“I admire your balls,” said Scotty Austin, lead vocalist of southern rock band, Saving Abel when asked if he had time for a quick interview.
In dark blue jeans and a black cut-off that read “HELL AN BACK” in white letters, Austin had just finished a performance of the band’s platinum single, “Addicted” off their 2008 gold-certified self-titled album, and was standing on the worn, zebra-printed carpet that masked the stage of the Stanhope House. Referred to as “The Last Great American Roadhouse,” the snug, but notorious concert venue was built in Stanhope, N.J. in the 1790’s. Its preserved wooden floors and tin ceilings were all too familiar to Austin, who had performed there on numerous occasions.
“I like the smaller venues when the crowd is very interactive,” said Austin. “When everyone is involved, you can feel the energy bouncing off the walls of the room.”
Crowded around him were dozens of fans, all eager for a few minutes of the rock star’s time for autograph-signing and picture-taking. He met with each for a moment before exiting through the side door near the stage, where another group of fans greeted him. After a few moments, he re-entered and stopped at the bar, where he was met with a third round of admirers.
Nearly an hour after Austin’s performance did the room finally empty, except for three or four patrons, who were deep in conversation with the vocalist when I approached. After bidding their farewells, I reconnected with Austin, who was sincerely apologetic for having kept me waiting. We crossed the bar and stepped outside the side exit into the still fall night. We stood in shadow next to the road house, which much like its name, resembled a home more than a concert venue. Austin called over a woman named Brandi.
“Make sure I don’t say anything stupid,” he said.
Saving Abel’s return to the Stanhope House was inspired by the fall 2017 Redneck Rebellion Tour with rock band SOiL, who they officially parted ways with after their last concert together of the season in Battle Creek, Mich. on Oct. 14.
Although the collaborative fall tour ended, the season welcomes new beginnings for the Mississippi rockers come November when they start recording again. While life may serve as inspiration behind their upcoming album, Austin assures that something like that can never be officially decided before going into the studio.
“The beauty of recording a record is you can’t really decide that before you get there,” said Austin. “You just go in and the music is spiritual. That is the only way I can say it.”
Until then, the band will continue playing shows from the South through the Midwest, with hopes that each concert evokes happy and content feelings from fans.
“Life is shitty, and everyone is yelling at everyone else over dumb shit on the internet every day,” said Austin. “Music is what it’s supposed to be and always has been; it’s an escape from the life you’re tired of being a part of.”
With each performance, Austin offers that escape, not only through the music itself, but with his interaction with the crowd. From snapping selfies with fans’ phones, to feeding lyrics to newcomers to encourage vocal participation, Austin ensures fun for an audience, large or small.
“10 or 10,000, it’s still me,” said Austin. “But there is nothing that compares to a big crowd raising hell.”
He asked that fans see them live, and interpret for themselves everything from the band’s music to their performance, for the experience of each person is truly unique.
“I think music is personal,” said Austin. “I can tell you what our music is about, but I think I would be doing a disservice by doing that because the music means something different to everybody, and I think everyone should take their own meaning out of each song.”