Five seconds. That’s all it takes. Five seconds in and it’s obvious Austin Merrill grew up loving country music.
With whispers of Doug Stone, Craig Morgan and even one-hit wonder, Mr. “She Doesn’t Dance” Mark McGuinn in his vocals, it’s not hard to see where Merrill’s heart lies. One pass through his 2019 EP Whiskey & Water and it’s evident not only does his heart lie with country music of the 90’s and 00’s but he has the talent to seamlessly blend the traditional stylings he grew up on with the modern sound country listeners are drawn to today.
Pulled along by an acoustic guitar brightly skipping along, his newest song “One More Mile” has seemingly caught fire. Released in late June with no major playlisting, the burgeoning tune has already garnered over 70,000 streams on Spotify. Even more exciting, that number is sure to skyrocket with the song’s video release which American Songwriter is proud to premiere. Shot at the legendary Starstruck studios, this video is a scrapbook for one of the Merrill’s favorite things in the world.
“I absolutely love studio sessions,” says the Oregon native. “To have a bunch of creative geniuses come in and contribute to my project is a dream come true every time it happens. I had written the main guitar melody prior to the session, but all the other band parts were created on the spot by some of the best musicians in Nashville. And Danny Rader slayed that acoustic guitar solo. My song was pure carbon, and those guys made it a diamond.”
While Merrill initially had other intentions for the song, the universe intervened with its own plan.
“The story of this song is close to my heart, and I was inspired to write it based on my own life experiences and the experiences of those around me. I actually wrote ‘One More Mile’ to pitch to another artist, but I loved it so much that I recorded it myself. Fate had a hand in the timing because a week after I wrote it, I was playing it in honor of a dear friend who’d passed away. This song will forever stand apart from my other works because of that. Sometimes we write songs. Sometimes life writes them for us.”
Growing up a jazz instrumentalist, Merrill has long been familiar with creating melodies and improvising. After all, improvising is what jazz guys do. As a country music fan and a student of the game, he paid attention to songwriters like Alan Jackson and Vince Gill in how they told their stories in song. He honed his songwriting skills to be ready whenever they might be called upon because as it so often does, the song comes to us not when we’re ready to write it but when it’s ready to be written.
“I don’t always sit down with the intention of writing a song. Sometimes I’ll be driving down the road or walking to the grocery store when ideas hit me. I’ve written songs on plane rides and assembly lines. I never know when the muse will speak, and an advantage of writing alone is that I can immediately pursue that song idea through to its end state, when the idea is fresh I my mind.”
Though he is still balancing his time between his musical career and finishing up his service as a Lieutenant in the Tennessee Army National Guard, Merrill is always working on new music. Even as “One More Mile” is just getting out of the blocks, he’s already preparing his next three steps.
“I’m actually stepping back into the studio later this month, and I’ve got some exciting stuff coming up around the bend. Obviously, the live shows are a bit of a question mark with everything going on nowadays, but I’m always writing and creating, and I look forward to sharing more music with my fans in the near future.”