But the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, who wound up in fourth place on the competition series, is ready to move on from sentimental love songs. In July, he’ll release his five-song debut EP, “Misguided.” The soaring vocals that made Austin an audience favorite are intact, of course ― but now, they’re accompanied by danceable, synth-pop beats.
HuffPost got an exclusive first listen to the new single, “Answer,” which Austin says reflects his struggles as an independent artist in the notoriously cutthroat music industry.
“Tell me, tell me is there ever an answer? I’ll be running in circles,” the 27-year-old Chicago native sings on the ’80s-influenced track, which can be heard above. “Love me, love me just a little bit harder, will it ever be worth it? Top down with the radio on, we don’t really care if they play our song.”
Along with the other tracks on “Misguided,” “Answer” marks the start of a new musical phase for the singer-songwriter. Since his stint on “The Voice” wrapped in 2015, Austin has kept active by releasing a handful of singles, including 2016’s “Only You” and 2017’s “Bulletproof.” However, he says “Misguided” is the first project where he feels like “a fully realized artist.”
“Coming off ‘The Voice,’ I felt a lot of pressure to do many different things... [but] with this music, I feel like I’m finally getting to say what I want to say,” he told HuffPost. “I hope my fans see my investment in developing myself as an artist and a songwriter outside of what they saw on the show. I hope they see that journey needed to happen.”
Austin co-wrote the songs on “Misguided” with Tim Atlas, another “Voice” veteran with a burgeoning indie fan base. The two men were roommates during their “Voice” days and had established an artistic rapport before setting foot in the studio.
And while his sound has evolved, Austin believes his new music continues to reflect his truth as an openly gay man. As for other performers who intend to tackle queer themes through their work, he believes their sole obligation is to be responsible in doing so.
“Vocally, I think I sound the most gay I’ve ever sounded on anything I’ve done,” he said with a laugh. “Being gay is not a night out. I’m gay every single day, not just when I want to have a fun night out or have a crazy story to tell.”
Pointing to Halsey and Julia Michaels as influences, he added: “If everyone is just more accepting of themselves, is honest and embraces all of what makes them them, the next generation is going to be even more so.”
Jeffery Austin’s “Misguided” is out July 11.
#TheFutureIsQueer is HuffPost’s monthlong celebration of queerness, not just as an identity but as action in the world. Find all of our Pride Month coverage here.