Radford University was lucky enough to host rising acoustic pop artist Austin Renfroe in the Bonnie last Wednesday. Renfroe is originally from Nashville, Tenn., but spent a lot of his time in Fredericksburg, Va. When he first stepped on stage, his baseball cap made it hard to see his face. It’s typically taboo to wear a hat on stage, but this bad first impression went out the window when he took the mic. His powerful, soulful voice had audience members’ jaws on the floor when he began to sing. Everyone looked at their friends as if to say, “that voice can’t possibly be coming from that tiny body!” Renfroe told the audience later that he knows his voice doesn’t match his body, but often some of the best musicians are the ones that surprise you.
Renfroe’s rhythm guitar and skilled finger picking had the audience tapping along with him as he sang, “we are burning it up with the way we’re feeling.”
“I write a lot of love songs; that’s kind of my thing,” he said after his first song, and while that may be true, the songs were passionately written and each had their own unique sound.
Before launching into his song “Honesty,” he shared his inspiration behind the piece: the end of a three-year relationship. His deep vocals immediately captivated the audience as he sang, “I think about you when you’re gone, but it’s still not enough to keep me here … there’s no point in dreams if you don’t chase them.”
Renfroe’s powerful message was the most impressive. Despite his obvious relationship struggles, as well as a physical struggle with severe arthritis in his knee, he was still able to make the audience laugh and relate to him. He wasn’t sad like his songs made him seem; he was happy and hilarious, touring around different colleges across the country to chase his dreams. That’s the message he’s trying to deliver, that even though relationships are really awful sometimes, as long as you chase your dreams you’ll never really be alone.
Renfroe delighted the crowd by announcing his love for pop music and love songs, which he followed with a few Disney covers including “A Whole New World” and his personal favorite, “Kiss the Girl.” He sang with an almost country, heartfelt twang to laughter and applause from the audience. Renfroe ambitiously hopes to tour the United Kingdom soon, and still has 56 more colleges to add to his tour before the summer. His biggest influences were all strong voices: Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston and Gavin DeGraw. This inspiration and influence is evident in his confident and powerful performance.
Renfroe really made the crowd fall for him with a cover of Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be.” The eyes of the women in the audience went glassy as his soulful voice rang out around the room.
“I’m just going to sit here and smile because I’m just so content,” said freshman Dominique Harrison.
Renfroe initially became noticed by winning a contest on MTV for his song “Taking Me Under,” which includes catchy lyrics such as, “lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, but it’s what I feel when I look in your eyes.”
Renfroe finished his performance with a long falsetto note to cheers and loud applause from audience members.