Last week General Manager of MUR, Reese Seberg, spoke with musician Austin Weber about his new album, graduating from Harvard and his TikTok fame. Weber will be starring in MUR’s annual Spring Concert April 9 at 7 p.m. The concert will be broadcasted live on the MUR YouTube Channel. Weber’s album “Late to the Party” is now available on most music streaming platforms.
Reese: So usually I start off interviews, I just kinda like to ask just a question to kind of get into it. What is the weirdest food that you have ever had?
Austin: I don’t know, Firefly squid is pretty weird. It’s like a squid that you know, it’s like a bite-sized squid and you just eat it raw in one bite. You just pop it in there.
Reese: I’ve never had that. I guess to start off, tell me a little bit about yourself. Just some basic stuff about you.
Austin: I guess, I’m from New York and I live in LA. I watch a lot of professional cycling and I write songs as my job. That’s what I do all day. I read books and I write songs and I ride my bicycle and go skiing in the winter.
Reese: Nice! Actually, my roommate is skiing right now.
Austin: That’s cool! I actually just got back from the mountains.
Reese: Oh, that’s awesome, that’s sick. Do you also, like, do you cycle like professionally then too? Do you do races and stuff like that? Or you just do it for fun?
Austin: I just do it for fun. I wish I was good enough to do it professionally. That’d be awesome – I grew up ski racing though. That was my dream when I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional ski racer. That’d be really cool – I think it would be very cool, but I like music more. Is there anything about me you want to know specifically?
Reese: I don’t know. I guess how did you kind of get started in music? I guess we could start there.
Austin: You know, I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember. I started out playing as a drummer first and then some great teachers who took me under their wing taught me how to feel stuff and how to get the field going. But I’ve just been writing songs, its always been my favorite thing to do. I think it’s the thing that I do best, hopefully. So, I’m happy to have made it my career.
Reese: So, I was looking stuff up about you for the interview. And I found this Reddit thread, and I don’t know if this was actually you that said it, but if it is, I’m like very intrigued. It said that you – did you graduate from Harvard?
Reese: You really did? Let’s talk about it – and then it said something about you studying sculptures.
Austin: Yeah, no I got a dual degree from Harvard in sculpture and a classical composition.
Reese: That’s like insane. That’s so cool.
Austin: Oh, thanks. Yeah, no, that’s what I did in college. Academically, in college, I made sculptures and wrote string quartets. Those are my two favorite things to do.
Reese: That’s like, incredible. I don’t know why I just think that is so cool.
Austin: Thanks, yeah, I loved it there. It was really, really fun.
Reese: So I also read you do odd jobs for movies – what is like the oddest job you’ve done?
Austin: Oh, none of them have been too weird, but they’re all kind of odd. I’m like the guy who… okay so the sculpture department, at Harvard is the same department as the film department. And so a lot of my best friends from college are filmmakers and you know, whenever they’re making a movie and they need someone to do something that they call me up and I do all the odd jobs. So like I’ve been a set photographer – I was the set photographer on this amazing movie called some kind of heaven that my best friend, Lance Oppenheimer, directed. Everyone should watch it, it’s a great movie. I did sound for one of my other best friends’ movies called Lewiston. I was the guy holding the boom pole, you know that was crazy. It’s a documentary about a gang conflict between Somalian refugees and white supremacists in Northern Maine. I mean I do stuff where people, my friends, need someone to do something. I love doing it and it’s just like a really cool experience to have. Yeah, it’s awesome and I can write songs wherever, and so you might as well write them on set or something.
Reese: So I guess kind of going into songwriting and stuff like that, the first time I saw you, or like heard of you, was on TikTok. So, how did you just blow up on TikToK? Like what happened there?
Austin: Like what TikTok did you see?
Reese: I would say pretty much like the “Mama Mia” cover was like all over my ‘For You’ page. People were just using your sound and like, I was seeing videos, but like, your sound was just everywhere. Like for me, like I was seeing it constantly. So did you upload it to TikTok or did people just find your stuff and use it?
Austin: People find it and use it. I’m new to TikTok, like I just got it a week or so ago. A few weeks ago.
Reese: Really? That’s insane — because when I was talking with my desk, I was like, “Hey guys, I’ve been talking to this guy and he represents Austin Weber.” And they were like, “Okay, why does that sound familiar?” And I said “TikTok.” And then they were like “Oh!” and then I started playing it (Mamma Mia Cover) and this was all probably in January.
Austin: That’s crazy. Yeah, I’ve never, I was not on it then.
Reese: That’s like crazy to me that that was like, you didn’t even have it.
