It is a vision of a boundless neon sky at the intersection of a country highway on the horizon. Through these sounds, Manuel tells us stories of his family and memories of his upbringing as he reckons with the brevity of life in relation to those to whom we are closest. Nostalgic chords with a modern sound in the song “Family” have us remembering our family gatherings for better or for worse. His song “Hold on Tight” has us meditating on how brief each phase of life is. The surging “Love That’ll Last Forever” gives us courage and hope for what might be. Up the Ridge, released July 2016, was written while singer-songwriter, Austin Manuel, was living at his grandparents’ house in the country north of his hometown, Nashville. His grandmother had passed and his grandfather was in assisted living with dementia. Manuel was asked to move in to keep the grass trimmed and the house warmed. The home that had been filled with family members since his mother was a child was now vacant. Manuel spent the summer and winter following his grandmother’s death with memories at her kitchen table writing the songs and exploring the nature of sounds that comprise the compelling Up The Ridge.
His first single, “I Just Want You to Love Me,” reached the U.S. Viral 50 and the Global Viral 50 charts on Spotify. Other key tracks such as “I Could See Me Needing Her” and “Sue in Blue” show hints of inspired sounds from Beach House to Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young. The narrative of Up The Ridge unfolds slowly in each song, and churns to a well-paced crescendo. His dream country becomes the meeting point of a bucolic life and engaged artistry and has garnered respect from touring companions, Escondido and Kopecky, whose members co-produced and contributed performances to the record. Up The Ridge is an entrancing album showcasing songs of ghostly countrysides, limitless skies, and homespun ingenuity.