Michael Austin won over Adam Levine during the Blind Auditions with his country sound, singing “Somebody Like You”. Though he was eliminated in the Battle Rounds, where he competed against Warren Stone with the song “My Kinda Party,” he has assured us – and his fans – that he is not stopping there. We certainly miss his down-home country sound, but we were fortunate enough to speak with him post-Battles to get his view on his experiences on The Voice and his plans for the future. You can download his album Neon Halo on iTunes – and make sure to “Like” his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @maustincountry to keep up-to-date with the latest news.
It actually was quite a while. I started the whole process a little over a year ago with the cattle call auditions in Los Angeles and then through a bunch of different processes you get to finally the battles – so it’s been a little over a year process for the show even to air for me.
And how have your friends and family responded to your time on The Voice?
They’ve been absolutely wonderful. I said in the after-battle interview, I have one of the best support groups on the face of the planet… friends, family, co-workers, you name it. They’ve been 100% supportive. I mean, this was more or less another show, to get in front of a bunch of people and show them what you have.
Walk us through your pre-battle rehearsals. How much time was spent working with Adam and Hilary, working just with Warren, or on your own?
Warren and I started working together pretty much immediately when we got the song. We spent probably… I’d say at least a good hour with Adam in the studio, going over it together, and with Hilary – and probably another hour when Warren and I went back the next day for our little “in the boxing ring” setup.
And how did you feel going into the Battle Rounds?
I felt really great! I mean, the song was – I don’t understand how Adam comes up with the song ideas – but I felt like the song selection was right in my wheelhouse. It just felt natural to me that it was going to come out. Several times, during the course of rehearsing the song, I never really gotten notes from Adam, so I felt really good going into the battles, especially with that tune.
Speaking of, Warren mentioned y’all’s friendship. How did that impact the battle rounds for you? Was it difficult going in there and competing against each other?
You know, it really was like going in and doing a show together. We joked all the time, about [becoming a duo]. It was really fun working on that song in particular with him. But there’s always that competitive edge, you know? There was a couple of times actually during the battle that – you learn to hear things when you’re on the stage – and I heard him slip a couple of times, and I was like “all i gotta do is keep going on this and not make a mistake and i got it” and it just didn’t turn out that way.
So, after hearing the results, did your thoughts towards the song change? Do you think it ended up hurting you in the end?
No, I actually think the song choice was perfect! I think the thought process… I love Adam to death, I just think that when you take on country artists… it was a little late in the the game to get an education from Blake in the battles about dexterity of country artists because.. he picked the song, and if you’re gonna pick the song that requires a rough edge to deliver, then the artist that delivers what you asked, that’s the guy I think you should have gone with. Looking back, if you’re going to go off of something else, then you need to be able to give that to both contestants.
While I was sitting there waiting listening to what everyone had to say, I felt really confident. I think Carson actually felt confident for me, too, because he had me by my elbow, almost as if to raise my hand after fighting in the ring. I think that it started to sway the other way when Usher kind of got off topic, kind of left the song and the voice, and told Warren, “you bring a young, fresh country swag” or whatever and then brought the female audience back into it.
When you’re there with the judges, that’s a big, swayable thing. I really have to say I didn’t like the fact that he went that direction with it, instead of staying on point with the voice and the song – and who presented the song better – he kind of went off of that. It was funny because right after he did that is when Carson let go of my arm. Then Shakira saying she liked us both, it laid it right in the middle of Adam’s lap.
Are you still in contact with anyone from the show?
I am. I just spoke with Patrick Dodd last night – who was a monster and somebody I wouldn’t want to battle or go up against in the knockout rounds. I keep in contact with the Morgan twins, Regina Alverez, Karina Iglesias – mostly everybody from my team … and the Swon Brothers and I became friends day one with the Blinds. We actually heard each others’ accents, had lunch, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Is there anything that you would do differently with the competition?
As far as the Blinds go, I would try and relax myself a little bit more. Into the Battles, I think I would have tried to instill into my coach to get to know me a little bit more. Adam said [he was going forward with Warren] because of the dexterity in his voice – if you listen to any of my music from my album Neon Halo, my record’s got soft to rough. So I think [I’d have liked] a little bit more time spent with Adam to discuss that aspect of it.
During your time on The Voice, what did you learn under Adam’s guidance?
I learned to push myself even harder. In the music business, I picked up some work ethic from him. Not that… I’m a cop and a musician both full time, I don’t think anyone could work any harder at this than I do right now, but I’m even pushing myself harder now – reaching out through social media and things. I realize I have a fanbase that really wants to hear my music, so I push harder for them.
What is your favorite song off your album Neon Halo?
Friend of Sinners. The minute that i heard it, i was drawn into the song. It took me seven days to record it, just to find the right mindset. On the seventh day – and that sound totally biblical and I don’t mean it to be, but we call it our divine intervention song. I went into the studio at 10am to do that song alone, and when i went in, the candles were going, [there was a] relaxed atmosphere, and that song from start to finish is one solid take. There are no cuts, re-dos, anything – it’s one solid take from start to finish, which doesn’t happen really anymore. In Nashville, everyone wants to cut it up and find the best one, but the song came out in one solid take, which was just amazing. And I love the song, love the message.
Did you write the songs yourself or collaborate with someone?
I worked with John Rich and Randy Hauser, they both have a couple cuts each on the record. You know, there isn’t a song on the record that hasn’t been associated with a #1 songwriter. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of Nashville’s best. I love to write – I’m looking forward to getting [back] in the studio.
What are your future plans at this point, with your music?
Make sure I keep my fans happy and make a bunch of new ones – put out new material and keep doing what I’m doing. Right before the show, I’d been injured at work – and even during the show I had a major surgery – and that was kind of scary. I feel healthier than ever now, everything’s going the right direction. I’m just gonna get out there, pound the pavement, and make sure my fans get what they want… and go from there!