Austin Plaine, singer and guitarist, had never considered doing music full time.
This is hard to believe as he has more than 140,000 followers and hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify.
Last year, Plaine released his sophomore album, “Stratford,” which he recorded in his friend’s Brooklyn apartment. Taking inspiration from Bob Dylan and Ryan Adams, Plaine has established a folk-pop and country sound.
Growing up in Minnesota, he listened to artists such as Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young with his dad. Plaine taught himself how to play acoustic guitar at 13 years old and started to write his own songs.
At the time, hockey was the “driving force in his life,” until a shoulder injury stopped his plans of playing in college.
The Minneapolis native then focused his time on attending classes at the University of Minnesota where he studied communication. In 2015, during his senior year, he recorded his debut album, “Austin Plaine,” which includes his hit song “Never Come Back Again.” The song has almost 14 million listens on Spotify. This is the first song I ever listened to by Plaine, discovering it on a folk-pop playlist.
“I was supposed to be studying for a sociology exam, but instead I took the time to write [Never Come Back Again] and demo it,” Plaine said to the Chicago Tribune. “When I asked about taking the test later, my professor said, ‘You can take it tomorrow if you drop a letter grade.'”
He said it was worth the D minus.
This song led me down a rabbit hole. His songs became what I listened to in the morning, in the car and on the way to work. Being a writer myself, I love great storytellers. And, he is a damn good storyteller.
“Never Come Back Again” expresses the want to travel and see the world. This desire is not uncommon among teens and young adults, which might be why I related to the song so much.
“I wrote it at a time when I was longing for something different,” Plaine said to the Chicago Tribune. “I grew up in the Midwest and never really traveled as a kid. I was finishing college and had a huge surge of wanderlust.”
The second song that I listened to, “Houston,” has one of my favorite lines ever: “Losing means nothing when there’s nothing to lose/ living isn’t living when I’m missing you.”
His tone and guitar add comfort and optimism to each song, even when they are not necessarily positive. You hang on to every word.
Plaine had considered going to law school after college and was even studying for the LSATs. Now, it has been three years since he packed up and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to do music full-time in early 2017.
“Nashville is the music capital right now,” he said to the Chicago Tribune. “It’s the perfect place to better yourself. I consider it the most inspiring town. But it’s also the most demoralizing, too, because you realize how good everyone is. But that pushes you further.”
With the help of a few collaborators, Plaine made “Stratford,” which includes the songs “Something More,” “Honey” and “What Once Was.”
All 11 songs have a nostalgic feeling similar to his last album released four years ago. His lyrical stories are about love, adventure and the desire to find the true meaning of life.
“Something More” starts off with the light strumming of the guitar, singing about the difficulties in love. He sings: “Oh my love, I lost you again/ We were jumping in the river/ but I never learned to swim.”
In “Honey,” he asks forgiveness from his partner. Plaine sings: “Would you please love me again/ like the days when we were kids/ We grew up in the howlin’ wind/ Lost lovers of the north.”
“What Once Was” can reach anyone looking back on fond memories, like me; I am grateful for how I grew up and having two sisters by my side. Plaine sings: “Standing next to that old ’68 Ford/ He only let me drive once before/ Always polishing the door for good look/ That’s my daddy’s old truck/ Damn, I miss what once was.”
If I want to be more specific, I like honest storytellers. When someone takes inspiration from their personal life and intertwines it with their writing, it’s powerful.
Between his first and second album, Plaine released a few singles, including “America,” which has over 700,000 listens on Spotify.
Like “Never Come Back Again,” traveling is the central theme of the song, which describes driving freely through the country with no worries. He sings: “And it’s okay to follow on God’s highway/ Wake up to the Arizona sun / And in my dreams/ I see you in a new way/ In the beauty of America/ I’ve already won.”
As we grow, I think one of the main reasons writers get better at telling stories is because they have more stories to tell. They have more joyful and painful memories, along with dreams, wishes and regrets.
Between his debut and “Stratford,” Plaine showed growth. His lyrics and sound became more distinct and unique to him.
In the song “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” he sings: “I can’t go back to the life I had/ before the West was won like a bullet in my gun/ I’m a man, I’m a plan, a canal that stands/ If tomorrow never comes.”
His songs are the ones that make you think.
“It will always be therapy for me,” Plaine said to Broadway World. “If I get through a whole day without singing or playing guitar, the day just feels really strange. I don’t think that will ever change for me.”
I am excited to hear what’s next for Austin Plaine.