Austin French grew up with Winter Jam on his life’s bucket list.
“I grew up going to Winter Jam, and it was out of it that I decided I wanted to be a Christian music artist when I was 13,” French said. “To be on the stage now, it blows me away. Every night is so special because I realize what a gift it is.”
The 2023 edition of Winter Jam — Christian music’s annual behemoth tour — is the second French has been involved in, his previous in 2020.
French hits the stage first this time around. When the lights drop, it’s 12 minutes of pure energy, he said.
“It’s 12 minutes of moving and shaking,” French laughed. “It’s one of the favorite sets I’ve ever gotten to put together.”
Don’t believe he’s having that good of a time? Check out videos of French on social media. Just don’t expect the entertaining French, 28, to be a part of the stereotypical, “I’m going to show you everything I do, eat and think” approach that most his age take.
“I know it’s (social media) somewhat necessary, but my biggest priority is my family, so if there’s one thing that’s going to lack in my career, it’s social media,” he said. “It’s one of those things that sometimes isn’t healthy for me to be on. I’ll just drown it out and forget that it exists for awhile. And you know what? I’ve never been happier in those seasons. I just want to live in the moment and feel what’s happening rather than try to recapture it later.”
Much like We The Kingdom, French’s journey hasn’t been the smoothest at times, growing up with an abusive father who was the pastor in the French family church. The result was that French grew to dislike anything and everything about Christianity.
“I was very jaded and I hated Christians for a long time,” French admits. “I couldn’t understand why the godliest man in my life would beat his kids and wife behind closed doors and ask us to pretend it never happened. My view of Christianity was that I didn’t want to be like that — pretending everything was OK when my world was falling apart.”
Things got so bad that the French family was kicked out of the church and asked never to return.
His only escape was music. At the age of 13, French learned of the popular secular artist and guitarist, John Mayer.
“I wanted to play guitar because I thought that’s how you get a girlfriend,” he laughed. “So I went to a music camp and a guy to on the stage and said the words that changed my life forever: ‘Don’t judge Jesus on the broken people he came to save, because broken people hurt broken people. Jesus wants broken people.’ That’s the moment I realized I had judged Jesus on my dad, our pastor that asked us not to come back, and on the rumors about my family. But I’d never met Jesus, so that’s why at 13 I decided to give Him a try, and found out that He could do everything I couldn’t do. The fear and the jadedness all began to dissipate, and He began to transform me.”
French isn’t afraid to tell his personal story on stage. He saw the effect it had on the audience the first time he did so, and he hasn’t gone back ever since.
“It’s been really cool to be on this side of it and see the same revelation in others that happened for me,” he said.