Exclusive: Austin Snell Reveals How the Air Force Led to Country Music Success, Talks Debut Album ‘Still Bleeding’

Austin Snell is a Georgia-born Air Force veteran who grew up listening to Nickelback and Alan Jackson.  But it was Ed Sheeran who inspired him to buy a guitar. Two years and more than 235 million streams later, Snell released his 13-song debut album Still Bleeding as a joint venture between River House/Warner Music Nashville. He’s also preparing to hit the road with fellow Georgia boy Jason Aldean for Aldean’s Highway Desperado Tour.

Snell grew up watching Aldean on CMT. As if the offer to join the tour wasn’t flattering enough, Snell heard Aldean personally requested him be added to the show. Snell got the opportunity to ask Aldean if that was true. After Aldean confirmed it was, the men discovered they attended the same elementary school in Georgia.

“It’s crazy as hell,” Snell said of the coincidence in an exclusive interview with American Songwriter. “We probably sat in the same classroom at some point. It’s a little full circle moment.”

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Austin Snell and Jason Aldean Have Full Circle Moment

Snell has dubbed his unique sound grunge country. The veteran’s biggest hits include “Pray All The Way Home,” “Wasting All These Tears” and his breakthrough “Excuse The Mess.” “Pray All The Way Home” is on Still Bleeding as is the focus track “Some Things Just Stick.”

While Nashville is known as a 10-year town, Snell successfully launched his career in just two. He credits the Air Force for teaching him work ethic, which is the reason he believes he’s found his professional creative footing so fast. He originally wanted to join the Army as an infantryman, but a previous injury meant he was ineligible. Snell entered the Air Force right out of high school and learned how to work on large airplanes. He saw Ed Sheeran playing guitar and all the things the pop star could do with a foot pedal, so he went out and bought the same setup. Snell called his rejection from the Army a “God thing.” He said he might never have found Sheeran or had time to pick up a guitar if that hadn’t happened.

Snell started learning cover songs and sending them to his mom, who told him they were brilliant. He wasn’t sure he believed her. When he got bored with covers, Snell started writing songs.
“That kind of took off, and it became way more of more than a hobby,” explaining that he got out of the Air Force in 2020 and moved to Nashville in 2022. “Things could definitely be going worse. We’re doing great. I’m super blessed.”

Austin Snell Credits Military for Teaching him Discipline to Succeed in Nashville

He said it would have been easy to move to Nashville and get sucked into the Lower Broadway bar scene, drinking every night and waiting for something to happen. Instead, just as the military taught him, he got to town and got to work. Snell met a group of writers as soon as he got to Nashville, and within a couple of weeks, the men wrote “Some Things Just Stick.” But it wasn’t until he wrote  “Excuse The Mess” – and Bailey Zimmerman wanted to record it – that Snell knew he might be on to something.

He said yes. Then he said no.

“I called everybody, and they were like, ‘You don’t have anything going on right now,'” Snell recalled, explaining his friends thought he should let Zimmerman record the song so Snell could make songwriting royalties. “I told him he could have it. And then, after a few weeks of me going back and forth,  I decided  I wanted to do it for myself.”

Snell recorded “Excuse The Mess” and said it “changed my life and got me in the position I’m in now.”
In addition to “Pray All The Way Home” and “Some Things Just Stick,” Still Bleeding also includes “Wasting Mine,” which Snell said is one of his favorites. Snell wrote the song alone, and it has meager production – a combination that reminds him of how he started playing music.

Austin Snell Is “Extremely Proud”

“I’m just extremely proud of that,” he said. “I do a lot of co-writing in Nashville, but the way I found music originally was just me being in a room by myself and trying to figure out what I was doing and how I was feeling. That’s what this song was for me.”

Snell said Still Bleeding takes people on an emotional ride, and he hopes “they feel everything” when they listen to it.

“That’s what I felt writing the album — everything,” he said. “There’s happy songs on this album and there’s sad songs on this album. And everything in between all of that. I hope everybody can feel every emotion and be okay with it.”

(Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)

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