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Austin French

Wide Open – bio

Written by Andrea Lucado


Rising contemporary Christian music artist Austin French haslived a lot of life in his 24 years. Originally from small-town Georgia, he’sspent time in Los Angeles, competing on reality singing competitions like ABC’s“Rising Star” and NBC’s “The Voice.” He’s been a worship leader at a churchwhere 80 percent of the members were recovering addicts. And he and his wifewent from having no kids to having two—one biological, one adopted—withinmonths of each other. Now, to add to the list, he is about to release his firstfull-length studio album.


A life with this much adventure can only happen when youhold the posture that French does.


“Life is meant to be lived wide open,” he says, “not closedoff, not safe, but living close to the Lord where he leads us…our job is tolive our lives with our hands wide open.”


This openness to God’s leading is largely what inspired thealbum, Wide Open. Set to release withFair Trade Services September 7, the 13-track album features songs that speakto the ups and downs that inevitably occur while living the wide open life. Thealbum is refreshing in its honesty, addressing the brokenness in all of us, providingempathy in our most painful moments as well as presenting the hope of Christ. Wide Open was clearly written by anartist who has experienced both joy and hardship and who has come out the otherside clinging to Jesus, rather than running from him.


But this was not always the case for French. Growing up aminister’s kid, French experienced first-hand what hypocrisy in the church canlook like and just how broken people can be. “I was really hurt by the church,”says French. “I was really over it….I was going to have nothing to do withChristianity.”


In eighth grade, while attending a Christian music camp, heheard a speaker address the hypocrisy he had experienced growing up. During thealtar call, he says he felt God ask him what he was going to do about it? Howwas he going to let others know that Christians don’t have to be two-faced,that they can be real, truthful and honest?


French responded to this call with his most natural gift:music. French, whose mother is a music teacher, has been singing since age twoand grew up surrounded by music. “So I decided that day in eighth grade that Iwanted to be a Christian artist,” French recalls, “and write music for myfriends who didn’t go to church, and music for the broken people in my church.”


He created a band with friends in his youth group and theytoured all over the country, playing music at whatever church would have them.Today, although he is now touring with major artists like Ryan Stevenson—whomhe will tour the album with later this fall—and is working with some of themost established people in the industry—Jeff Pardo is producer on the album andhis management, First Company Management, also manages the Newsboys and RyanStevenson—he is still responding to this call to write and play honest songsthat speak to the broken.


Even when French competed on “Rising Star,” where he placedsecond overall, he remained true to that God encounter he had in eighth grade:“Everybody on the show was like, ‘Oh, you should do mainstream. You should dopop. You should do country.’ But the day I auditioned for the show, I walked inand told them that I was a Christian artist, and this is what I believe.”


French’s vocals could make it in any genre, but his passionis for writing music that meets people in their brokenness and introduces themto the freedom of Christ.


French’s first single on the album, “Freedom Hymn,” was inspiredby some of the most broken yet joyful people French has ever known. He wrotethe soulful anthem after spending time on staff at a church in Delray Beach,Florida, the recovery capital of the world. French says that 80 percent of thechurch was in active recovery. “They were the most broken people I had ever met,but they were the freest people I had ever met,” he says.


As someone who grew up singing hymns in the church, Frenchsays he knew he wanted to write his own hymn one day, and, he says, “whatbetter place to write it than probably the most addicted community in theworld, this recovery community? You have to admit you need a savior to actuallyfind saving.”


The song’s chorus rings of a hope that’s for anybody, nomatter how broken: This is the sound ofchains breaking / This is the beat of a heart changing / This is a song of asoul forgiven / This is my freedom hymn.


When French initially set out to write this record, it wasnot as self-revelatory. He wanted to focus on the good moments in life, not thehard ones. But three years ago, when his dad was in an accident, everythingchanged. His dad miraculously recovered but spent six months in a coma. Thetraumatic event refocused French’s life as well as the music he was writing.


As he explains, “I was just desperate for God…. It reallychanged the course of my record. What do I want my record to sound like? Whatare the songs that I want to write? Yes, God is a God of victory, but he isalso a God that comforts us in our sorrows.”


Several songs on the album reflect this type of God, the onewho is present in our darkest moments. “Why God?”, a contemplative andpiano-driven track, asks the question we all do in the face of suffering: Why?


French doesn’t answer this old-as-time question with aBand-Aid or a bow. His lyrics are honest: Idon’t understand / But I understand / Why, God, I need you / It’s why, God, Irun to your arms / Over and over again.


In the year and half that it took French and his wife,Joscelyn, to adopt their two-year-old son, Coleman, they asked a lot of why questions.


They first met Coleman when Joscelyn’s mom was taking careof him as his foster parent. It was love at first sight: “As soon as we saw him,we just fell in love with him, and God put something in me that I could notexplain.”


But adopting Coleman was a long road. At one point, thefoster care system told French and Joscelyn that they would never see Colemanagain. “We just honestly couldn’t understand why,” recalls French. “Why wouldGod call us to love this little boy like our own son if we were never going tosee him again?”


Ultimately, in a miracle move, the courts ruled to allowFrench and Joscelyn to be Coleman’s parents. During the entire process, theFrenches continued to seek God, even through the why, teaching them anincredibly important lesson. “You can turn your why into worship,” says French,which is exactly what he did.


The journey to adopt Coleman also inspired the title trackon the album. As a young couple, French and Joscelyn had planned to wait fiveyears before having kids, but when they met Coleman, they knew their plans wereabout to change. “We had two options,” says French, “either ignore that feeling,or submit and say, ‘God, my plans are obviously not your plans. I’m all in. Whateverthis looks like, would you make the way?’”


The upbeat and inspiring track begins with this admissionthat God’s ways are higher than ours: Plans  / I’ve been the fool who thought my plans /Were so much bigger, so much better than yours.


God did make a way in the court that day, and not only did thenew parents get to welcome Coleman to their home; three months later, Joscelyngave birth to their second son, Owen.


“We went from a life with two people, living as two peoplewould without the responsibility of kids, to two kids really quickly,” says French.


But if anyone can take a transition like this in stride,it’s the Frenches—a family who doesn’t limit what God can or will do, and Wide Open is a testament to it all.


As French explains, “These songs didn’t come from a place ofholding back. These songs didn’t come because I said, ‘God, would you do aslittle as possible in my life this year.’ It came from, ‘God, would you do whatyou’re going to do? Would you do miracles in front of me?’”


Austin French has a long career ahead of him, but he is alreadyestablishing himself as a talented artist and songwriter who is open andvulnerable, able to take real struggles from his own life and write them into songsthat are universally understood. Because of this, Wide Open will leave listeners with the sense that miracles canhappen to them too; they just have to live wide open.