Early on in his career, Garland, Texas native Austin Cunningham carved out a place for himself as a songwriter. He has had songs recorded by artists such as Hank Williams, Jr., Martina McBride, Dolly Parton, Wynonna, Chris Knight, Del McCoury, and the list goes on. He has songs on feature film soundtracks including Ashley Judd’s Where the Heart Is, and the Richard Gere/Winona Ryder film, Autumn in New York. Austin has performed at the Sundance Film Festival for the Bluebird Cafe On the Road series, and a few years back, was awarded the coveted Johnny Mercer Award for “Emerging American Songwriters”.
Although writing is Austin’s first passion, he is no slouch at performing, blazing a trail with live shows across the U.S. and is a favorite on the Texas Music Scene. With a strong voice and some of the best guitar playing you’ll ever hear, he always manages to captivate his audience. Whether performing an acoustic solo, or rocking the house with a strat and a full band, it is entertainment at it’s best. This is just good, roots music mixed with great stories.
Austin has four CDs for sale:
Let That Poor Boy Sing (1999)
Where I Come From (2002)
Music In The Money Biz (2005)
Made To Last (2009)
Solo: Acoustic Guitar, Gut String Guitar
Full Band: Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Bass, Fiddle, Drums
Songs Written or Co-written by Austin Cunningham and Recorded by Other Artists
You Can't Trust No One/Chris Knight
Homesick Gypsy/Chris Knight
Enough Rope/Chris Knight
Beer Pressure/Hank Williams, Jr.
The Ashville Turnaround/Del McCoury Band
Thinkin’ Too Much/Big and Rich
Long Black Highway/Chris Knight
Be Ready To Sail/Claire Lynch/New Day
George Jones And Jesus/Lance Miller
In Style Again/Lance Miller
Angel Of Broken Hearts/Jason Michael Carroll
Old Back In The New/Jason Michael Carroll
Beautiful/Jennifer Page /Autumn In New York Soundtrack
Grow Young With You/Coley McCabe/Where The Heart Is Soundtrack
Don’t Send The Invitation/Adam Gregory
Baby Don’t You Let Go/Trisha Yearwood
Flies On The Butter/Wynonna
From The Ashes/Martina McBride
Dancing With Angels/SHEdaisy
Why Can’t We/LeeAnn Rimes
A Whisper And A Scream/Verlon Thompson
I Love You This Much/Billy Ray Cyrus
A Whisper And A Scream/Pam Tillis
On Again, Off Again/Tracy Byrd
Who’s Your Daddy/Shannon Lawson
What Your Love Does For Me/Tanya Tucker
What A Wonderful Beginning/Kenny Rogers
I’m Your Man/Jason Sellers
That Does It/Jason Sellers
Divorce My Heart/Jason Sellers
The Narrow Trail/Red Stegall
Small Price/Gibson/Miller Band
What A Wonderful Beginning
Why Can’t We/Dolly Parton
Life Can Turn On A Dime/Rick Trevino
She Holds The Key/Lee Greenwood
You And Me And The Moon/Lee Greenwood
The Man Behind The Wheel/Charlie Floyd
In My Dreams/The Judds
What If You’re Wrong/Ronna Reeves
Softer Than A Whisper/Hal Ketchum
If Your Heart Should Ever/Jo-El Sonnier
Turn To The One/Lacy J. Dalton
Austin Cunningham - Songwriter First
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Ask Austin Cunningham the proverbial question, and you get a fast answer. He’s a songwriter first...
Ask Austin Cunningham the proverbial question, and you get a fast answer. He’s a songwriter first, then a singer.
He has great love for performing and will put pressure on any headliner to top him when he belts out a song like his latest release “Guns and Religion”.
But when you learn he’s written songs for Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Jr., and Wynonna – to name a few – it’s clear why the songwriting portion of his resume is something very dear to him.
“If I ever had to choose, I would pick songwriting over performing” says Cunningham. “I would hate to ever do that, but writing is where I started and it’s where I will end up, because you don’t have anything unless you have a great song to start with”.
When he was ten years old, Cunningham first saw a church band play at a picnic and told his father “That’s what I want to do.” The purchase of a cheap Sears guitar got him on his way: “I used to just make up little songs when I was a kid, obviously not knowing that there was a career in it. Then I thought I was going to college, dropped out of that and began sending songs to Nashville, then moved there in 1986. I am quite the newcomer”, laughs Austin.
Anyone who has made a living as a songwriter for the last twenty-three years is doing something right, and this fact is not lost on him. “I kid a lot in my shows, I tell people I moved to Nashville twenty-three years ago, but I started when I was three.”
