Austin French has been rising in the Christian music scene for a few years, and now he's come out with a very personal account of his rough childhood with his first book.
The book, as well as a song on his latest album, is called Jesus Can.
"I never thought I'd be an author, but here we are," French says. It's an in-depth look into his tumultuous childhood and the skewed view he had about God and faith.
The book actually began as a series of journal entries about the songs French wrote in 2019 when he was on tour. Quite quickly he realized that his life story, especially his childhood, could be a powerful story for others to read.
"It's the most vulnerable thing I could have done. I've always loved giving background on the songs, but now I've giving background on the person behind the stories, behind the songs."
He didn't have an easy-going childhood, and things came to a head at a young age for him.
"That 8-year-old boy grew up in a ministry home. I wrote in my journal when I was eight in my closet that I will never be a Christian. I hated Christians."
French shares the duplicitous nature of how he saw Christians.
"The idea of being a Christian was distorted. For me, my dad was a worship pastor, so I was at church all the time, I was coached on all the answers. We were the perfect family... at church."
At home was a whole other story for the French family.
"As soon as we got in the car, it felt like World War III broke out. I was taught, even if subconsciously, that you're one way at church and that's where you hide all the mess that's happening at home. At home, you live in a dysfunctional reality."
The song with the same title is on his latest album, Wake Up Sleeper.
"The song and this book dive into what it was like for me to come home and worry what kind of mood my dad was in, or the chaos I was walking into."
When he was 13-years-old attending a youth music conference, French had an encounter that changed his life and view on God.
"I stopped looking at people who had hurt me and I finally met Jesus, the healer of broken people. I've seen first hand, the things I couldn't do, Jesus can do."
When the speaker talked about Jesus, it was in a way that French had never heard. He also had a realization that day.
"I had judged Jesus by broken people but I had never met the guy. That night was when I surrendered my life to Jesus and He became my Saviour."
While this was a major shift in his life, French had some pain and bitterness that still needed resolving.
"There was a lot of brokenness in my past that I had to deal with. All the things that came around what I grew up in, through a divorce, through a broken home, through ministry, through our church asking us not to come back, all that is in the book."
French can relate to those who have been hurt in the name of Jesus.
"Anyone who's been added by the church or Christian culture, I would say to you what was said to me. Don't judge Jesus by the brokenness you're surrounded by or broken people that have hurt you. Jesus died for really broken people."
French doesn't just sing about being a Christian, he lives out his faith through a relationship with God.
"Maybe it's time to turn around, give it another chance, maybe it's time to find the healer of your soul. His name is Jesus."
Right now, French and his wife are parents to three children, two boys and a girl.
"Dad and husband are probably my favourite titles and the favourite part of my life."
Only a year after being married, God gave the couple a gift they did not expect.
"We met a little boy, he was six-months-old and he was entering into the foster system with my mother and father-in-law. As soon as we met this little boy, God just whispered to our hearts that we were his parents."
This all happened the day before French and his wife were moving to a different state, however, they couldn't shake the feeling that they left behind their little boy, according to French.
After some time of fighting for Coleman through foster care, they were able to have him live in their home while they worked on adopting him.
"Two months after he came to live with us, my wife gave birth to our natural-born son. So we went from no kids to two kids within two months."
The adoption process wasn't easy, but French says it was worth it.
"It was wild but it was something we would never trade or change. When God calls you do something you have two options. You can run away and maybe end up in the belly of a whale. Or you can be honest and say, 'I'm afraid and I'm scared, but maybe this is what faith looks like'."
Spending the past few months at home due to the pandemic, French says it's been a learning, growing experience.
"I realized in this season even more how the real rockstar in our house is my wife. Now I'm getting a front-row seat to being a full-time dad and it's a beautiful thing."
When COVID-19 started shutting down events, French still had 10 dates left on the tour he was on. Over the course of 48 hours, the future of touring his music came to a full stop.
"I remember getting the phone call, I was on the biggest tour I had ever done, and I remember freaking out."
It left French with many questions on his identity as well as financially for his family.
"My wife just spoke some wisdom and said, 'what if God is going to give us the greatest peace we've ever experienced?' That's what I've experienced. It feels like God gave me all the time back that I had lost touring."
He's spent a lot of time at home over the past few months, which turned out to be a big blessing for the whole family.
"I'm actually getting to be the dad I've always wanted to be, and husband. It's changed me. I've realized I don't have to do everything in the future to be successful. I can take time and rest and say no to things that I need to."
French started doing Drive-In tours roughly two months ago, which has allowed him to continue performing his God-given talent once more.
"Now as a 26-year-old dad and husband, I've been able to see that God really was working for my good and for His glory, even in the mess, the scares, and the shame. I'm grateful to be able to share where I am now."