Michael Austin can tell some stories about the road he’s traveled to where he stands today. He’s pretty much seen it all as a member of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, working everything from street patrol to high security gang detail. He’s proudly served our country as a member of the United States Air Force during times of conflict. Now the burly lawman is trying his hand in a different line of public service: as leader of the renegade country outfit Austin Law!
Austin was born in the small town of Cole Turkey Acres, Missouri. As a teen traveling back and forth across the country, he developed a taste for artists like the Eagles, Alabama, the Marshall Tucker Band, and of course, Johnny Cash. After lying about his age to join the Air Force at just 17, Austin ended up in California four years later, playing in a number of bands and developing the smooth, warm sounds that characterize his band’s debut album, Neon Halo.
Based out of Southern California, the eight-member group brings a wealth of talent and influences to the table, incorporating modern rock, deep roots country and traditional bluegrass into the Austin Law sound. Veteran Nashville producer Eddie Gore helmed the project.
“I like to call it ‘California Country’ because these are city folks who love country music,” says Gore. “They aren’t singing about mud flaps and chickens and stuff they don’t know about. They’re just a bunch of true country music lovers!”
When pressed, Austin confesses he is wary of labeling his band’s music too narrowly. “I guess you could say there’s a lot of duality in my music, and in my life,” he says matter-of-factly.
After all, this is a man who was trained in both opera and special operations in the Air Force; a man who still writes his mother hand-written letters every month and police reports during the day; and a man that legendary Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell once mistook for a bouncer until the linebacker-sized singer got up on stage and started his set.
Somewhere along the way, Austin says, he ended up employed by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. If careers in law enforcement and country music seem mutually exclusive at first glance, don’t worry, Austin has found a way to juggle the two, although sometimes not without great personal risk in the process!
“I was actually on the phone one day with my producer, Eddie, discussing plans for Neon Halo when I got dispatched on a call,” says Austin. The pending legal case prevents him from discussing any specific details, but Gore remembers the episode vividly.
"I was on the other end of the line, when all of a sudden I hear Michael say "Put down the gun! - repeatly!" Gore remembers. "I listend to the entire exchange on my end for almost 45 minutes before my phone finally died. To be honest, after that I wasn't sure whether we were gonna make a record or not!" he says, chuckling.
Fortunately, Austin lived to tell the story and record another song.
"Sometimes I sit back and wonder just what I've got myself into!" he says, laughing and shaking his head. For the time being, however, it's just another day on the job for Michael Austin.
Austin Law Band Members:
Roberto Cerletti (Drums) – Roberto Cerletti began his musical career learning a variety of instruments as a child in Switzerland. He picked up the drums at the age 11 and has been playing professionally since he was 15. He recently moved to Hollywood, where he became the newest member of Austin Law.
Steve Pandis (Bass, Vocals) – Steve Pandis began playing trumpet as soon as he was old enough to hold one, but took up the bass and started his musical career at the age of 18. Pandis earned a Jazz Studies degree from USC, and has performed across the globe with various artists. He is in the cast of the film, "A Mighty Wind," as a member of The New Main Street Singers.
Travis Raab (Guitars, Multi-Instrumentalist) – At 20, New York native Travis Raab made the move out west to Los Angeles, where he taught guitar before joining Austin Law. One of three guitarists in the band, Raab handles lead, rhythm and steel guitar duties as well.
Aubrey Richmond (Fiddle, Guitar, Vocals) – Aubrey Richmond first picked up violin in her church worship group as a youth in the state of Washington. With an extensive background in bluegrass and country, she began playing professionally after she moved to Los Angeles in 2005. Since then she has worked with artists such as Mary White, Vibrasol.
Billy Roberts (Guitars) – Guitarist Billy Roberts started his musical career as a child in Fall River, Mass. Roberts and Austin have played and written songs together for many years. Roberts has played in several country and rock bands. His lead and diversity on electric and acoustic guitar help to round out the guitar trio in Austin Law. Roberts plays lead guitar, sing background vocals, and writes songs for Austin Law.
Marty Wagner (Guitars) – Marty Wagner started his career playing in nightclubs as an underage teen, but today fills both lead and rhythm guitar duties in Austin Law. An experienced session player and songwriter for a major label, Wagner’s former bands include Visitor, Rome Burns and Kimberly Jean.
We've just released our debut Album, "Neon Halo" and its available now at Itunes, Amazon, and Rhapsody.