Austin Mayse’s “Wretch Like Me” is a sprawling track that starts out listing a few of his weaknesses before going into a lengthy explanation of his personal philosophy. Dignity, tolerance, community, multiculturalism, and love are prominent themes. It’s a remarkable song that Mayse formed after viewing posts on social media by conservative Christians.
“I would see things using the Christian example as ways to be against somebody,” Mayse said. “Using your religion to discriminate is not what I got from all those lessons growing up. If that makes me a wretch that needs to be saved somehow, that’s fine. You don’t have to worry about me.”
Most of the humility Mayse displays in the song is genuine. When he talks about not having all the answers or telling people what to believe, he means it. When he talks about burning bridges and drinking, that certainly tracks with lyrics on some of his other songs. Mayse said that his song is coated in just enough sugar to go over well with Texas audiences on both sides of the aisle. But when he questions how there could be divinity for a wretch like him, there’s a bit of an edge there.
“It’s more of a rhetorical question,” Mayse explained. “How could somebody who believes in equal rights for everybody deserve to get into heaven? I don’t think there’s that strict of a policy, and I’d rather be somebody who stands up for others than be somebody with a golden ticket punched into somewhere that I don’t understand or can define.”
Mayse’s sense of community and caring showed up elsewhere in our interview. When discussing his song “Rattlesnake,” which admires character traits in certain animals, he notes that wolves succeed as a pack.
“There’s this fierce individualism in the American culture, but really we’re stronger when we stick together,” Mayse said. “We can stand up for ourselves, but helping out those who can’t is what makes us strong.”
Elsewhere on the album, Mayse makes a strong impression with a lyric about being on “the Southern side of a Northern campaign” on nights he drank too much. It’s a nerdy way to explain that he was both in the wrong and burnt to the ground for his intransigence. The Civil War is a frequent topic in roots music, but I’ve never heard it used to describe a hangover before.
“Bluebonnets” uses the characteristics of the short-blooming Texan flower to describe a shielded woman and “The Rose of Thorndale” is a tribute to Mayse’s relationship done up like old Western mythology. Lastly, Mayse earned a few points with me by choosing a relatively unknown Walt Wilkins song to close out his appearance on my radio show.
Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Austin Mayse and the songs we discussed, starting with The Sober Light, which starts our conversation about his turn away from alcohol. The interview begins afterward. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit http://www.WUSB.fm and https://austinmayse.com for more.