The music business can be a funny thing. For proof of this, look no further than Sherrié Austin. The Australia native has had her share of radio hits like "Lucky In Love" and "Streets Of Heaven," but over the past few years, Austin has shifted gears a bit. Her songwriting career has flourished, with cuts by Tim McGraw and George Strait, among others. Austin thought her recording days were in the past.
"As an artist, I thought the circus had left town," the singer tells Billboard.com. "But, I turned around one day, and there was this fabulous new circus up in cyberspace. It enabled me to create again, and make a record in a way that I never had before, because I was able to get directly to the fans. They were able to get directly to me, and ask 'When are you getting back in the studio?' I would have never known that if the entire industry had not changed because of the Internet. I thought I was, but once an artist, always an artist, you know."
The new album, "Circus Girl," is causing a bit of a stir for the singer, and to say it's a project that Austin is hands-on about is an understatement.
"I've been on major labels, and then I was on Broken Bow, which was considered an independent, but now, I'm on the indie-est indie label of all, which is my own. I never intended to start a label, but when you do this kind of thing, you have to. I've had to wear many hats. It has probably been the most challenging thing I have done my entire life. It's self-written, self-produced, self-financed. I have friends helping me that I couldn't have done any of this without that are just miracles in my life. It's still a tiny label, consisting of only about four people. I make all the decisions -- whether good or bad, and some have been… both! I've learned about licensing, coding, templates for art work. That was stuff I was never involved in."
What Austin prefers to focus her energies on is the music -- whether performing on stage or writing. It was the latter that brought her to Music City.
"I moved here to be a writer," she confirms. "I think in my heart of hearts, that's my first love. It's a different kind of high when you get out there and perform, but there's something so personal and so intimate about writing a song that comes out of nowhere that never fails to blow my mind."
Austin says that many of the songs on the album are ones she couldn't have written years ago without the life experiences she has gone through. Take, for instance, the sensual "Just Want To Love You Tonight."
"Your motivation to do something like that is totally different in your early 20s than in your 30s or 40s. There's so much more baggage that comes with that. It's not that I just want to go get silly and crazy with some guy because I want to do that. This song is about all this hurt and pain that this person has gone through at different levels. If I had written that when I was 25, people might have a different opinion of me," she says with a smile.
Another highlight on the disc is the Billy Sherrill-esque "Sleep With Me." Of the retro-sounding tune, she says "I love it because it's so old school country. To me, I could have heard Lee Ann Womack or a Tammy Wynette cut that, a real country singer that's not afraid of subject matter that is a little uncomfortable. I kind of miss that today on country radio. I'm just longing to hear that."
Austin feels liberated at this point in her career to be able to write and record songs that are in line with what she thinks. "I think everything is so PC that it drives me up the wall," she admits. "I don't know if it's because I'm Australian and we're not PC. I think people worry about stuff that is just a waste of time. Just say it. I don't know what people are so afraid of. That's what great country music has always been about. I do think we overthink things. I know I did when I made my other records, so I'm not pointing fingers. You might offend some people, but you're never going to get everybody. It never occurred to me that you are not going to please every single person. There are people who don't like the Beatles, so just do what you do."