Austin Sexton is an artist first, a producer second, and an engineer third. The Pennsylvania native has been in the music industry for what seems like forever, working behind the scenes and contributing to numerous hits. Learning how to play piano at the age of 5with the ability to play 10 different instruments, he currently serves as Head of Production at Playback Los Angeles studio in Van Nuys.
After playing an open mic while intoxicated on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, he was asked to play for the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce — while he was there on vacation. At that point, he knew it could be a long-lasting career. With no knowledge of the process, he went to a studio and dropped his entire life savings into recording a 6-track EP, eventually teaching himself how to record and produce himself. Now, he celebrates a certified Gold record after working with SuperDuperKyle on “To The Moon.”
Having released music as his own solo artist for 2 years now, Austin prides himself in his unique sound blending the likes of R&B, funk, soul, and honesty — baring his soul with each release. Now he returns with his newest single “Roses,” pairing it with a standout visual that only marks the beginning of a film to come. Fans can look forward to his forthcoming sophomore album titled The Closure You Seek.
AllHipHop caught up with Austin in downtown Los Angeles to discuss his upbringing back in Pennsylvania, getting his first Gold record, the inspiration behind “Roses,” endorsements, goals, and more!
AllHipHop: You’re from Pennsylvania, what were you seeing growing up?
Austin Sexton: A very small white town, maybe 60,000 people. I was one of 4 black kids in a school with 200 in the entire population from pre-kindergarten all the way through 12th. Not a whole lot going on in the arts. I was born in 1990, I was there for 20 years. The older I got, the more the arts started to develop with my family and throughout the county. It was a bit of a culture shock moving out here because Pennsylvania’s old in the sense that it’s one of the original states. You come out to California, it’s a whole melting pot and culture shock out here. I was very close-minded to a lot of things including music, until I moved out to California.
AllHipHop: When did you come to California?
Austin Sexton: 2011. I was 21.
AllHipHop: How did you learn how to produce on your own?
Austin Sexton: To play piano and all the instruments I had teachers over the years. To produce, I was taught by a mentor at that studio I went to and dropped that bag on. He saw all the talent, he said “it’s not about the money. I need you to actually be by my side, I’ma show you how to do this.” He took me under his wing to this day. Now we have a recording studio in Van Nuys called Playback Los Angeles, that’s where all of my production’s done. All my self-production. If I’m engineering for people or producing for people, major label or indie situations, it all falls through there.
AllHipHop: How long have you had that studio?
Austin Sexton: We’ve had it for a year and a half now. Fairly new, took a year to build. A lot of really dope names through the building already. My mentor OT, that’s how we have our mutual friend Demrick. Demrick and OT were recording together 6 or 7 years before I knew OT, that’s how I got introduced to him. He became a big brother to me.
AllHipHop: You’re a certified Gold producer, what record was that for?
Austin Sexton: SuperDuperKyle, a record called “To The Moon” that was on his Light of Mine album. Me and my bro Sunny Norway produced it. I met Sunny through KYLE’s brother, UGLY introduced us and we started working on production. He said “I’m working with KYLE, let’s lob some ideas.” It worked out that way.
AllHipHop: How does it feel to get a Gold record as a producer?
Austin Sexton: I still haven’t gotten the plaque yet, haven’t had time to do it. I actually ordered it yesterday. It’s going to be dope to see it on the wall. It’s dope to be part of a really big album that’s helped define KYLE. It’s the itch: once you get one, you want to keep going. I’m always doing some stuff. Since I’ve done it for somebody else, I want to do it for myself.
AllHipHop: Is it hard to be taken seriously as an artist, since you’ve been more behind the scenes?
Austin Sexton: I have a core little group of people who definitely support my music, that’s dope. When you’re not huge and not making a crazy amount of money, you’re doing it independently and you’re not signed to a label so you don’t have that advance, it gets a little discouraging at times. You have to sit behind the engineering chair, you have to produce all the time. You’re in there like “yo lemme get a shot,” but you have to play your role. I’m working with a couple homies now for the next 15 days, doing 12-hour engineering shifts for different majors and artists. I’m a really good engineer and a really good producer. “Oh, we need you to do these things.” Dope, but I just dropped a single and I’m trying to promote that.
