Austin puts respect for veterans and first responders into every show

Tours come and go, but Alberta-based country music singer Julian Austin tries to make sure they all have one thing in common: respect for veterans and first responders.

Pre-COVID, Austin toured the world, including several trips to Afghanistan, performing for Canadian and NATO troops. With international travel slowed to a crawl, Austin continued his support by focusing on causes closer to home.

He’ll support one of those causes in Prince Albert on Thursday when he performs at a benefit concert for the River Valley Resilience Retreat.

“I respect those who put themselves ahead of others in a selfless manner,” said Austin, whose father served as a medic in the Canadian Army. “I love our vets and I love our heroes. Since I stopped doing shows overseas I continue to do what I can to help out our veterans and our first responders.”

Thursday’s show is a personal one for Austin. He’s a strong supporter of the Hoggin’ Alberta Veterans Ranch, a 79-acre free-range area near Caroline, Alta., and sees similarities with the River Valley Resilience Retreat that local first responders are starting up near Prince Albert.

“They can decompress and enjoy some time (off), and be around … people who understand what it is to go through PTSD and OSI, and what I call other mind monsters,” Austin said.

Besides playing for Canadian troops overseas and performing for vets and first responders back home, Austin wrote the song ‘Unsung Heroes’ as a show of appreciation. Filming for the music video wrapped up this year, and the full recording is available on YouTube.

Austin received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers in 2013 in recognition of his support for veterans. He described himself as a proud Canadian, who is just looking to give back to a group he loves.

“At an early age my patriotism stood tall, and I still am a loud and proud Canuck,” he said. “I just love our veterans.”

Although best known for his country music, including a nomination for Best Male Country Vocalist at the 1998 Junos, Austin likes to dabble in other genres. He jokes that he’s one of the few best-selling country artists who can get away with covering tunes by Queen, Elvis Presley and Rod Stewart.

He even dabbles at bit in Celtic-inspired East Coast music in a nod to his Sussex, New Brunswick roots, but his heart is in rock and country.

“I’ve got tonnes and tonnes of songs that I’ve not released yet that have a lot of Celtic influences in it, and the Maritime kind of vibe, but I’m a rocker from the get-go,” he said.

“I’m not a traditional Celtic guy, but I’ve certainly written a lot stuff that has the Maritime Celtic, Irish-Scottish influences in it. I love the music though. I really do.”

It’s been a while since Austin last played in Prince Albert, but he’s looking forward to being back. He’s even recruited local drummer Dean Kushneryk to join them Thursday night, after his regular drummer couldn’t make the trip.

“We’re going to come up and just kick ass, and make sure that everybody who shows up has one hell of a great time with us,” Austin said. “We just love going out and giving 120,000 per cent for the folks. That’s what it’s all about.”

Julian Austin and special guests Wade Fehr, Michelle McKeaveney and Katelyn Lehner will perform at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Thursday, Oct. 28. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at www.earc.ca/shows.

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