Photo Credit: Kenneth Edwards

EXCLUSIVE: Interview With ‘The Voice’ Star Jeffery Austin

If you’re a fan of ‘The Voice‘, Jeffery Austin may be a familiar face. The 26-year-old singer-songwriter placed fourth on Season Nine of the popular singing competition with the guidance of his coach Gwen Stefani. After his adventures on the show, Jeffery began carving his own path in the music industry. His debut single ‘Only You’ is a powerful breakup song that highlights Jeffery’s strong vocals and helped him close the chapter on one of his relationships. Following a period of writing songs that felt “disconnected” last year, Jeffery was ready to bounce back with new music that felt authentic and unique to him.

Jeffery’s most recent musical endeavour is the brand new single ‘Stay The Night’. The tune marks a new musical direction for the singer-songwriter, one he’s “actually proud of and ready to sing for you and stand behind.” The single has been well-recieved by Jeffery’s community of fans online, earning praise for its relatable and honest lyrics. There’s no doubt that Jeffery is well on his way to releasing an EP or album that will blow us all away.

We got a chance to catch up with Jeffery following the release of ‘Stay The Night’. Read our full interview about Jeffery’s time on The Voice, the direction he’s taking with his new music, and what it’s like being an LGBTQ artist in today’s music industry.

CelebMix: You just released your second single, ‘Stay The Night’. What can you tell us about the message behind the song and your connection to it?

Jeffery Austin: This song is all about being caught in between wanting to be close with someone but being scared to open up. I was sick of writing and singing break-up songs and wanted to sing about something where I felt more present.

You wrote on Facebook that ‘Stay The Night’ was “the first of a few songs coming your way that I’m actually proud of”. What changed between that older material and these new songs that you’re proud to share?

I think when I first started writing, I was listening to everyone else but myself about the kind of music I wanted to make. Every writer would tell me the kind of sound I needed to have or the type of song I needed to write to break in the industry. So I wrote an entire set of music that was so disconnected because of the pressure to tour. It was mentally exhausting because I was touring so much last year, with material that was almost embarrassing to sing.

The first line of the second verse, “I’m so tired of trying to be someone,” really came from that frustration. So with this song I definitely feel it’s the sounds I want people to hear, the message I want to communicate and finally something that I’m proud of.

The new single also marks a musical shift in direction, with the track being very synth-heavy. Tell us more about this new sound!

Nick Rosen, my producer, was one of the first people to truly collaborate with me without chasing the radio, or all these crazy ideas about the kind of artist I need to be. I came to him with general ideas for melodies and basic chords and he took them and ran with it and made them so much better. As we continued to create more music, these sounds just kept coming through and we felt like we had something unique.

Before working with Nick, I was stuck in the traditional AC/pop territory similar to Adele or Sam Smith – and it just wasn’t sounding new to me. Also, I’m just not as good as them – so if I can’t compete with them in a sound they arguably own, I need to create my own, which I finally feel like I’m doing.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences and dream collaborations?

I grew up listening to Motown – The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder. That’s almost exclusively what my mom listened to in the car, so it definitely affected my soulful approach to singing. Right now though, I’m really in love with Jon Bellion’s music, Julia Michaels, Kehlani’s last album, and Dua Lipa. Of course, I feel like my gay card would be revoked if I didn’t say I’m obsessed with everything Carly Rae Jepsen puts out.

Dream collaborations would be any of the above, but my queens of early 2000s pop will always be first on the list. Britney, Xtina, Jessica Simpson, Beyonce, Gaga – top-shelf dreams.

You placed fourth on Season 9 of The Voice, with the guidance of your coach Gwen Stefani. What did you enjoy most about being on her team?

I honestly think getting on Gwen’s team was a fluke – like some divine intervention. I think my audition was pretty bad because of how nervous I was. I had maybe one good moment, in my opinion, and that’s the exact moment Gwen turned around – the only one who did. On paper, you wouldn’t think our styles would work together, and so I didn’t know how long I would last. But we ended up connecting, I got the right hand of cards on her team and I kept improving.

