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October 30, 2014

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Q+A: Austin Webb won’t slip on by; he’s ready to lead the party on Fremont Street

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Glenn Sweitzer

County singer Austin Webb.

Austin Webb

County singer Austin Webb. Launch slideshow »

Greenville, S.C., country singer Austin Webb, who just celebrated his 25th birthday, has no plans to “Slip on By,” which happens to be the name of his current single.

Webb is part of the lineup of the Fremont Street Experience Country Party on Wednesday as Las Vegas goes country for the 2013 edition of the annual, 10-day Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center.

After the Las Vegas Tree Lighting by Mayor Carolyn Goodman at 5 p.m., Webb will share the spotlight with Roy Solis, Whitney Wattenbarger and Marc Madewell in a show hosted by Steve Helms and Lane Hedeman.

Webb, whose schedule is jam-packed the final month of 2013, is set to hit the stage at 8:30 p.m.; he answered questions over the phone last week from Nashville ahead of his performance in downtown Las Vegas.

You’re going to be performing on Fremont Street on Dec. 11. Have you been to Las Vegas before?

Oh, man, yes, several times. It’s a great place. I walked the red carpet for the ACMs last April. I’ve performed at the Orleans, and I’ve been in town for meetings.

What do you do for fun while you’re in Las Vegas?

I used to go out and party, but now I just stay in my hotel room and watch “Seinfeld,” to be honest (laughs).

What are you looking forward to most in performing in Las Vegas?

I’m looking forward to playing Fremont Street Experience; it looks cool. It’s going to be a big holiday party with tons of tourists, who are always a great crowd. It’s not something you can see just anywhere in the country, and there’s the big light show, right?

Yes, there is — so this is a busy time for you?

I’m excited to get there. And, yes, this is a packed week before I arrive in Las Vegas. I’m in Seattle on Friday, then I’m off to Green Bay to sing the national anthem at the Packers game. I’m worried that I’m going to mess it up!

Then I’m back to Seattle before Las Vegas, then I’m off to New York, then Michigan, but I’m most excited about Las Vegas. And my birthday was on Dec. 1. It’s a crazy December, but I’m happy to not be working a normal job, to be honest.

Happy Birthday! How old are you now?

Twenty-five — a quarter-life crisis (laughs).

Are you a Packers fan?

I’m a Denver Broncos fan, but it’s a surreal honor for me to be asked to sing the national anthem at a Packers game.

How did you break into the music industry?

I was working construction and playing gigs in town and then actually building cars for BMW from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. I won this songwriting contest; there was no money, but the prize was meetings in Nashville. I quit my job and moved to Nashville in March 2011.

How did it feel to play the Grand Ole Opry for the first time last month — and then be invited back the next week?

Oh, man, I am still pinching myself every day to see if it’s real. Once is a huge honor and privilege. My family flew from South Carolina to watch me. It was a spiritual experience. The second time, it was last minute. I had a gig in Chicago and then immediately flew to Nashville.

I went from the airport right to the stage. I’ve never done anything cool like that, and it’s been the single most important event in my music career so far.

You cite Joe Cocker, Otis Redding, Bill Withers and Bob Dylan as music inspirations, and you meld country and soul. An interesting music mix, no?

I grew up in a small town in South Carolina listening to a lot of country music and soulful singers like Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan and Billy Preston. My first concert was Buddy Guy. I love the Motown sound — the soulfulness, happiness, cheerfulness, the emotional and innovative sound of the vocals and lyrics.

Who are some current artists you are listening to right now?

I’m a big fan of Jason Aldean and Quincy Jones. Luke Bryan is one of my favorite country singers right now; he’s a great entertainer.

Do you have a New Year’s resolution, and what are your plans for 2014?

Keep having a record deal really. My main goal is to not have to have another job! No. 1, I’m thankful to have work and to be interviewed. It’s still weird to think that people want to interview me.

Every day still feels like the first day. I make certain to take a step back and look and say, “This is amazing.”

Don Chareunsy is senior editor for arts and entertainment of the Las Vegas Sun.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

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