He admits to taking occasional flack from people over what some have called “corporate songwriting”, but he’s proud of the fact that he held down a staff songwriting deal for fifteen years before electing to stop it, on his own terms.
To those who criticize his Nashville days he says, “The truth is, it shouldn’t be different. It doesn’t matter if a song is written in Nashville or in Texas. Judge me on the song, if you like the song, good, come on!” he smiles.
Understand that the Nashville seen through the eyes of Austin Cunningham is not what you might think. “Man, my Nashville is Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell (who live in Nashville) and Chris Knight, who I do a lot of writing with; that is my Nashville.
A Texas native who now calls McKinney home, he started performing ten years ago. It stemmed out of frustration that some of his songs, that he felt were very strong were not getting recorded. That was the idea behind his first CD and the song “Let That Poor Boy Sing”, which he wrote with Allen Shamblin. Two more CDs followed with what he jokingly calls his protest songs, 15 Songs and Music in the Money Biz.
Enter “Guns and Religion” – a song with a title like that will get at least a first look. It’s why you hear people lecture “don’t discuss politics or religion”.
It was born out of comments he heard then candidate Barack Obama utter while on the Presidential campaign trail about “clinging to guns and religion”.
The song is from Austin’s latest CD Made To Last and it’s the first time he has written a political song. “I wrote, I believe, so I am going with it.” He admits that he has had some resistance but has had even more people who love the song. “It’s another song in my catalog, and people are going to love it or hate it.”
He received one email that really hit home with him concerning a security guard in Oak Cliff, Texas who shot and killed a man that was robbing the bank and shooting at customers. The guard said that although he was haunted by the fact that he had to kill the man, the song moved him because it reinforced the idea of “what else was I supposed to do?”
Cunningham says this song is a career turn for him and he doesn’t apologize for it. At the same time, he’s not in the business of stating his politics with audiences. “I love Bruce Springsteen, but I don’t want to hear his political views,” says Austin, “It’s a song that I wrote because the comments moved me to write about them.”
So I asked this songwriting vet, what makes a good song? “It has to go somewhere, it has to take you somewhere,” Cunningham explains, “It doesn’t have to be a story song, but it can still have a beginning, a middle and an end – you know, like a three minute movie that you enjoy.”
Two of his favorite writers are two of the best the industry has ever seen, Tom T. Hall and Merle Haggard. “Tom T. Hall could tell a story in two minutes, he didn’t need three minutes!” exclaims Austin.
Cumulus Broadcasting Operations Manager, Midland-Odessa
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" I like this record a lot. "Back To Ft. Worth" ought to be the Ft. Worth National Anthem. And if..." I like this record a lot. "Back To Ft. Worth" ought to be the Ft. Worth National Anthem. And if you don't like "The Last Great D.J." there's somethin' wrong with you."
A hidden gem of an artist for many years, 2009 is the year for Austin Cunningham to shine. "Made To Last," an emotional roller coaster, from the compelling story of "Catherine" to the rockin' truth of "The Last Great D.J.," ...In between, every track stands on its own. "Dillon's Seal of Approval"...A must-get record for 2009.
-- Brett Dillon - KHYI - 95.3 FM - "The Range" Dallas, Texas
"We fans and lovers of Austin’s music cannot wait for his new CD to become available. If we have to, we’ll stand in line in the mud, torrential rain, sleet, snow, or the next coldest night of the year to get a copy of Made to Last."
--Janet Brice Parker
Author, The Ivy Stays Green
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December 4, 2008 Let me just say that I am not a big fan of country music, but I may have had a c...December 4, 2008
Let me just say that I am not a big fan of country music, but I may have had a conversion experience. I have heard other people say that of Austin Cunningham's music. His songs awaken the senses of even the staunchest rock 'n roll purists.
Recently my husband and I were invited by our good friends Janet and Eddie Parker to hear Cunningham perform at a house concert held at the home of his manager Tammy Nance of Decatur. This was my second time to hear him live and I'm proud to say I've become a believer of at least his version of the country music genre-- a little country rock, a little bluegrass, a little Nashville twang, a whole lot of Texas honky tonk, with some gospel sprinkled in for flavor.
Cunningham says he hasn't met an Alabamian he doesn't like and I'd have to say I haven't met an Alabamian that doesn't like him, or his music. He left his home in Garland in 1986 to pursue his musical career in Nashville. Since then he has written over 900 songs, several of them recorded by such country music notables as The Judds, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Hank Williams, Jr. He has songs on feature film soundtracks, including Ashley Judd's “Where the Heart Is,” and the Richard Gere/Winona Ryder film “Autumn in New York.' A few years back he was awarded the coveted Johnny Mercer Award for “Emerging American Songwriter.” His fourth CD, “Made to Last,” is about to be released.