What I loved most about working with Gwen is that she made it all about my journey – and kind of took herself out of it. She wanted me to tell my story and no one else’s. I had a lot of control over what songs I sang – which is NOT the case on other teams. She just guided me in the arena that I chose for myself. As a performer though, I was fairly green and that’s where she really stepped in. Any time I did something that didn’t seem honest to what I was singing, she’d stop me and call me out. That was the most valuable guidance in my opinion.

What was it like after your season of The Voice ended? How did you begin to transition into the next stage of your career?

Being in the finale of The Voice, a lot of people would think you have the world at your feet – just based on maybe the perception of how it used to be with American Idol back in the day. But really, hardly anyone gets signed besides the winner – and even then, only a few of them put out an album, much less anything you’ve heard about.

So when I got off the show, I wanted to keep moving and capitalize on the momentum – but I didn’t have the songs. I was working in PR at Edelman in New York before I did the show, and kind of auditioned on a whim. When it was all over, I had no original material to bring to all these incredible meetings I got to take. So the transition was definitely hard because I had to find myself as an original artist – not just someone who can sing a Cher song to filth. And it took a while. I don’t think I fully realized the kind of artist I want to be, truly, until I wrote ‘Stay the Night.’

What is the best advice or valuable lesson you’ve learned that you would pass on to someone auditioning for The Voice or another similar show?

Going off my answer to the last question, I think my best piece of advice I can give is be prepared to win. That may sound like a self-indulgent piece of advice, but you need to be prepared to make the most of every opportunity you have no matter where you place in the show. The more prepared you are for what happens after, the better you’ll feel about your time spent on reality television years down the road.

Also, if you sing a Phil Collins song you’re probably going home – so don’t.

You’ve been open about your sexuality since you came into the public eye. Tell us about your overall experience being openly gay in the music industry today.

I think the most important thing about being LGBTQ in today’s music industry is to insist on your authenticity as an artist. I’m at the point in my career where I can say or sing about whatever I want because I don’t have to worry about a label or radio. If I ever get to that point, which is my end-goal, I would want to make sure my story is still my story.

If I write a song about a man breaking my heart, or falling in love with a man, I want everyone to know that it’s a man. If I’ve learned anything about creating music, the best stuff comes when you’re being completely honest. Hiding anything about yourself will bring your music down a notch and waste everyone’s time.

Photo Credit: Kenneth Edwards

Who are some LGBTQ+ people you look up to, in the music industry or otherwise?

I think Justin Tranter has done a lot for LGBTQ singer/songwriters. To have an advocate for our community like that in the music industry, writing the biggest songs on the radio right now – is so beautiful to me. Let’s add him to dream collaborators list, like right at the top.

In terms of artists, I’ll always be grateful for what people like George Michael, Elton John – and even Prince, have done as LGBTQ and gender pioneers. I also admire Frank Ocean, Troye Sivan, Sam Smith, Adam Lambert etc. for all they do in representing our community on the radio and off. Growing up – I really didn’t know if it would ever be possible to be a gay pop star and I think they’ve opened a lot of doors.

You already have two singles in your repertoire! Is there an EP/album or another exciting project in the works?

You know – I can’t answer that question completely right now. I know for sure, that there are two more singles coming out. However the more I think about it, there are a few more songs that I’ve just recently started working on that are starting to sound like an EP. I just can’t say one way or another right now – we’ll see what happens, but more music is already on its way.

Anything else you’d like to say about your newest single ‘Stay the Night’ or to your supporters in general?

I’d love to thank everyone for the overwhelming, positive response to the song. I’m definitely moving into a more pop/alternative genre and I want to thank everyone for sticking with me as I experiment as an artist. Whether they found me on the show, or on Spotify, I want to thank everyone for keeping me afloat and letting me keep living my dream, with or without the cameras and big red chairs.

We’d like to thank Jeffery Austin for taking the time to answer our questions and congratulate him on the release of his new single ‘Stay The Night’.

‘Stay The Night’ by Jeffery Austin is available to purchase on iTunes and stream on Spotify. For more updates, be sure to keep up with Jeffery on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Let us know your thoughts about our interview with Jeffery Austin by tweeting us @CelebMix!

Written by Annemarie Cutruzzola

Canadian arts & culture writer and journalism student.