Download Sherrie's Career Résumé HERE.
For some kids, the circus -- that colorful, nomadic, thrill-filled world – is a place to watch, in awe, the death defying acts, eat the cotton candy and peanuts, and laugh at the clowns. For Australian singer/songwriter Sherrié Austin, it was pretty much a way of life. The petite brunette has spent most of her life from the time she was 14 on the road in this circus we call show business, fearlessly chasing her dreams with her family in tow, crossing continents and even genres in search of her place in the artistic world. And whether it was the crazy carnival atmosphere of L.A.‘s pop music and TV world, the gypsy-like feel of passing from writers night to writers night during those early years in Nashville, or the thrill of soaring without a net during her days on Broadway in the Big Apple circus, Sherrié embraced it all. She’s distilled all of those experiences into her new project, “Circus Girl.”
The title track, written by Austin, really is the theme of her life. It is her song, her story…and an important one to tell at this particular juncture in her creative journey.
“When I wrote “Circus Girl” I didn’t set out to write something autobiographical, it was just something inside of me that wanted to come out. Then, when I sang it one day, it occurred to me that my family and I had traveled around Australia going from one festival to another, sometimes living in a caravan or a tent when I was performing. We’d pack up dad’s truck and we’d be off to the next festival. It was like a big ole circus. Then I ran away to Los Angeles and did film and TV there. Next I ran off to Nashville to write and sing and make records, and that was another kind of circus. And then I got it into my head I wanted to do Broadway and theater again, so I ran off to New York and joined that crazy world,” says Austin.
“Then I came back to Tennessee and thought, ‘well, I think I’ll just hang up my trapeze and go into early retirement.’ Then one day I looked up and there was this circus in cyberspace, the internet and it changed everything, and there I was dusting myself off and at it again. ‘Circus Girl’ just seemed the most fitting title for this record because of the life that I’ve had. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been in the entertainment business in one form or another. So the songs on this album are just a collection of my life experiences.”
The winding path Sherrié took that lead her to this latest project was a challenging one, full of interesting detours and creative stops along the way, from her earliest days as an opening act for the legendary Johnny Cash, to her most recent appearance on Broadway in a play based on his life. A born performer, she has wanted to sing and dance ever since she could walk and talk, and spent most of her formative years on the road playing shows around her homeland. Her parents instilled a love of both country and pop in her early on, and she grew up listening to performers like Dolly Parton, Skeeter Davis, Linda Ronstadt, Olivia Newton John as well as Bread, Supertramp, Cat Stevens and Jim Croce and loving them equally.
“My mom was a country girl; she wasn’t raised in the country but has the heart of a country girl, so she loved country music. It just really spoke to her. And my dad is German, and he didn’t grow up with country -- he loves more of the rock and pop stuff and is all about the melodies and the grooves and my mom’s all about the lyrics, so between the two of them I got a really good balance as a songwriter and as an artist.”
From an early age Sherrié had a love of country music but also enjoyed musical theater, appearing in school plays and starring in lots of productions. When the TV auditions for the sitcom “The Facts Of Life” were held in Sydney, she tried out on a whim and impressed the casting directors so much they flew her to L.A. and ultimately gave her a part in the show. That break led to dozens more in TV shows and films over the next few years while she continued to pursue her singing career. Signing with Jimmy Iovine’s Interscope Records, she recorded a pop project and began touring but quickly realized her heart just wasn’t in it. So, she up and joined another circus.
A songwriting friend in L.A. needed a house sitter in Nashville, so with a little money in her pocket and not knowing a soul, Sherrié set out across the country for Music City to pursue country music, where she knew her heart really was. “I just decided to rebel against everybody and everyone, and jumped on a plane and moved to Nashville with no money and a couple of names in my pocket. I had no idea what I was doing…I’m actually a big planner, a type ‘A’ personality, but looking back I did a lot of things that weren’t planned. There’s a side of me that’s very spontaneous and goes with my gut, and I just felt like what I needed was not in LA. I didn’t want to be a pop star, I didn’t really want to be a TV actress, I could’ve stayed and done all that, but I thought, ‘No, I’m a writer.’ I’d always been writing songs and the pop deal frustrated me a bit because it was like, ‘OK, stand up front and look cute, no, we’re not interested in what you have to say.’ So I was like, ‘Screw this, I know I’ve got something interesting to say. I just need someone to teach me the craft of writing, ‘cause I’ve got all these ideas but I have no idea how to write a song.’”