The boy has reason to gloat. But while he possesses the confidence of a seasoned performer, he remains humble and appreciative of those fans and individuals who have supported him along the way. He's a “good ol' boy”--as comfortable on a bar stool as a church pew and not ashamed to be sitting on either. He sings of long-lasting love, hard-working men, common sense values and corporate corruption. Friend and fellow songwriter, Allen Shamblin, helped him pen a song for the new CD called “Who's Gonna Bail Out the Workin' Man?” a timely tune and anthem for the middle class. Cunningham looks at the world and approaches his songwriting with equal parts realism and idealism.
“I like to put a positive spin on things. . .maybe add a little inspirational twist,” he said.
Raised Catholic he refers to himself simply as “born-again.” That inspirational twist can be heard on the gospel infused fan favorite “With His Arms Wide Open” from his first CD, “Let That Poor Boy Sing.” Other audience pleasers include the foot
stompin' “Hillbilly” and “The Whole Enchilada.” The ballad “Buck Clayborn” reminds me of a red-neck version of “Mr. Bo Jangles.” The town drunkard is seen through the eyes of a child as a genuine friend.
“But what a preacher could not teach me about how to talk to God,
I learned from Buck a prayin' when we buried his old dog.”
Long-time fan Janet Parker sums up his musical diversity this way, “I found myself tearing up over lost love and tasting hot chili peppers while boot scooting in my mind. . .”
Cunningham is a gifted lyricist, accomplished guitar player and born performer. There are no awkward silences between songs when he plays. He fills the void with jokes, anecdotes, or simply by playfully picking on the crowd. In fact, he seems to love meeting and mingling with fans almost as much as he does performing for them.
“I look forward to shaking your hand or hugging your neck, which ever you deem appropriate of course,” he said. Then leaving the crowd smiling he adds, “Stay close to Jesus and away from the cops.”
Terri L. French
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June 14, 2008 Austin Cunningham in Louisa Austin Cunningham is an extremely talented singer/song...June 14, 2008
Austin Cunningham in Louisa
Austin Cunningham is an extremely talented singer/songwriter hailing from Garland, Texas who has written songs for such noted artists as The Judds, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Hank Williams Jr. He also spends a lot of time writing songs for himself, and I was lucky enough to catch him performing some of his original music at Obrigado in Louisa, VA on June 7th.
I'll be the first one to admit, I'm not the worlds biggest country music fan. It's a testament to Austin's abilities as a songwriter and performer that he was able to instantly grab my attention and hold onto it for the duration of his set. The storytelling aspect to his lyrics is so engrossing that you can't help but hang on his every word. Whether singing about an old friend on "Buck Clayborn" or his Brooklyn native father's farm in "Yankee Farm in Texas" he's able to take you and drop you right in the middle of the song.
It was also really nice to see the interaction that Austin had with the crowd throughout the set. Whether he was cracking jokes while tuning up or telling an anecdote about the song he was about to perform, he managed to keep everyone entertained for the duration of his set.
All in all it was a great show. I went in a skeptic and came out a fan. Austin drives himself all over the country to do these shows, and he does it with a smile on his face because it's what he loves. That's something refreshing to see these days, that there are still people out there who play music for music's sake. Make sure to check out Austin on his website at austincunningham.com and Myspace at myspace.com/austincunninghammusic!
Austin Cunningham to Play in Louisa
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June 5, 2008 Early on in his career, Garland, Texas native Austin Cunningham carved out a place f...June 5, 2008
Early on in his career, Garland, Texas native Austin Cunningham carved out a place for himself on Music Row as a songwriter. His songs have been covered by artists such as Martina McBride, Hank Williams, Jr., Lee Greenwood, Wynonna, Del McCoury, Chris Knight, Claire Lynch, and the list goes on. Several years back, Austin was awarded the Johnny Mercer Award for Emerging American Songwriters.
Although writing is his first passion, he is no slouch at performing, blazing a trail with live shows across the U.S. With a strong voice and some of the best guitar playing you’ll ever hear, he always manages to captivate his audience.
It’s interesting to watch people respond to Austin’s songs, whether it’s one that paints a picture of salty characters like “Buck Clayborn” or a heart wrenching “Long Way To Go”, about the struggle to understand the suicide of a good friend, or the hatred in the sky on 9-11.
His songs aren’t the only thing that resonates. It’s his down-to-earth-I-know-you-from-somewhere personality that sweeps over the crowd. He interacts with his audience like he’s known them since childhood.
