Remember “Austin”? It was Blake Shelton’s debut single in 2001, and is a throwback all the way back to the times of answering machines and landlines. The long-lost-love song — penned by David Kent and Kirsti Manna — was Shelton’s first No. 1 hit, right out of the gate.
And now, 19 years later, the song’s producer Bobby Braddock is sharing the story behind the song. Braddock has been with Shelton since the start of it all, producing or co-producing Shelton’s first five studio albums.
“I thought ’Austin’ was a little bit hokey at first, but by the end of the song, I thought, ‘Man, this is kind of cool. This is like one of those Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movies,’” Braddock says. “But Blake pretty much said the song wasn’t macho enough for him at first.
“So I told him, ’I think you need to listen to it again.’ He did, then came back and — like I did — had a change of heart. And he said, ’Man, I think this is a pretty cool song,'” he said. But after some record label shuffling and meetings with all of the big shots, it was starting to feel like “Austin” might not make the short list of potential debut singles.
“Blake needed something like ’Austin’ to keep him alive,” Braddock recalls.
And while they were trying to keep Shelton and “Austin” alive, Braddock shared the song with his female artist friends. “I prioritize what a female thinks over a male with a record,” he said, “because of the demographic and because there are more females who listen to the radio and buy records.
“Every one of them said the same thing: that they shed tears when they heard ’Austin.’ So then I called the A&R person at the label and said, ’We need to have another meeting.’ And she told me they’d already decided on a single. I told her,’There’s new information and we need to have a meeting.’ I was determined to convince them to change from ’All Over to Me’ to ’Austin.’
“At first I was met by massive resistance from everybody, but eventually I finally convinced them. They said, ’Well, I think “All Over Me” showcases his beautiful falsetto, but it should probably come later. “Austin” should come first.'”
In 2010, Shelton told CMT.com that two weeks after “Austin” was released, the label he’d been with since singing in 1998 — Giant Records — closed up show. “You know how Nashville is,” Shelton had said of the label kerfuffle that ultimately landed him at Warner Music Nashville.
Braddock’s story appears in music biographer Jake Brown’s upcoming book Behind the Boards: Nashville, due out on June 23.