One Wide Open Adventure Leads to the Next
The release of a full-length debut album would typically seem like a big accomplishment for any rising musician. For Austin French, this is a just another step in a life of significant accomplishments. Austin is blazing the Christian music scene with a profound and vulnerable album, Wide Open. “Life is meant to be lived wide open,” says Austin, “not closed off, not safe, but living close to the Lord where he leads us…our job is to live our lives with our hands wide open.”
Wide Open speaks of the ups and downs of life as well as empathetically touching on the brokenness we all experience. Living a life that is “wide open” means that life will be glorious as well as painful. Austin presents the rawness and vulnerability of his personal experiences demonstrating how deep our hope in Christ can be.
God’s Call on Austin’s Life
Growing up a pastor’s kid, Austin saw the brokenness that people experience and how they take it out on other people in the church. When the church body should have provided support, it offered ridicule. When the people of the church had the opportunity to guide someone through a difficult time, they left them stranded. Hypocrisy in the community of the church became very apparent to Austin at an early age.
In eighth grade, Austin attended a Christian music camp where he heard a speaker address the hypocrisy he had experienced growing up. During the altar call, Austin felt God ask him what was he going to do about it? How was he going to let others know that Christians don’t have to be two-faced, that they can be real, truthful and honest? “So, I decided that day in eighth grade that I wanted to be a Christian artist and write music for my friends who didn’t go to church, and music for the broken people in my church.”Austin’s mother was a music teacher, so he’s been singing since he was a toddler. He created a band with friends in his youth group and they played at whatever church would have them.
When competing on the TV show “The Rising,” Austin maintained focus on God. “Everybody on the show was like, ‘Oh, you should do mainstream. You should do pop. You should do country.’ But the day I auditioned for the show, I walked in and told them that I was a Christian artist, and this is what I believe.”
Good Intentions Take a Turn
Initially, Austin intended to write a record about the goodness of life. He didn’t want to dwell on hardship. But a few years ago, Austin’s dad was in a horrible accident that left him in a coma. “I was just desperate for God…. It really changed the course of my record. What do I want my record to sound like? What are the songs that I want to write? Yes, God is a God of victory, but he is also a God that comforts us in our sorrows.”
Like many Christians his age, Austin grew up singing hymns in church. He knew, one day, he’d like to write his own hymn. Austin’s first single on the album, “Freedom Hymn,” is inspired by some of the most broken people he’s ever encountered. Austin worked as a pastor at a church located in what is known as the “drug-recovery capital of the world.” Austin says that 80 percent of the Delray Beach, Florida church was in active recovery. “They were the most broken people I had ever met, but they were the freest people I had ever met,” he says, “You have to admit you need a savior to actually find saving.”
One of Austin’s strengths as an artist and a Christian is to take life’s circumstances and bring the focus on what God can do or is doing. After the tragic school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas in May, Austin took to Facebook to pay tribute to the victims sharing the song “Why God” before his single even released. “I wrote this song on my record based on the ‘why God?’ moments we experience as humans. In light of another horrific school shooting I find another moment to ask the question, ‘why God?’ I don’t understand why these things happen. But what I do understand is this is exactly why the students and families affected by this tragedy need a God of comfort, healing, and hope. God is not scared of our questions. He wants them, He welcomes them, and He loves you. My heart and prayers are with you Santa Fe High School,” Austin said via Facebook.
God’s Plan, not our Own
As a young couple, Austin and his wife Joscelyn planned to wait five years before having kids. One day, they were visiting Joscelyn’s mom who was fostering a little boy named Coleman. “As soon as we saw him, we just fell in love with him, and God put something in me that I could not explain. We had two options,” says Austin, “either ignore that feeling, or submit and say, ‘God, my plans are obviously not your plans. I’m all in. Whatever this looks like, would you make the way?’ God’s ways are higher than ours.” So, they pursued the option of adoption, which was a long, difficult process. The journey of adopting Coleman inspired the title track on the album.
During the long process of adopting Coleman, Joscelyn found out she was pregnant. So, three months after Coleman’s adoption was official, the French family welcomed their second son, Owen, into the world.“We went from a life with two people, living as two people would without the responsibility of kids, to two kids really quickly,” says Austin.
Austin’s life is a testament of the adventure life can be when you’re willing to live “wide open,” and he prays that listeners will be inspired to do the same. “These songs didn’t come from a place of holding back. These songs didn’t come because I said, ‘God, would you do as little as possible in my life this year?’ It came from, ‘God, would you do what you’re going to do? Would you do miracles in front of me?’”