AllHipHop: The bag’s probably great too.
Austin Sexton: You can’t turn down the bag. The money’s right in front of you, you take that money.
AllHipHop: New single “Roses,” who or what inspired this record?
Austin Sexton: The inspiration behind it was a relationship. I was dating somebody for a really long time and right before I left for tour, we ended up splitting up. As an independent artist, I’m engineering and I’m producing all the time. I’m trying to make it myself, but the bag’s inconsistent. She was looking for security. She ended breaking up with me because she said the life she envisioned for herself is harder with me in it. That s### crushed me.
Granted when I first moved to LA, I was living with me and all the homies. Turning 27, splitting a room with somebody trying to lower rent. She’s looking for bigger and better things, I’m out here grinding trying to make it for myself. It inspired not only the single, but a whole album of 11 songs. No songs on the album that weren’t used, that’s the first one that came out. It’s an ultimatum. The chorus goes “roses are red, hundreds are blue, money can’t show my love for you. Roses are red, hundreds are green, is love enough to stay with me?” Can we make this work without having to worry about money? It’s 2020, s### gets crazy. We’re in LA, relationships are a dime a dozen.
AllHipHop: Who’s idea was it to get kidnapped in the visual?
Austin Sexton: It was my concept. Me and my boy Austin Cantu, he definitely knows how to bring my ideas to life. I’m a real big movie guy, I love cinematic stuff. A lot of videos these days are real fast, everybody’s flexing money, but I like to tell stories. I’m inspired by Quentin Tarantino and the big movie guys. I wanted to do something different and cinematic.
AllHipHop: This is the beginning to more films, right?
Austin Sexton: Yes! We have 4 or 5 singles coming before the album, all the videos and visuals are based around that first visual I put out. It’s a mini-movie.
AllHipHop: What can we expect from the album?
Austin Sexton: I wouldn’t call it an album, I’d call it an idea. It’s the same premise as Frank Ocean Blonde where it all goes in and out of each other. It’s really a story. There’s skits and different sequences. It’s a start to finish, 1 to 11. Get in your car, you press play, you’ll zone out until the end in the best way possible. It’s an idea, a concept album.
AllHipHop: Talk about your endorsements: Gibson Guitar, Native Instruments, and Blue Microphones 7.
Austin Sexton: When I was recording in Santa Barbara, we moved the studio I had to down here. When we’re closing up shop to look for a new place, the owner of the studio let me use his guitar. I didn’t have a guitar at the time. It was a PRS, the guitar I used to make my very first projects. He’s taking the guitar back with him to NY. I put my first album out called GOODSEX at the time, meaning good music from Austin Sexton. This woman reached out to me via email, her name was Rae Vinton. She’s still my Gibson rep today.
She said “hey want to let you know out of the blue I came across your album, I absolutely love it. Do you have a guitar? What kind of guitar were you using?” I said “Oh PRS, I don’t have it anymore.” She said “I work with Gibson, would you like to come down to the showroom?” Literally the day the guy left with the guitar. It was a blessing in disguise that now I’m endorsed with them because they love my music and the way I play, my genre. Native Instruments, I met through Rae as well. They endorse the studio with hardware and software. Anything we need, we tag them. Blue Microphones, it’s all the people and networking. The music industry’s very small. You meet one person, you have 25 mutual friends.
AllHipHop: 3 things you need in the studio?
Austin Sexton: Guitar, a MIDI keyboard, and I need a Puff bar. I chain smoke like a m###########. The studio will already have the computer, I’ll already have all my drum sounds. I might sub out the Puff bar for a nitro cold brew, catch a little vibe with that.
AllHipHop: What are some goals you have for yourself?
Austin Sexton: To sustain my standard of living, strictly off of the music I make and the support I have. To get myself a plaque based off my own individual music, and to help and communicate with people based off the music I make. I want to be relatable. I want people to understand, feel, and relate.