We all have those artists and songs we hear that strike the right chord and make us fall in love at first listen. They’re the reason we refresh social media pages, tour schedules, and Spotify profiles — because we can’t miss a single release. This is Love at First Listen — a new series introducing you to the emerging, and established, artists with new music guaranteed to upgrade your playlist.
Haven’t you heard? Canadian country artist Shawn Austin is the “talk of the town.” With 27 million collective streams and a Rising Star nomination from the Canadian Country Music Association under his belt, Shawn is ready to take over even more country hearts with new music out this week. Timed for the end of his stint as an opener on Dallas Smith’s mega-bill Some Things Never Change tour, the rising star’s new EP, ‘Planes Don’t Wait,’ has the perfect laid-back country vibe we all need this summer—so grab your cowboy hat and drink of choice because it’s time to party.
For our latest Love at First Listen feature, I caught up with Shawn hours after the EP dropped to capture his release week emotions, favourite full circle moments, and love for live music (which is finally back in *full* force!).
How does it feel to have ‘Planes Don’t Wait’ out in the world, just in time for summer?
It’s nice! We’ve been waiting for a long time to get this one out, so it’s nice that after almost two and a half years of working on it the world’s ears can finally listen to it. We probably had a little over 200 songs, but I made sure that we were getting tracks that would really fit who I am as an artist right now and kind of give a sneak peek on what I want to do next. I couldn’t be happier with how it all came out.
The EP features “Tailgate to Heaven,” your 2021 hit with Chris Lane and fastest charting and climbing single to date. Did you have any idea that song would garner so much fanfare?
When you put out a single, you kind of go, OK, I think I might have something here, and you hope for the best, but you never think it’s going to do stuff like that. It just means that people are clicking with the song the same way I clicked with it. It felt like a full circle moment because I’ve always been a big fan of Chris and I had a chance to tour with him in 2018. We were going to do a different song but then he heard this track and asked to be on it. It was one of the easiest yes’s I’ve given, and he’s gone from a guy that I’ve been a fan of, to a labelmate, to a buddy now. It’s pretty fantastic.
The EP’s title track, “Planes Don’t Wait,” was co-written by Brian Kelley from Florida Georgia Line. Did you have that song before your appearance on NBC’s Songland or did it come to you after?
It came after, and that’s also a bit of a full circle moment. I mean, it’s FGL. These guys have changed the game and I’ve been fans of them forever, so to have that experience on Songland and talk to them and pitch a song to them was amazing. Then, fast forward about a year later, having BK on a song and trusting me with it is unreal. I loved the track from first listen. It’s one of those tracks where you’re like, I wish I wrote that.
You’re coming off a cross-country tour with Dallas Smith. What will you be taking away from performing with such an eclectic mix of fellow country stars including Manny Blu and JoJo Mason?
The last time I did a tour like this was also with Dallas in 2017. I was so new at the time, so this tour I didn’t feel like the annoying little brother going, “Hey! What do I do?!” Just taking the stage more, I feel like I’ve grown a lot. The country community is so strong that you never have a bad time with anybody, but this crew is special and it’s been nice to spend six weeks together and see everyone killing it again on stage.
Now that you’ve had time to test them out, what is your favourite song off ‘Planes Don’t Wait’ to perform live?
We’ve been playing “Somewhere in Austin” and it was really fun to see people get the first listen. “Tailgate to Heaven” has also been incredible, quite simply because when you have people singing back to you it’s…I don’t know words big enough to describe how amazing it is. Seeing the excitement of people hearing live music again makes you really confident and hopeful that the future’s going to be strong.
Your summer performance lineup includes stops at festivals like the Big Valley Jamboree and Calgary Stampede. If you were booking your own Shawn Austin summer music festival, who would be your dream co-headliners?
Oh gees… Everybody on this tour! Andrew Hyatt and I have been buddies for a long time, so I feel like he’d always be a blast to be with. I would spend every show I could with JoJo (Mason). Dallas (Smith) is my guy. He’s effectively been that guy that’s made sure I haven’t made the mistakes that I probably should have as a new artist and it’s been amazing working with him through all these years. If I go to the people I haven’t met, I’m a huge Maren Morris fan, I’m a huge Thomas Rhett fan… I mean, it’d be a privilege to headline with anybody. Touring is an amazing thing and I just can’t wait to get back on another one!
Are there any other projects you have coming up that you’d like to tease?
Expect a lot more! We’re already working on the next project. We don’t know what it looks like yet, but I think my goal for the next 18 months is going to be music, music, music, putting out as much as we possibly can. The festival season is going to be strong. We’re talking about a couple of things for the fall that might happen — I hope they do — which would give another chance for more live music, if you get what I’m saying. There’s a lot of plans in the works right now and I’m excited and just trying to keep up with it all because I think we came out of the gates like wildfire now that we can do everything again. I’m just excited for the future.