Sunday, October 24, 2010

Featured Artist, Jon Swift

Welcome Featured Artist

    I feel truly honored today to be bringing this Blog back with one of the most exciting musicians I have heard in a long time, singer/songwriter, Jon Swift. Jon plays his own kind of music. He doesn't limit himself to a genre, or get caught up in the idea of what he "should" be writing.

    Jon writes from the heart, and his songs are truly stories. They transport you to a place, as seen through Jon's eyes. For just a moment, you catch a glimpse of the world that inspires him. Jon's songs are real, beautiful and emotional and he isnt afraid to share the dark sides of the soul.

    I first heard Jon live at the Roost House. I sat in the audience, totally enthralled in the stories he wove with words and music. I can still picture the green sea and the boats from the bench that he writes about in "Ode to O'Rourke" and I can relate to the tortured soul of "...empty lighthouse".

    After listening to his music and getting to know Jon through this interview, he is someone that I just want to sit down and hang out with, over a few good beers and a few good stories. Please take a moment to listen to Jon's music with the Amazon Widget to the right of this interview. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

1. Who are you? Where are you from, how old are you? Tell us about yourself.

I was born in New York some 37 years ago, grew up in San Diego. Since then, I’ve indulged wayward tendencies but have spent most of my time in the western US.

My fascination with music began early when my father was still alive. He used to sing American folk songs with me, and in doing so instilled a particular kind of joy, or even ecstasy, associated with singing. Later, in the solitary years of my childhood, I took to sneaking in to my neighbor’s house to tinker on their piano. These experiences formed the foundations of my music, and I have continued since then in a similar vein, teaching myself to play instruments and accompanying those instruments with voice. Over the years I have become more narrowly focused on creating and producing songs. As I side effect, I’ve taught myself to play guitar, banjo, piano, ukulele, mandolin, harmonica, jaw harp, and a handful of other folky instruments with varying degrees of proficiency.
Throughout most of my adulthood music has been a constant, though clandestine process for me serving to balance and enhance my other endeavors in life. I have spent many years working through the mathematical details of the physical universe and have received multiple degrees from the University of California in physics and astrophysics. Equally important in shaping my character has been an ongoing relationship with the natural world. I have frequented the ocean since I was 2, and have kept up my skills as a surfer over the past 27 years. On land, I prefer wilderness, be it desert, forest, alpine, or chaparral.

Though I have never really fostered any particular aspirations with making music, circumstance has allowed me to dedicate the vast majority of my time to making music these days. It has been a welcomed gift, and I intend to use the time to do justice to the abstract inspirations that have propelled me through the wonderful turbulence of life.

2. What kind of music do you play?

The American west has a distinct feel, philosophy, and character that I’ve been steeped in. This inevitably shows up in my music, in a similar way that an accent shows up in speech. Yet I don’t play western music, or country, or Americana, or folk either, really. I don’t know what to call it. My girlfriend calls it “mod-west.”

As far as intent goes, much of my music comes from a place of overcoming—be it hardship, tumult, fear, myself, whatever. Things that I feel fortify the soul, those are the things I feel motivated to share. In that way, I think my music is similar to the American spirituals. However, I am not in allegiance with any particular religion. So, I guess, in the end, you could call my songs “mod-west secular spirituals.”

3. What does your Band name mean?

I play under my own name usually, as I typically find myself band-less. However, I have had the recent opportunity to play with a truly inspiring group of musicians based mostly in Ventura and Ojai, CA. We worked on a surf movie soundtrack together starting in early 2010 and we call ourselves the Melali Sessions Band named after the movie, Melali. It is a Balinese word that means to hang out, in the colloquial sense.

4. When did you decide to make the leap from hobby to Profession? Tell us about your first show.

It is unclear when I became a “professional musician.” Perhaps it was when a couple of my songs were used in a surf video back in 1996. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get paid for that, though. My first performances back in the mid 90s were open mic things; those were hardly professional. Hmm... that’s a tough question. I’ve been playing little shows forever it seems, and people have bought music rights from me for years. So I guess I’ve been “professional” for quite a while. Now that I’m thinking about it, the Roost House show this past summer struck me as being particularly professional. I was approached and treated professionally—rather than it being a favor, or a friend of a friend thing—the performance was professional, and I had a couple of professionals accompanying me. But when the leap to professionalism occurred, I couldn’t tell you; it’s been a gradual thing.

5. INSPIRATION. Anything, everything. What inspires you?

I feel like the natural world is the ultimate inspiration. Everything we create comes from the natural world. All our great ideas and advancements are inspired by, or even directly modeled after, the natural world. After all, we ourselves are the natural world. Our visions, ideas, desires, emotions, thoughts; they are all part of the natural world. So, for me, understanding relationship is the source of inspiration, and the vehicle for growth. By that I mean being able to handle the connectedness of our world, the connectedness of people, and of people with the rest of the natural world. It is a sort of alignment of thoughts and actions, not necessarily in an intellectual way although the intellect is certainly a part of that process. There is no inspirational “thing” for me that can be defined, or grasped, or bought. Inspiration is in our very nature, and it is the decisions we make on a moment-to-moment basis that place us in the flow of that inspiration or otherwise.

6. Explain your process a bit.

Trial and error.

7. What are your goals and dreams, where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I do have goals and aspirations, and I’m quite motivated. However, my goals are almost entirely abstract. They are things like discipline, joy, freedom. I pursue these things by dedicating myself to whichever path appears to lead in those directions rather than planning a long-term course of action and forcing myself through it. At the same time, I do not feel whimsical about the course of my life, and I stand by the commitments I set. It’s just that… well, 10 years is a long time and I can’t really say.

Interestingly, I also have these recurring images—landscapes, primarily—and they have something to do with the future course of my life. When the time comes to make significant decisions, I often notice some new feature in the landscape that has always been there but I haven’t seen before. Sometimes I think I missed my calling as a painter or visual artist. Though I think all my paintings would have been of the same thing; kind of like Frida Kahlo. Only instead of her mono-brow, it would have been a seagull flying or something. At any rate, I hope to be seeing many beautiful things in 10 years.

8. Where can you be found?

Ojai, CA is your best bet. Or, if you mean “found” in the virtual sense, is a good place to start; and Jon Swift Music on facebook can keep you updated on things.


    Thank you for stopping by and joining me in getting to know Jon Swift. I hope you leave here with a new favorite artist. Please feel free to visit Jon at any of the places listed above. You can purchase his music directly on his website via PayPal.

    If you like what you hear, please share it and we would love if you left some comments below telling us what you think

Have a beautiful day!!

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