What started out as a casual conversation over coffee about his recent release, ‘Memos’ quickly became a deep dive into his upbringing and mental health’s influence on his approach to music.
Tell me a little bit about your background in music
I grew up in Marietta, Georgia, and then lived in Tennessee for 10 years, where I played in a few alt-rock bands. I moved from Nashville to Norfolk in 2020 and started releasing solo music as Feign Kin in 2022.
To move from Nashville to Norfolk seems like an interesting choice for a musician.
Yeah. If you want to play country or covers you can make decent money in Nashville, but I was always into playing indie rock stuff. I was always influenced by Bright Eyes, and post-hardcore stuff.
Nashville is very industry driven, and the people seem a little more closed off, where as the people in Norfolk seem more excited to get to know you. Allowing myself to be known and seen has been a transition, but it’s made me more confident in myself and my skills.
Was music the main reason you moved here?
Actually, I just had some friends up here. I lost my job during the pandemic and needed a change. I moved here and started working as the head brewer at Kobros Coffee.
Music is something I’ve always done and enjoyed sharing, but it wasn’t a huge part of my decision to move. It’s nice not making music a significant part of my identity. When it’s your identity, you tend to lose sight of the art in favor of doing whatever you can to be a full time musician. I don’t want to do that. I want to create something authentic.
What has been your experience playing music in Norfolk?
It’s a rich, inclusive community. When I first moved here I started making beats everyday and eventually got plugged into the Norfolk R&B scene. I started playing with local artists like Shaolinn, Lundii and Mo Woods before eventually starting Feign Kin.
What was the origin of Feign Kin and how does it differ from your past bands?
The name Feign Kin means “pretend family.” It was originally in reference to being adopted, but I also wanted to create something where people can come together, connect, and feel like family. Musically- When I was in rock bands, I’d usually write the skeleton of a song, and the rest of the band would throw flesh on it. I remember a quote from KT Tunstall that said, “If you can’t play it on just an acoustic guitar, it’s probably not a song”, and that was always my guiding light with this project. If I can present the song in its simplest/skeletal form, and it resonates with someone, that’s the goal.
You’ve mentioned “connection,” and “family”. Are there any other themes that you think sum up Feign Kin? Where do those themes come from?
I want my body of work to touch on healing, especially for the modern man. Women, Theys, everyone. There are a lot of hurting men, though. If I can throw water on that fire in any way, I want to. I honestly feel like healing a traumatized man will heal society at large.
What more can you tell me about your adoption?
When I was 23, my parents decided it was a good time to tell me that I was adopted. I had two semesters of college left, and instead of dealing with the news, I distracted myself with school and got straight A’s (which I’d never done before) I think my body absorbed a lot of the stress because I developed debilitating back pains. I started seeing a cervical chiropractor regularly, and over the course of a year, began to see real results, but I would also cry randomly throughout the day. Come to find out, emotions are stored in our muscles and joints, and when our brain is reconnected with these muscles, we’re reconnected with those emotions.
Aside from finding out these things about myself, I think a lot of us, especially men, are seized up and preventing ourselves from dealing with the difficult emotions we need to deal with.
Do these themes show up in your newest release ‘MEMOS’?
Yeah. I wrote the first song, ‘Disorganized’ at the tail end of 2020. Things were obviously pretty bleak overall at that time. I got a job at a grocery store, and every night I’d ride the bus to work. One night I was waiting at the bus stop, and I overheard a guy giving his friend advice over the phone. He was repeating, “Hold on. You’ve just gotta hold on.” And it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time. It was a reminder that even though I might hate what is going on right now, I can trust that something else will come along as long as I can make it happen.
I wrote the other song ‘Knowing’ in January (2023), and it’s basically revisiting the subject matter from ‘Disorganized’ after coming out on the other side, feeling more assured of who I am. The final lyrics are “Someday show me, all true knowing, peace and quiet.” And that’s all I want for myself. It’s all I want for my friends.
The way the songs blend together sounds very intentional.
Yeah. I recorded both of them together in one take, with one mic, in my apartment. I worked with a team called Perfect Play that helped me film the session. It was just me, a condenser mic, and a nylon string guitar.
What do you have coming up?
Feign Kin is playing full band for the first time ever at the Lava Mini-Fest on April 15th with Berries, The Warm Hug, Drook, Nina Ryser, Kristine Leschper, Prabir Trio, Dietz, and the Dilemmas.
Austin is a writer, actor, and musician in the Norfolk area.