Things are falling into place for Austin Jenckes, a singer-songwriter who grew up in the Valley. He has just returned to his Nashville home after his final appearance on NBC’s “The Voice,” and two whirlwind performance tours that started immediately after the show. He’s marrying his longtime friend and girlfriend, Brittany Townsend, this August, and is working on his next album, scheduled to come out this fall. And this week, he accomplished what he moved to Nashville to do, become a professional musician.
“This week, I’m signing my first publishing deal,” Jenckes said in a telephone interview. “That basically means I’ll be paid to write songs, and that includes my songs for myself, and for other people.”
He can’t say who the publishing house is, until the deal is final, but he can say how he feels about it.
“I’m really, really excited about that, it’s a huge step for me,” he said. “It’s a way for me to get my music out there.”
The contract, as much as his achievement of making it into the top 10 finalists on “The Voice,” then going on tour to meet some of the thousands of fans his appearance on the show won him, has made his dream a reality.
“It just kind of hit me, that this is what I do for a living, and this is who I am,” he said. “It’s not just a dream any more.”
So when he heard about the nightmare that began on March 22 for Snohomish County residents, the Oso mudslide that has wiped out homes and killed nearly 30 people, Jenckes knew he had to help.
“People all over the place are reaching out,” he said, listing some of the benefits he’d heard about through family and Facebook friends, “and there’s no way that I wasn’t going to be a part of that! I’ve had a very blessed life, but I’ve also experienced loss… it’s something I don’t take lightly I guess.”
Jenckes will play an Oso benefit concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 19, at the Riverview School District Educational Service Center, 15510 First Ave. N.E., Duvall. All proceeds from the concert will go to the North Counties Relief Fund. Tickets are $15 online, at www.brownpapertickets.com, and will be available up to 24 hours before the show. Tickets at the door are $20.
The concert coincides with Jenckes’ trip home to visit family for the Easter holiday, and he’s hoping to fill the venue — his last concert there brought in nearly 1,000 people.
“It is Easter weekend, and I understand that people go away,” he said, but “I would encourage people, even if they can’t come to the show, they can still buy a ticket and all that money will go to relief for those people.”
He is planning a show similar to the one he gave last October in Duvall “I just want to tell stories and talk to people,” he said, playing a mix of his newer music, and, despite the challenges, some older songs. “In the last two years, I’ve written over 200 songs. So it’s really hard, if I don’t brush up on them!”
Jenckes recounted a recent struggle with that problem. “I was in Spokane, and some guy yelled out the name of a song,” he said, “and I’m kind of scared of that song, because it was an older one…” It was OK, though, because the crowd, singing along, remembered the lyrics.
Although Jenckes said his experience on national television “definitely has been exactly what I wanted it to be,” he says it’s been an adjustment to meet all his new fans. “I meet people who’ve seen and heard my story, but I’ve never met them,” he said. “I have a lot of catching up to do, as far as getting to know my fans…. It’s so much more than a job being an entertainer, it’s being in a relationship with your fans. Being from the Valley, it just kind of came naturally.”
Plus those fans are an inspiration to him, especially when he’s got a show “in the middle of nowhere. Going there and having 800 people show up is crazy. It’s very motivating. I feel like I’m not just a singer, I feel like I have people who actually care about what I have to say.”
He was disappointed when he left “The Voice,” the week of Thanksgiving, but not because it represented a loss. “I was just sad that it was over,” he said, “after hanging around in hotel rooms with these people for 80 days, to not see them any more… There were so few of us left, and we got to be really close.”
The touring life can be a challenge, he said, and his ultimate goal is for his future wife to join him on tour. “She’s good at keeping me sane,” he said, and being apart for the 80 days of touring last year, plus the 40-and-counting this year has been difficult for both of them.
That, like the commitment to his fans, though, is just a matter of finding balance, he says. “I’ve already learned to have a lot of different relationships with people and still have my own life,” he said, “and it’s not a struggle, because at the end of the day, I’m still playing music. There’s no way I can complain!”
He does have praise for the Valley that gave him such strong roots, and for Kass Holdeman, the Duvall Culture Commission staffer who helped organize both this concert and the October venue, on very short notice.
“She’s made my job easy, which is to come and play music,” Jenckes said. “She’s just been awesome about helping me, and not just now. Over my career, she’s just been somebody to talk to, and she’s watched me do my thing.”
Saturday’s show is supposed to be a solo event, but Jenckes said he’s called a couple of friends who may sit in for a few songs. It’s all pretty casual, even his invitation. “Tell everybody to come out,” he says, “it’s going to be fun!”
The concert is made possible by the Rotary Club of Duvall, Cascade Community Theatre, the city of Duvall and Christopher Watkins, Division President, Diamond Residential Mortgage. More information is available at www.duvallculture.org.