“Austin is the type of guy who wants to know your name and has the uncanny ability to remember it. His outgoing personality makes one understand the enticing nature of his songs. I found myself tearing up over lost love and tasting hot chili pepper while boot scooting in my mind.”……. Janet Brice Parker, Author, The Ivy Stays Green.
If you’re a writer looking for inspiration, a music buff, or just someone wanting to be entertained for a while, don’t miss the chance to hear and meet this shining star from Texas. You won’t be disappointed.
Austin performs at Obrigado, on Saturday, June 7th, from 8:00-10:00 pm. Obrigado is located at 109 West Main Street in Louisa. For more information, call 540/967-9447 or go to www.obigadorestaurant.com. For more information on Austin, visit www.austincunningham.com.
Cunningham Returns as Part of Livery Stable Concert Series
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November 15, 2007 Singer and songwriter Austin Cunningham will be making his way back to Leed...November 15, 2007
Singer and songwriter Austin Cunningham will be making his way back to Leeds this Saturday. Cunningham will be performing for the Old Livery Stable Concert Series held at The Straw Hat.
Cunningham is a country boy who grew up in Garland, Texas, and knew at an early age that he wanted to be a songwriter.
“If I had to choose between singer and songwriter, it would have to be songwriter, but I hope I never have to choose because I love to write and perform,” said Cunningham. Cunningham has written songs for artists such as Dolly Parton, Wynonna Judd, Kenny Rogers and Jason Michael Carroll and that only scratches the surface.
Cunningham is excited about traveling back to Leeds. He got to visit once before and said it’s almost like a second home. He even wrote a song about Leeds called “Take Me Home to Leeds, Alabama.” He said he wrote the song while performing and joking around and he loved the way it turned out, so it stuck.
Cunningham has been writing music for over 20 years and has written over 900 songs. Only 60 to 70 have been major label songs. He still tries to get the rest of his music to the public by playing them himself. He would like to see as many songs as possible recorded.
Cunningham says he has to give credit to his manager, Tammy Nance for introducing him to the city of Leeds. She knows people from Leeds and got Cunningham to play a gig here.
“My first show I fell in love with the place and the people and in turn they seemed to fall in love with me,” said Cunningham. I feel something special about Leeds and the people who live there.”
It’s like performing a scientific experiment,” said Cunningham. . “I’ve never met anybody from Alabama I didn’t like.”
He jokes that some of the folks from Alabama said to give them a little while and they could introduce him to a few. All and all Cunningham feels right at home in Alabama.
Whether his music is heart wrenching or happy-go-lucky his strong voice and acoustic sound always seem to captivate his audience.
“His songs aren’t the only thing that resonates,” says Meredith Frye, an events coordinator in Kentucky. “It’s his down-to-earth-I-know-you-from-somewhere personality. If you’re a writer looking for inspiration, a music buff, or just someone wanting to be entertained for a while, don’t miss the chance to hear and meet this shining star from Texas,” said Frye.
Austin Cunningham will perform at The Straw Hat on Thornton Avenue on Saturday, Nov. 17th, at 7 p.m. For more information on Cunningham, visit austincunningham.com.
The Leeds News
Texas in Ohio
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June 2007 It wasn’t a large crowd by any stretch of the imagination. But when he addressed them,...June 2007
It wasn’t a large crowd by any stretch of the imagination. But when he addressed them, in his down-home country boy banter, he called them “mighty”. That they were. The Spruce Street Studio audience listened intently to the songs and stories of Austin Cunningham, singer-songwriter hailing from Garland, TX. His song isn’t the only thing that resonates. It’s his down-to-earth-I-know-you-from-somewhere personality that sweeps out over the crowd. He interacts with his audience like he’s known them since childhood. And he makes even Ohioans feel like making that journey back “home” to Texas.
Sets are 1-3 hours long, and songs are chosen based on venue environment or requirements.
Who's Gonna Bail Out the Workin' Man
Last Toungue Lashing
Take Me Back To Fort Worth
Don't Distract Me
Where I Come From
Farther Down The Road
Flies On The Butter
Doin' Pretty Good
Made To Last
Meat On The Bone
Joe Don't Know Jack
Six Foot Woman
Always in My Heart
Goin To Austin
Way You're Put Together
The Whole Enchilada
When I've Lost My Shine
Yankee Farm In Texas
In Style Again
My New Old Friend
Long Flight To Vegas
Long Way To Go
Southern Side of Town
Livin' It Up On My Way Down
Drink Milwaukee Dry
One For Me
Sad Country Song
Change For A Dollar
Happy Mother's Day
Duck Tape Song
Arms Wide Open
Livin' It Up on My Way Down
Everything's Gonna Be Alright