It’s not too often that you hear the term busk being thrown around in conversation, and to be honest I wasn’t aware of it myself until I met Austin Sexton. The British term ‘busk’ [buhsk] is defined as “to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place”, but we’ll break it down to street performing.
Story | Jasmine Sabagquit
Now, imagine yourself enjoying a beautiful weekend, walking around Santa Barbara’s popular retail destination Paseo Nuevo, and from the distance your ear catches the funky, soulful sounds of a local busker. It was here along Santa Barbara’s historic State Street, that we met with Austin Sexton. Equipped with his guitar, mic stand, battery-operated amp and guitar pedals, we had the opportunity to experience the Pennsylvania-native in his element.
You’ll immediately notice Austin’s natural style and presence. Though he’s not a try-hard for the physical aesthetics, an unbuttoned blue button-up, gray bandana, and leather boots perfectly describes his laid-back and on-the-go lifestyle. With that he wears confidence, humbleness, and demands attention during his performances that really makes you stop, look and listen.
As we stood by capturing footage of him performing his curbside set, we noticed an assembly of vagrants pausing from their busy days, clapping and grooving along to his songs, and a few dropping bills into his open guitar case. However, it’s not about the money for Austin, but the exposure and opportunity to share his story and sound to the world, and actually prefers the sidewalk over a stadium.
We sparked a conversation on the stigma of busking since the craft plays a significant role in his overall life and transition into California. As a marketing strategy that exposes him to hundreds of people on a daily basis, the rhythm and blues phenom garners the opportunity to gain new supporters one by one exemplified by every dollar he earns, or every photo, video, or follower gained on social media.
I actually came across Austin through a mutual friend’s page on Instagram. As I scrolled through his page, the album cover for his debut project GOODSEX (short for “Good Music From Austin Sexton”) stood out to me. It’s reminiscent of classic vinyl records your parents used to listen to and features him standing on a mountainous brush area, dressed in a classic denim jacket, and electric guitar hanging across his back.
The visual perfectly matched the musical presentation, which provided a unique blend of nostalgia and modern flavor that’s funky, soulful, melodic and not overly saturated by any type of beat or drop. Austin “seeks to bring ‘live instrumentation’ and ‘traditional song structure’ back to a modern day free-for-all music production platform,” as shared on his website. His lyrics tell a story, and none of them goes deeper than his song “Oh Anna”.
Coincidentally, Austin was in the middle of his big move from Santa Barbara County to Los Angeles when we met him. Recently, he performed at his first LA show for Live on Beverly at Riviera 31 at Sofitel LA, and he even went back to Santa Barbara to perform at his usual curbside spot at Paseo Nuevo. At the end of the day, though the busker is always outside, the busker can never get out of you.