Sherrié learned quickly, attending various songwriters’ nights around town and landing a publishing deal within months of moving to Nashville. She was soon fielding her share of record label offers and signed with Arista Nashville during the label’s heyday, recording two albums and releasing several singles. Austin also received an ACM Award nomination for “New Artist of the Year,” garnered the #1 Chart position on CMT’s Countdown on all of her music videos and she received the very coveted, “Golden Guitar Award” in her native country of Australia. Austin has also toured the world, playing shows all across the United States, Europe, Australia and more. After departing Arista, she focused once again on her songwriting, and penned a tune called “Streets Of Heaven” that turned the heads at the, then-new indie label Broken Bow. They gave her a record deal, and in 2002 that song quickly reached the Top 15 on the charts, thrusting her back into the country scene full force. She began touring again, but after a few years yearned for new horizons and decided to take a break from Nashville for a bit and head to New York.
“I just took off and went to New York, and went through my wild and crazy phase that I never did in my 20’s. I did a bunch of theater, and made some great friends, and did the show “Ring Of Fire” on Broadway. I stayed there for a year and a half. I needed a break. I think in every Australian there‘s a love of travel, and there’s this need to just take off. There’s this thing called Walkabout that the Aborigines do, and who knows, I might have a little Aboriginal blood or something,” she says, laughing. “I’m definitely looking at my hair, and beginning to think mum must’ve known the Aboriginal milkman! But my family’s like that too, it’s like a little bit of restlessness, and every now and then you want to break out of the boundaries a little bit.”
“I love country music, and I’m a country singer and love everything about it, but I wasn’t just raised in one town like so many country artists, so my perspective on life is very different Sometimes, I just have to take off and change the scenery, that’s so normal to me, so second nature. Every now and then I’ve just gotta go find something else to write about, I’ve gotta go see how other people live.”
That vagabond lifestyle and spirit has served Sherrié well as a writer, and helped land her cuts by dozens of other artists in the last few years, including Tim McGraw’s "ShotGun Rider" from the CD "LET IT GO", Blake Shelton’s "Good At Startin' Fires" from the CD "STARTIN' FIRES", and even the King himself, George Strait who cut "Where've Have I Been All My Life" for his CD "TWANG” Most recently, Sherrie’s songwriting prowess was responsible for the hilarious duet by Trace Adkins and Blake Shelton called "If I Was A Woman" on Trace Adkins 2011 release "Proud To Be Here.”
It also helped inspire many of the songs on Austin’s latest release, her first in eight years. The collection is definitely a female-empowerment record, from “Friday Night Girls,” the anthem for the brokenhearted single gals cutting loose and letting their hair down, to the raw, spunky, honest sensuality of “Just Wanna Love You Tonite,” to the feisty, matter-of-fact kiss-off track, “Get Your Leaving Done.” The album is a series of stories interpreted by a strong woman, about women, and for women, and Sherrié feels it’s something her female fans have been clamoring for, for quite some time.
“The last few years I had been complaining about that fact that there weren’t any females speaking to women above the age of 30, so I started thinking about how I was writing my songs and came up with the idea for “Friday Night Girls” …I wanted to write a three minute song with every “Sex and the City” episode that had ever existed, so I did. I quickly noticed that the women in my audiences loved it and so I switched my songwriting focus for a while to concentrate on that audience, who are my peers, to speak to them,” says Austin.
At the urging of her fans, Sherrié decided to enter the recording “big top” once again. This time she found that a process that once had frustrated her is now exciting her again. “It stopped being fun for me, making records and touring, which is why I focused on writing, but this is fun again. I have freedom now that I never had before. I’m making music for my fans, my music,” says Austin.
“I’m still in the circus. I haven’t joined the real world… and I may never. And I think some people are just not meant to, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a choice. To be an artist you kind of have to walk on the edge a little bit. And that’s where I like it.”