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Yonder's Jeff Austin Goes Solo After A Rare Summer Off

Stacy Nick
Jeff Austin warms up in the green room at Boulder's Fox Theatre.

After 15 years with the Yonder Mountain String Band Jeff Austin stepped away from the band he co-founded. But before hitting the road with his new project, The Jeff Austin Band, the mandolin player did something he hadn't done in 18 years – he took a summer off.

"Not just for myself but for the music in general, I really believe it was truly beneficial to make a clean separation, you know instead of just frolicking along like nothing had happened," Austin said. "It was nice to just pause."

Austin spent the summer gardening, renovating a bathroom, and hanging out with his wife and children.

"Everything you could imagine that was not, you know, involving a backstage or a tour bus or airports, I did," he said.

But it wasn't completely music-free.

"I did a lot of writing, but I did a lot of 'quiet' writing," Austin said.

The title track for his latest The Simple Truth, was inspired by a drive to a Bloomington, Indiana show with Todd Snider that went awry. Immersed in the inspiration for the song, Austin suddenly realized that in the haze of gas stations and fast food joints he had long driven past his exit and – sans cell service or GPS – was quite lost.


"I ended up being an hour-plus late for my sound check but there was something about that idea of the barker on the corner telling the tale of people in his town, you know. It's like where the jester is the only one who can insult the king and not get his head cut off and that's kind of what I thought of. This person can tell the truth about the people in town."

Much of Austin's new album was written before he left Yonder Mountain String Band. It has a surprisingly pop sound, but Austin said he doesn't consider it to be a big change.

"I grew up on pop music, you know," he said. "I didn't grow up on roots music. I grew up on old country and '80s pop music – '70s and '80s pop music – so, for me it doesn't feel like a departure."


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