Born into a strong church-going home, with a God-given gift for singing and a mother who very purposefully developed his and his three sibling's vocal talents, Daniel grew up in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, where he still resides today.
"We would sing at the dinner table," Daniel recalls with a chuckle. "She'd sing a note and we'd have to harmonize with it before she'd serve dinner! But it wasn't a hardship. She really instilled a love for music in us. We formed a family group when I was nine called 'The Austin Family' and we performed, a cappella, all around the area. My older brother sang tenor, my mother was the alto, and my sister and I did the soprano parts."
When Daniel expressed an interest in taking piano lessons, his mother, unable to take on the expense, instead bought him a keyboard which he taught himself to play. Strongly influenced by a number of traditional Gospel greats as a youngster, including the Hawkins Family, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, and particularly Daryl Coley, as well as mainstream giants Stevie Wonder and Donnie Hathaway, among others, Daniel's vocal talents developed to a level where he auditioned for and was accepted into a prestigious Maryland high school that focused on music and the arts.
By his later teens, Daniel had discovered a passion for classical music, entering Howard University, where he majored in vocal performance. Daniel was fully prepared for, and anticipating, a career in classical music when he realized the call of Gospel music and ministry on his life. As he states it, with a poetic flare, "I had to put away my passion for my purpose."
Daniel, having sung Gospel all his life, was able to apply the technical expertise and finesse acquired in his classical training to his well-honed Gospel style, adding a powerful and distinctive flair uniquely his own. He conducted the Howard Gospel Choir for three years, and performed regularly in churches in the area, becoming a familiar figure in Gospel circles in metro D.C. Having discovered and developed a hand for songwriting during his years at Howard, Daniel had an impressive catalog of original material to his credit when he signed with OMNI Entertainment and began the pre-productiuon planning and preparation for On My Mind.
Musically, Daniel paints on a canvas that can truly be called his own, from a palette of musical colors as wide and arresting as his own seemingly boundless imagination. Backed by the esteemed Howard Gospel Choir, which he conducted for three years, Daniel describes his music as "tradition-rooted, with a contemporary flair and an urban edge." Add to that a master's touch for strong, pop-flavored ballads and you'll be getting an idea of what Daniel Austin is about. One Listen to On My Mind and you'll know that you are hearing more than great Gospel music. Daniel Austin 's On My Mind truly marks the arrival of one of Gospel's brightest and most important new artists.
Co-produced by Daniel, and produced by Isaiah D. Thomas, frequent writer and co-writer with Daniel on the project, On My Mind shines from the first downbeat to the final fade. And on an album filled with strong songs and transcendent performances, a few key cuts still stand out as particularly special.
"Jesus Is" is a tender, moving choral ballad of devotion and praise to the Lord, with the choir giving Daniel a rock-solid foundation on which to literally soar in his dynamic, breath-taking tenor voice.
"Try Jesus," starting out with only Daniel's solo grand piano and vocals, both nothing less than spine-tingling, is a moving statement of faith, drawn directly form Daniel's own life experience.
"I wrote that when I was still in school, at a time when my spirit was really troubled and it seem like everything in life was failing," Daniel recalls. "I'd tried everything...my own energy, my own strength, my own resources. Nothing worked until God just dropped the message so clear in my spirit simply to try Jesus, and trust Him to work out for me things I couldn't do for myself."
"I Need Your Spirit" holds all the fire of the great Gospel tradition, updated and reinvented for modern ears. Beginning with Daniel's commanding voice atop a classic Hammond B-3 organ--a hallmark of the traditional Gospel sound--the song moves into a joyous, up-tempo declaration of both mankind's singular need for Christ and Christ alone, as well as a celebration of His faithfulness and goodness to all His children.
"The first solo that I ever sang was 'He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need,'" says Daniel. "The message here is similar--He will always meet our needs, despite our inevitable human frailties and shortcomings--but the song is in a modern, urban pocket that I think a lot of people can latch onto and embrace.
All but three of the cuts that make up On My Mind were recorded live at Washington, D.C.'s Temple of Praise. Of the three studio tracks that round the album out, "Faults," resounds with a truthful earnestness that is nothing short of compelling and an edgy, hip-hop groove and mix that puts both the singer and his message squarely front and center.
Daniel has also finally realized a call into spoken ministry which he first received nearly a decade ago, recently becoming a licensed minister in the Baptist church, with plans to pastor his own church one day, following a similar path to that walked by other famed pastor/singers of Gospel, including Marvin Sapp, Donnie McClurkin and Hezekiah Walker.
"I answered the call when it was first given," says Daniel, "but I also ran from it for a long time." I think I used my music as a justification for that, but God finally got my full attention, and I realized that one did not have to exclude the other, and in fact, they could, and do, complement and strengthen each other."
And he stands poised for a new and much higher level of recognition and opportunities in both music and ministry, Daniel is a man who clearly has his eyes set on success, but focused all the more on an even higher calling.
"Every artist wants to share their gifts as far and wide as possible," Daniel concludes, "but I'm at a place where I can see it's really all about changing hearts and saving souls, and giving people encouragement that there is a God who sees and knows all, and is loving, and giving, and forgiving. As long as I can sing and someone comes to me afterwards and says, 'You spoke to me....you helped me, 'then I know I'm right in line with God's will and where He wants me to be."