin, Ryan Cavanaugh, and Max Johnson.

The result is some of Austin’s most structured, yet exciting, compositions to date with an approach that fits within his own evolving journey and personal motto, “The work continues.”

Although there is a strong undercurrent of momentum and innovation that course through the project, there is also a connection to the past with the bandleader revisiting selections from his back catalog. Offerings include “Dawn’s Early Light,” “Snow in the Pines,” and others dating back to the 1990s. What matters, Austin points out, is that those songs evoke strong emotional responses both from the audience as well as himself. Played by this new ensemble, the music feels revitalized and fresh.

When it comes to dynamics and structure, Austin taps the variety of sounds and styles he’s absorbed from theater, jamming, nearly 20 years of performance, and his love of experiencing live music as a fan. It’s that inner concert enthusiast that binds him to his own audience and a powerful exchange between the stage and the crowd.

 “I hope they take with them exactly what I hope they leave with us,” he says. “And that’s inspiration.” 

To learn more, listen to my conversation with Jeff Austin.

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