In Conversation With Newcastle Indie Folk Musician Austin Mackay


Originally Published in Farrago Edition Five (2022). 

Embraced by fairy lights and that scarlet rug every busker seems to own, Austin Mackay opened the stage for Kyle Lionhart at Commonfolk Coffee Roasters with a warmth, drawing the crowd in close for a glimpse at his magical playing style. Speckled with stories of fleeting love and broken hearts, his show strung together a list of unreleased tracks, twinkling like the fairy lights around the bar.

Backing up a run of garden shows, new releases and supporting Kyle, Austin generously lent his time for me to pick his brains. Looking deeper than his most recent single, 'Borderline', I dug into the nitty gritty of his listening habits for a peek at what inspires his process. Beyond the heartache and time spent on the road, with some wholesome love for other artists and their everlasting commitment to the art form.

Isabella: Obviously, Commonfolk was a special venue, do you have anywhere else that stands out in your mind? It could be an amazing space, or somewhere that was really special on a personal level.

Austin: The more intimate shows are the ones that really stick with me. I just recently finished a secret garden show tour with my friends Alivan Blu. We played five shows across Queensland and Northern New South Wales; we put a call-out on our social media looking for people to host shows in their backyards. We got five people from Sunshine Coast, Warwick, Gold Coast, Byron and Yamba [who] were keen to host us. Basically, we put on these ticketed shows in people's backyards, and set up speakers and lights to put on a really intimate show and those, for me are the ones that really stick out. Everyone brought their own rugs and their own drinks and snacks, and it gave the same vibe as everyone having their Sunday afternoon drinks on Burleigh Hill.

Don't get me wrong, I love playing venues as well, but it's definitely those ones that stick with me. Kyle's show in Melbourne the night after Commonfolk, we played to about 350 people at Northcote Social Club, and that one was so fun. It's a different kind of energy, less storytelling, but you get that pumped-up energy off the crowd because everyone is so ready to dance and have some fun. That contrast particularly is fun, between the different shows you play on a certain tour which is really really special because you never know what to expect.

I: I feel like you played in a few unique ways that I at least haven't seen before, the double capo move and singing into the sound hole. Are there any particular artists' playing styles that you feel have influenced your approach?

A: More so from a songwriting perspective, an artist I look up to is James Bay. He has always been that singer/songwriter that can bring a rock/band sound to his recordings, and that's What I am striving to do as well. He can stand in front of a room with an acoustic guitar and hold his own, but he can also bring a band into the mix and bring a bigger energy to the show, which is what I am aiming to do. It was so nice for me to play over the weekend after Mornington, Melbourne and Ballarat to come back to the Gold Coast and play a full band show at Creekfest. To have that contrast and feel like I can do definitely takes a lot of inspiration from artists like James Bay and John Mayer, who have singer-songwriter roots and bring a bigger sound into the mix.

With the double capo stuff and singing into the guitar, [they] come from other artists I have seen do that, especially Ben Howard, not necessarily his songwriting but definitely the things he does to experiment on stage. He definitely thinks outside of the box when it comes to live performance which I think is such a special thing to do not only because it keeps it interesting for the audience, but it keeps it interesting for the performer as well. Once you start to tap into things outside the box and don't feel stuck with standard cord shapes on the guitar, you can experiment--which opens up a lot of avenues for performance and new thought processes.

I: You have released a couple of singles recently, is there potentially something bigger in the works or are you enjoying this wave of releasing singles?

A: To date I have released a couple of singles and one EP, so the plan for the rest of the year is that I have three more singles and an EP. That EP will be toured around the country, we are still pending release and tour dates for those shows but that plan is set in stone. It's exciting for me and exciting for other people. Over the past year, I have dived back into playing a heap of shows and taking everything as it comes but that hasn't left much time for me to get into the studio and record/release music. It has been nice over the past couple of months between tours to jump into the studio and start recording these new songs. It's really exciting to be able to get new material out to people more consistently and it's going to be such a special thing to me.

Austin's latest single 'On The Way Down' (released July 29) is an exciting addition to his upcoming EP, set to release later in the year. Read the full interview on and listen to the single on Spotify now.

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