Austin: No, I had no idea until right now how prevalent that was.
Reese: So did you just kind of blow up then? Like, I feel like you just blew up overnight. Like how did you really get started?
Austin: Well, you know, so a music video I made, went viral on YouTube like a couple of years ago. And that sort of started it, and then it went viral again on TikTok and I didn’t even know it. There was a bump in my numbers and I was like, “what the hell is going on?” and I was like, “Oh, TikTok is taking off,” but I don’t know I mean, I sorta got my start gigging around Boston. When I was in college I was playing with my friend’s bands. Then the music video broke and then all of a sudden I had like a national audience and that was pretty cool. You know, playing around the country, going out to different cities and playing shows. It’s just so much fun, I miss touring so much. Playing shows is my favorite thing in the world to do and I cannot wait to start playing again.
Reese: Yeah. I can imagine.
Austin: It’s just so much fun, but anyway I got my start in — I’ve been playing in bands and going on tour for a really long time. Since I was in high school, in New York, but I was in other people’s bands as either a guitar player, or as a singer or something. Even as a piano player and a percussion player. But my first exposure to the music industry was when I was a kid singing in commercials and stuff in New York. When they, when they needed like a six year old kid to come sing something I would get a call being like, “Austin, we, uh, we need you downtown stat.” Like, “We need someone to sing, like a very small boy to sing this.” And I’m like, “Yeah, you know, I can do that. I’ll do that for you.”
Reese: Were you in a commercial that people would know? Like a really big one that you remember?
Austin: I didn’t think of any big ones but, there’s this Hershey’s commercial with like the little chocolate people on the chocolate world. So I sang for Hershey’s commercial — like I did a Hershey’s thing. I mostly did radio stuff. I remember there was a cool whip commercial, a lot of food, a cooler commercial, a subway radio spot. I remember doing like an opera subway thing. Just like, you know, random, random stuff, but singing those as a kid. That’s sort of where I fell in love with the studio as, as like a place, you know, because we go into these incredible studios. I remember recording a Nickelodeon spot at Electric Ladyland, I didn’t know that at the time, but you know that’s where Jimi Hendrix recorded, because I was, you know, like seven. But looking back at it now I’m like, that’s where D’Angelo recorded “Voodoo”. Like that’s where everyone recorded everything.
And It’s really funny to look back on it now, um, but you know, I fell in love with the studio and the whole vibe of all the equipment and the role of the engineers and stuff. I love that whole universe and so a big part of my process now is I own and run my own studio where I record all this stuff. I just love the dirty work of engineering stuff and like mixing stuff. I spend most of my time writing, I think I’m probably better at writing than engineering and stuff, but it’s a huge part of what I do and I love doing it, all the radio stuff.
Reese: Obviously, I know you probably got to keep it on the DL, but what are some current projects that you’re working on? Or like anything that you’re really excited about?
Austin: Well, I got this record coming out and the second single came out yesterday and by the time this interview airs probably the whole record will be out. My new record is called “Late to the Party.” Everyone should listen to it, you know, like and subscribe! So that was really fun. It’s really gratifying to have that out there and it’s been good to talk about what I’ve been working on for like the last year and a half. It’s just wonderful to put it out in the world and I’m real proud of it.
Other projects, I’ve got a few things coming up with some various people. You know, I’m working on something right now with Arlo Sims and I’m working on something now with this great band from Barcelona called Wineson — they’re still on the horizon, It’s all coming together. I’m working on a record with a bunch of other people. Hopefully there’ll be some, some fun, special guests, but I shouldn’t say too much.
Reese: So what would you say, was there any inspiration — like, I guess to talk about your new record, that’s going to come out, did you have any inspiration behind that or anything?
Austin: I didn’t, there was no specific vision for this record going into it. You know, I sort of found myself making it, if that makes sense. I just write songs and then, and then at a certain point, you know, the last record I did, had like a mission. It was like, it was a breakup record, first of all, which is always a genre right there. Then it was also my, my senior thesis for graduating from Harvard and then videos for it. What I’m proudest of is that it ended up winning the big thesis prize.
Reese: I mean I’m a few years late, but congratulations.
Austin: Oh, thank you, yeah it’s really crazy. It’s really funny that I won the Harvard thesis prize. I think it’s the last — it’s the only record to ever get Summa cum laude from Harvard. So, you know, take that, take that Grammy’s! This is where I fit in.
Reese: That’s incredible.
Austin: But anyway, this record is — it’s sort of a quarantine record. I wouldn’t call it that necessarily, but you know, the nature of the beast is that I recorded it all in quarantine.
