With a profound sense of brotherhood, a passionate love of music and a fierce determination, Leaving Austin is forging a path in country music that’s solely their own. Comprised of Austin Machado, Davis Forney and Michael Stevens, the trio’s smooth vocals and distinctive songwriting have made them one of the most sought after bands in Nashville. In less than a year, they’ve garnered co-writes with some of country music’s most successful songwriters including Jimmy Robbins (“We Were Us”, “It Goes Like This”), Scooter Carusoe (“Anything But Mine”, “Mean To Me”), Chris DeStefano (“Kick The Dust Up”, “Something In The Water”), Chris Dubois (“Buy Me A Boat”, “Today”) and Thomas Archer (“Hurricane,” “You Broke Up with Me”).
But their path to this point hasn’t been as quick. Hailing from Visalia, California, a small farming town nestled in the far corners of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, they were all raised on the importance of faith, family and the belief that nothing was going to be handed to them. Country, pop and rock and roll became the soundtrack of their days working in farming and construction alongside their family and friends.
“I lived 40 feet from my grandpa’s house,” said Austin. “I just wanted to work on the farm like my dad and grandpa did. I loved it. My dad plays guitar and sings too so I grew up listening to everything from Van Halen and Boston to Ricky Skaggs, Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson to Michael W. Smith.”
“My mom was 90% Shania Twain while my dad was pure rock and roll,” said Michael. “I fell somewhere in the middle listening to a mix of pop, rock, Christian and eventually country. I spent my days making cattle feed on a local dairy farm. It wasn’t easy, but it taught me a great work ethic.
Davis, who credits his father as one of his biggest influences, always thought he would work in construction like his dad.
“For as long as I can remember my dad has worked as a back hoe operator on construction sites,” Davis added. “He loves it and I always thought I would follow in his footsteps. For several years I did, but my heart has always been in music. He taught me to not give up on something because it’s hard, if you are judged for it or if it doesn’t make much money. He says if you love something, do it. He loves what he does and I have learned so much from that.”
Music would eventually bring the three of them together. Davis met Michael in church and was introduced to Austin at a concert a short time later.
“I will never forget the first time I heard Austin sing,” said Davis. “Austin’s band was opening for a musician friend of mine, and I just remember being unbelievably impressed with his voice. A mutual friend introduced us later that night, and we just hit it off.”
Austin and Davis began writing and performing together, and Michael would join them following his high school graduation. During a short break from performing as a band, Austin began playing solo shows at bars and leaning heavily into his country influences. He developed a solid following and would eventually catch the attention of Gnarley Charley and Jody Jo of the popular Gnarley Charley and Jody Jo Morning Show on KSKS, Fresno’s top country music station.
“When I first met Leaving Austin I knew right away they were a young eager ball of potential,” said Gnarley Charley. “I felt the need to spend some time with them and nudge them in the right direction. We played a couple of their videos (on CMT Canada) and I was hooked! We feel like proud parents watching Leaving Austin evolve from playing on Austin’s uncle’s front porch in Kingsburg to having the honor of introducing them in front of a sold out show of 4,000 fans.”
The encouragement from Gnarley Charley and Jody Jo provided the push they needed to get the band going again. From there the trio, Leaving Austin, was born.
“There was always something about the three of us,” said Austin. “We’ve always been on the same page musically and always enjoyed working together”.
Davis added, “We love each other like brothers, and there are days we fight like brothers but at the end of the day, we are family.”
It would be that brotherhood and a passion for creating music together that would get them through six years of writing and recording songs at night, touring on the weekends and working on dairy farms and in coffee shops during the day.
“We recorded our first album in a bedroom,” Michael said of their DIY approach. “Davis is a visual artist so he designed and drew our logo. We went out and bought a bunch of lights and learned how to program a light show. We’ve always known, no matter how long this takes, we’re doing this and we had to figure it out ourselves. Thankfully we have this amazing community that supports us.”
Their drive and determination paid off. Leaving Austin’s independently-released EP’s, Leaving Austin and That Feel Good, have over 3 million streams on Spotify to date. They eventually caught the attention of Becky Gardenhire, a partner and booking agent at William Morris Endeavor. Becky quickly started booking the band in venues up and down the west coast giving them the opportunity to open for Lynyrd Skynyrd, Josh Turner, Dwight Yoakum, Brett Young, Wynonna Judd, Michael Ray and more.
“I and the WME family have been super excited about Leaving Austin from day one. They have the personal drive, dedication and talent that we look for here, and are thrilled to be part of the team and their journey,” said Becky.
As their popularity grew, the band quickly realized their fanbase now extended far beyond their friends and family at home. It would be the kindness and generosity of people they’ve met on the road, like the couple in a gas station parking lot that lent them a van when theirs broke down, that would get them through some of their most stressful moments as a band. Now, the band is grateful for the community that surrounds them and the opportunity to create music that is unique to them.
“Country music is a community,” Davis said. “While we didn’t grow up in Nashville, we have been embraced by this town. We are creating music we love that draws from our life experiences – the good and the bad. And we are getting to make it with some of the most talented people in the world. We are just grateful.”