The Voice airs locally on NBC Channel 5 at 7 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays.
It’s not as though Austin Allsup’s voice had never been heard.
He’s been gigging for years, after all.
But now the Fort Worth-based alternative-country singer has his largest audience ever as a contestant on the NBC television program The Voice, which airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 7 p.m. local time.
“It’s a roller coaster emotionally,” the 32-year Allsup said. “After touring for so many years playing in front of anywhere from 10 people to 5,000, that life is a grind, trying to figure out how to pay for things as an independent artist. How do you get past the point to where it’s rewarding?
“This show has allowed that to happen.”
Allsup is playing in front of a much larger audience these days. For the week of Oct. 24-30, The Voice was ranked the 14th most popular network program, with the Monday edition drawing 11.2 million viewers. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the music competition program edged out ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, doing particularly well among the key demographic of 18-to-49-year-olds.
Allsup said he never planned to be on the show, though he was a regular viewer.
“Someone reached out to see if I’d be interested in an audition in Houston,” he said. “I’ve been a fan of the show. My wife and kids also watch it. It was never a plan, but it’s been crazy. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life.”
But Allsup had a connection to the show. He once opened for Blake Shelton, one of the judges, in 2005 at Fort Worth’s Billy Bob’s Texas nightclub.
“It was crazy that he remembered that night, but I guess he did,” Allsup said. “We hung out the majority of that night. It was fun.”
Allsup got into performing music live at age 19 when he toured with his father, Tommy Allsup, who was then leading Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys.
“I didn’t really know anything about that life before then,” Allsup said. “As a young kid I dreamed about it, and then I met my dad and I learned a lot.”
Allsup had not grown up with his father in his life, but got to know him on the road. As he and his father grew closer, the younger Allsup also realized he wanted to follow in his footsteps into the music business. In 2005 he released his first record. Now, four albums later – the latest was This Weary Land released in April – he’s performing on the biggest stage of his life.
From that album, the song “A Beautiful Life” broke the top 20 on the iTunes country charts.
“I did that [toured with his dad] for a couple of years, then dad opened up a studio in Azle,” Allsup said. “I think it hit home with me what I was meant to do.”
He also learned from his father how fine the line is between a successful future and no future at all. Tommy Allsup is part of Texas music history. Austin tells the story of how Tommy was touring with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson when he lost a fateful coin toss with Valens for a seat on the plane to their next performance.
The plane crashed, killing Valens, Holly and Richardson on Feb. 3, 1959, best known as the day the music died.
“My dad was already on the plane and Buddy asked him to go back inside,” Austin said. “He ran into Ritchie and they flipped a coin. You just never know.”
The event was dramatized in the film La Bamba, that focused on Valens.
Tommy Allsup later played with another Texas legend, Bob Wills, and with some latter-day Texas Playboys. Allsup produced Wills’ last album, For the Last Time, recorded in North Texas.
Austin Allsup has found himself working around some legends too. Along with Shelton, Allsup has opened for acts such as John Mellencamp, Ronnie Millsap, Joe Nichols, Jason Aberdeen and Pat Green.
Allsup’s also a big hit when he plays locally, which includes numerous performances at Billy Bob’s Texas.
“Austin is an abundantly talented musician. I’ve seen him rip it at Billy Bob’s three times, and every time he’s nailed it with great energy and swagger,” said Concho Minick, president of Billy Bob’s. “You can tell there is a depth to him, an emotion, that gets expressed in his songs.
“He is poised for something special. We are delighted our hometown boy is making big waves.”
Allsup has drawn attention with his original songs and his covers of other artists. He recently won raves for his cover of Tom Petty’s “Breakdown” performed on The Voice.
“I’m a fan. I always try to catch him when he comes through town,” Allsup said.
Also, Allsup said he received a tweet from John Fogerty that he enjoyed Allsup’s rendition of “Bad Moon Rising.”
As for his own musical style, Allsup said he’s never subscribed to a genre.
“I think I felt music more than I heard. Genre isn’t what I was listening for,” he said. “I was listening for a feeling.”
Allsup said he is comfortable playing and listening to music that ranges from Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” to Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Allsup also met his wife, Chelsea, while touring. They have been married eight years and have two children, 8-year-old daughter Allie and 3-year-old son Jagger.
Yes, Allsup is a big Rolling Stones fan. In fact, it was after performing one of their songs that he met Chelsea.
“We were playing a show in Fort Worth. I played the Rolling Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want,'” Allsup said. “I later found out that was her mother’s favorite song. She lost her mother to cancer.
“She’s an awesome lady. I have a great family.”
And while he expects The Voice to change his career in a positive way, whether he wins or loses, Allsup said he will never forget what is most important to him musically. He simply loves to perform, and no amount of money or fame is ever going to change the simplicity of playing in front of folks who love to hear him.
“I’ve played some great venues and festivals with my band over the years,” he said. “We’ve been playing as a band 10 years.
“They’re fun, and there’s a lot of people who have helped me out when I was trying to pay my mortgage. I’ve laid tile all week to make gigs happen. You never forget that love, that passion.”
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