We had a chance to sit down with Justin Osborne of Susto before their album release show at the Parish in Austin, Texas on Friday 7/28/23.
With the preshow hustle and bustle happening all around us, we
found a comfortable spot in the green room and had a conversation with the frontman.
Austin 101: Hi! Thanks for giving us a few minutes before the show.
Justin: It’s gonna be fun. It’s our first night of the tour. So it’s like, we’re a lot of nerves. We’ve just been rehearsing and tonight’s when it starts for us. Dress rehearsal is over.
Austin 101: How did you come to the decision of having the album release in Austin?
Justin: My wife is from Austin. She’s born and raised here. When we met a couple of years ago, she moved out to South Carolina with me, then eventually we moved up to Asheville. It was actually
before we decided to move here that we knew where to begin the tour. We just moved to Austin a month ago. We figured it would be a great place to start. We knew we would be doing the west coast as the first run of the album. So I figured, starting in Texas would be a great place to begin. I’ve gotten to spend a lot more time here as she and I have been together so it’s always felt like a second home in a way. It just felt like a great place to kick it off.
Austin 101: Is this your first time living in Austin?
Justin: It is! She actually lived right around the corner from here when we first started dating. I kinda lived with her, but I still had a place in South Carolina. This is the first time that all my stuff is
here and I live here.
Austin 101: We welcome you to our beautiful city. It’s a great place to be.
Justin: Thank you. I know you guys are always getting flooded with people moving here so I figured I don’t want to be a part of that crowd that catches all the drama.
Austin 101: Speaking of your wife. On the album, she has co-writing credits. How much input did she have and how did the idea come? Was there already a creative relationship?
Justin: We met through song writing. We had some mutual friends through bands that we had toured with before. We met and we started writing ideas back and forth and it became more than just a
writing partnership. When we started writing for the record it was just like a natural thing. She and I had already begun writing a lot of music. We have a side project where we write songs together. She’s not a performer but she’s been a writer for a long time. The way it went down with the songs, she co wrote on the record they’re both like the two heaviest songs. One of them
is called “Tina”. It’s about dealing with brothers who have meth addiction, homelessness and schizophrenia. The other one is about some fans who lost someone on the way to one of our
shows in a freak accident. I was just carrying both these things around separately and my wife and I have this rapport and she knows me intimately. She pushes me like “hey you have
something you need to write about right now. Writing has always been your way of pulling this stuff out and getting it off your chest” She initiated the writing but also, line for line, some of the
best lines of the songs are hers. I’ve never had a partner that I wrote songs with before. I’ve always avoided that. I’ve always thought it was gonna be bad to mix the two. It’s crazy to have a
creative partner who knows you on such an intimate level. Someone who’s with you all the time too, that can sense when things are off and knows what you can do creatively and pushes in the right way. So she contributed by instigating that creative process but also writing some of the best lines of those songs too.
Austin 101: When you were starting the album, what was the process? Did you have words in your head that you needed to get out, or did you just start making music and the words came as you went?
Justin: For us, we go song by song and the songs come in different ways. Sometimes they come to the band all together in the studio. Sometimes they come to me when I’m writing in my own place or
with Caroline, my wife, and then we’ll turn it into something different in the studio. The albums always reveal themselves. It’s not like we’re going to make an album and it will be about this
topic. This was more about what was happening in my life right now and a lot of the songs were written about these things. Some of the songs were written alongside songs from the last record
that didn’t fit the theme of that album. I had just become a dad but I also just lost my dad right after my daughter was born. The concept of life and death were very present in my mind. Around the time of that record is when my daughter’s mother and I split up. We had been together for almost a decade. Through Covid we realized that we had spent most of that time apart because I had been on tour for most of that relationship. The separation wasn’t completely smooth but it’s been amicable, which I’m grateful for. That fell apart and in that moment is when I met Caroline. It was two things happening and no in between. There wasn’t overlap either. It was almost immediate. There was still a lot to process from everything that was happening. That’s been a part of our relationship in therapy and with each other, through song writing,
through communication, knowing that I was gonna have to process everything even though we were still wanting to pursue a relationship. It was a lot of change and either way I was going to
have to deal with not being in the same house as my daughter everyday. That was the hardest thing for me to have to reckon with. Part of the process of the last few years has been accepting
the pain of that growth and change and channeling it. What else can you do? It is what it is. There’s a line in one of the songs that says “all my deepest secrets have all been told and I can
only keep keeping on.” All I can do is keep going forward. I’m kinda committed to moving forward and having respect for what is happening and learning lessons.
Austin 101: Which happens to be the theme of the title track “My Entire Life” right? That’s deep.
Justin: I hope it’s not too deep, music is supposed to be fun. I’ve been pouring a lot of personal stuff in there. It made me think a lot. Of course it’s my life. Being able to feel this bliss of new love and this new chapter of my life opening up. My life opened up this way that I didn’t think it really could. Juxtaposed at the same time feeling this pain that was coming along with all that. It was really obvious to me how joy and pain were together all the time. How we’re constantly bouncing between them or we’re just seeing one without seeing the other. On the record it was decided that we were going to talk about all this heavy stuff but not forget that there is a lot of joy inside us too. I’m not gonna deny that.
Austin 101: You had mentioned Covid earlier. During the pandemic, what did that mean for the creative process of the band? Did it help or did it hinder you?
Justin: Honestly, it was kinda both. In one way it allowed us the space and time to focus on making records. We made our fourth record, Time in the Sun and also started making this record during
the pandemic as well. We had time. We’re a small business so we were able to apply for money from the government and got it. We kept each other employed by staying in the studio. In that
aspect it was really great. We were able to do a lot. Usually, trying to find time to record between touring is so hard. We just had all this time in front of us. At the same time, folks that were
playing with me live were pivoting and finding new careers. So on the other side I had to put the live band back together. I had to lean on friends like Johnny who I had been working with in the
studio but was not in the touring band at the time. He came back in and it was really good for the band because he is a founding member that had taken a hiatus. When he came back he
brought Ian who was playing keys for him. Kevin came in and he was also an early member. I lost all these players, basically everyone except our drummer Marshall, and me. It was what we
needed. We had grown stale and we were not really gelling the way that the band needed to. So Covid was almost like a reset where we got to rebuild it the way we wanted to. It’s been a
positive thing for the band even though the bottom line, the touring and getting people in the door has taken a while to come back. From the creative side, I feel like the band has benefitted
from that experience.
(The Tour Manager walks in here and says “it’s time.”)
Austin 101: Thank you so much for your time Justin. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.