Austin's Bridge: Artists To Watch 2010

Josh Hailey/Mellowtown
Austin's Bridge

Sitting around the home studio of Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus, it's obvious why the members of Austin's Bridge feel confident about their sophomore set, "Times Like These," due March 23 on Daywind Records.

"We were really excited when he decided to come onboard and take on this project," singer Justin Rivers says of DeMarcus, who produced the band's new album.

"It reminded me a lot of what myself and the guys do-really tight harmony and that really special blend that they have together," DeMarcus says of the similarities between Rascal Flatts and Austin's Bridge.

Listen to Austin's Bridge's "Dry Bones (Live)"

Austin's Bridge bowed in 2007 with a self-titled debut that drew a wide audience thanks to the trio's ability to combine Southern gospel, mainstream country and contemporary Christian into its own unique sound. The newcomer even earned a Dove Award for bluegrass recorded song of the year for "He's in Control." The trio's original lineup featured Rivers, Jason Baird and Mike Kofahl. When Kofahl exited to spend more time with his family, Toby Hitchcock joined last summer.

The group released "Live at Oaktree" in 2009 but focused most heavily on recording "Times Like These" with DeMarcus, who contributed a song he wrote, "Angels," as the opening track. "Being in the studio with Jay at first was a little bit intimidating," says Hitchcock, who adds that DeMarcus immediately put the band at ease by cracking jokes.

DeMarcus, who started his career in the Christian group East to West, says he enjoyed his return to the genre. "A lot of my heart and soul has been in Christian music. That's where I got my start and it's something that I very much missed being a part of," says DeMarcus, who credits Daywind senior VP of A&R Norman Holland with recruiting him for the project. "I wanted to find a way to get involved in Christian music again and it's been fun. I think everyone is going to be pleasantly surprised and a bit blown away by what the boys are going to do."