Reese: How has your quarantine experience been?
Austin: I’ve been pretty lucky, um, in terms of I didn’t have any tours planned. I was in the process of planning a tour for the spring but we hadn’t announced it yet. I got pretty lucky, nothing was really disrupted. It gave me a lot, a lot of space and time to finish the record. I just miss playing shows so much. I mean, that’s been the biggest life changes. Normally I’d be out on the road playing shows… I miss that. I miss that a ton. I miss that feedback, I just love playing shows. I love seeing the fans there’s nothing more gratifying than people singing along to a song you wrote and it’s just the best and I didn’t realize how much that energy is just such an important part of what I do, because that’s the ultimate goal. That’s why I do what I do, because I love performing. I love writing, I love all the parts of my job, but I really miss performing, you know?
Reese: For sure, I guess kind of going off topic, who would you say are some of your biggest musical influences or inspirations?
Austin: Too many, let me tell you, too many. I can tell you Jonathan Richmond is a huge inspiration for me. Bands I’ve been listening to recently, I find myself listening to a whole bunch of dub records recently. Like old dance halls, rhythm stuff. Yellow man is, there’s a lot of yellow man these days and the eternal God Lee “Scratch” Perry, you know, King Tubby, U-Roy and I-Roy and all like those early Trojan and Studio One groups. I’ve been on a huge tear recently through that whole scene. It’s been really fun. I’ve been listening to a ton of Shoegaze, like the best band out of Boston these days. Horse Jumper of Love, just so good. I highly recommend Duster, of course, Cortex. Bill Callahan — the studio one charts and stuff has been the bread and butter for the past month.
I’ve actually been wanting to make a country record and so that’s one project I’ve got cooking right now is I’m working on a little country record with one of my friends. Jonathan Richmond has a great record called “Jonathan Goes Country” and that’s a big point of reference. Dougie Poole is someone everyone should check out. He writes the most, the best and most interesting country songs that aren’t country songs. His last record is this record called “The Freelancer’s Blues” and it’s just really good.
Austin: “Vaping On the Job” — one of the greatest songs of last year, truly an amazing song. He does such a freaking cool job melding like these old country tropes with stuff that’s going on now. Like vaping on the job is a great example of that. On one hand, it’s amazing like songwriting that plays on these old country tropes and updates them in a way that’s really funny and really smart. And he does it well, like he’s not making fun of it. It’s like honoring the legacy of all those great country songwriters.
Austin: It a melding of like that old style with the new stuff that’s going on. It’s great. Dougie Poole – great person to check out. I’ve been reading a ton. I always read a ton, um, I’m making my way through some Proust and Hemingway right now, that’s the two ends of the two ends of the word spectrum. Those two guys explain, one guy says, explains nothing. And the other guy says they explain everything. And so it’s really, it’s really fun reading them in tandem.
I can’t imagine reading that book and not having someone to talk to about it. Like annoying my friends with, uh, with like, like having ways is all right to annoy your friends with. But like Proust, you know, it is like something else to annoy your friends with. It’s just like, Oh man, it’s the two very different ways of getting to the truth. Um, but uh, having ways easily shareable proofs, like, well you just gotta, you gotta, if you just read these 200 pages, you’ll see, you’ll see why this is great. That that’s not, then that’s up to, that’s not how that works.
I’m reading Hemingway and Proust at the same time, I sorta, I worked myself in a real corner because I’ll read a few books at once, but I made a big mistake and I started one series before I finished another series. So for the last few months I’ve been reading simultaneously Churchill’s World War II memoirs, and“In Search of Lost Time.” Churchill, great writer, moves super fast, really readable. I can do like one of those a month, but like Proust, you do one a year.
Reese: I’m a huge reader so I completely understand what you’re going through. I want to take this Moby Dick class here where you just read Moby Dick and analyze it for the whole semester.
Austin: That sounds incredible, you should take that class.
Reese: Oh for sure, I guess what is something that you want students at Marquette to know about you or maybe check out?
Austin: Well I’d say check out the new record. I’m really, really proud of it. It’s a good feeling to make something and feel like you’re moving forward, you know, you’re progressing, it feels like it’s the best stuff I’ve made and it’s a great feeling and I hope people listen to it and like it and check that out. The music videos for it I’m making with my friends and I’m really, really proud of them. I’m excited for them all to come out there, they’re really special. I’m happy to have been a part of that whole ecosystem and stuff. And my college advice, of course, has to be to take the classes that are the most fun, even if they’re super impractical.
This story was written by Reese Seberg. She can be reached at [email protected]