Austin Burke found his niche as a child: singing the national anthem for sports teams around the Valley.
“I learned the anthem at 2, and I sang for the Diamondbacks, Rattlers, Coyotes and Suns—all over the Phoenix area,” Burke says.
“I sang the national anthem at the first D-backs Spring Training game at Bank One Ballpark. I was used to singing in front of thousands of people early on.”
Sports was equally as inspiring as music. Burke wanted to be like Garth Brooks, who participated in Spring Training with the San Diego Padres, New York Mets and Kansas City Royals
“I met Garth Brooks at a San Diego Padres Spring Training game when I was 4,” he says. “It was Garth’s lyrics that drew me to country music. That set up everything for me. I wanted to be like Garth, the singing baseball player. I sang all the way until I was 10, then I retired just like Garth and came back.”
And he came back with a vengeance. His current single, “Whole Lot in Love,” catapulted Burke to Spotify stardom, garnering 44.83 million streams. He also released two other songs, “One Summer” and “Slower.”
“I need Phoenix to be behind me,” he says. “I’m like Dierks (Bentley). I want to come back home and do a big hometown show and do my hometown proud.”
Burke’s hometown is Scottsdale. The fifth-generation Arizonan attended Desert Shadows Middle School and was scheduled to attend Chaparral High School when his family moved to San Diego.
Burke—whose father attended Saguaro High School, while his mom went to Horizon High School—played a short set at Country Thunder when he was 5. He performed at Parada del Sol and Rawhide, where his father filmed him singing the national anthem. He sent the video to Rosie O’Donnell and she invited him to cover “Friends in Low Places” on her program.
“She had me on her show twice,” he says. “It was something else.”
After high school, Burke played college baseball, but an injury cut his career short. He relocated to Nashville at age 19.
“I wanted to return to my roots,” Burke says. “What I love is country music. I was lucky enough to have a couple songs breakthrough, so I could get out of the restaurant business.”
For the next four years, he waited tables, wrote songs and saved money to record his debut song, “Sleepin’ Around.” It caught the attention of WME, who signed him to its roster. Soon he was opening for the likes of Vince Gill, Cole Swindell, Casey Donahew and William Michael Morgan.
“There’s something special about country music fans and the genre as a whole,” says Burke, 25. “Everybody’s in it together.”
Burke feels blessed to be successful.
“It’s been a dream come true, really,” he says. “The coolest part is there are so many people trying to do what I do in Nashville, hoping and praying for a break. A year ago, I was working at a restaurant. To do what I love is such a blessing. I think it’s cool.
“I want to be the next Garth. I’ve always wanted to be Garth. Look, I know I have big boots to fill, but I was born to do that and bring a smile to people’s faces.”
KMLE 107.9’s Not So Silent Night with Kane Brown, Granger Smith, Carly Pearce, Brandon Lay, Tyler Rich, Riley Green and Austin Burke, Talking Stick Resort, 9800 Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale, kmle1079.radio.com/events, 7 p.m. Tuesday, December 4, tickets must be won through KMLE.