Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin chose a rustic former church, now a private home called The Caste in Austin, to debut her upcoming new album "American Kid" for an invitation-only audience on Friday afternoon at South By Southwest.

The album, due out May 7 is her debut for New West Records, whose Sr. Vice President of A&R and Artist Relations Gary Briggs crouched by the stage and served as Griffin’s roadie of sorts, even helping her sort out an issue with her in-ear monitors during her six-song solo acoustic performance. Griffin – who’s been working during the past few years with Robert Plant’s Band of Joy and Sensational Shape Shifters -- noted it was her first SXSW even since 2005.

"I stopped 'cause I thought I was getting too old," she said, but noted that since she turns 49 on Saturday, which a friend told her was "the last good year of my life," she decided to return to the conference, albeit in an unofficial capacity.

Explaining that much of the follow-up to 2010's "Downtown Church" was inspired by Griffin’s drives between Austin and Nashville during the past year, Griffin showcased the album tracks "Florida," "Wild Old Dog," "Go Wherever You Wanna Go," "Tha Kind of Lonely," "Gonna Miss When You’re Gone" and the slightly bawdy "Get Ready Marie," which she said she was particular proud of because it’s "a sexy song about my grandparents. That’s a pretty hard thing to write."

Plant, who sings on three of the album’s songs, was nowhere to be seen, but New West labelmates such as Steve Earle, Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller and the Mastersons were in attendance.