|Photo: Royce Jackson Wagner|
There is an exciting polarity to Dustin Swinney's music that is both decadent and minimal. He is a talented singer and you can hear the focus and sincerity in his voice. I look forward to seeing what's next for him. Be sure to check out his Soundcloud page (http://soundcloud.com/
swinneyswinney) and watch out for upcoming events. Thank you for the conversation Dustin!
To get things started could you tell us where you are from and what drew you to creating music?
I was born in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and I was raised in a small town an hour outside of Nashville, Tennessee called Waverly. My Dad was a tour manager and studio assistant in the late 70’s/early 80’s in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and he was obsessed with music. I can’t remember a time growing up where music wasn’t being played or listened to. I was certainly a weird attention starved little kid and singing was a way to get adults to notice me; once I realized that there was no turning back.
How do you go about writing a song? Do you write the lyrics first or does that come later?
I am always writing in my journal and sometimes I will pull lyrics from there. Other times I will record a melody on my phone and match lyrics to the melody at a later date. If I’m working with producers I am often sent a full/fleshed out track and the melody will be inspired by their music. When I’m producing I will come up with a simple beat, or synth line, and free style over it; fleshing out the details as I go along. I’ve learned there isn’t a method to my madness and I try to let songs form as naturally as possible.
Do you go through a period of frustration with each project or does it unfold pretty naturally?
For me, if a song or project doesn’t unfold naturally I know it’s time to walk away for a while. The songs I’ve written I love most have happened organically. Granted, some songs require a little more attention than others, but if the core of a song doesn’t happen naturally then I know it isn’t going to work. Some tracks sit on my computer for months before I revisit them. Often times my best work happens after I’ve spent some time away from the original idea.
What do you think of the music scene in Portland?
I think the music scene in Portland is a myth. There are a lot of cool bands and artists in Portland, but as far as a “scene” goes I don’t think there is one…
Does playing music effect how you listen to music? Do you ever get burnt out on listening after you spend a lot of time arranging your own music?
Definitely. Listening to music can be a bit overwhelming especially if I’m finishing up an idea; I get too caught up in the details of how things are mixed. Subconsciously I go through spells where I don’t listen to music for weeks on end in order to clear space in my head.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Not really, I usually focus on not embarrassing myself.
Has anything crazy happened at your live shows?
I played an intimate show at a tea lounge with Sophont, and this couple sitting front and center kept offering their very rude opinions to us in between songs. It got to a point where I asked them to leave. Recently, I was playing a house show and this very drunk “dude bro” asked me, in the middle of a song, if he could free style. Looking back I should have let him because I’m certain he would have embarrassed himself. It’s not easy getting up on stage and performing for strangers. I don’t expect everyone to like my music, but keep your opinions to yourself or leave.
It seems like you had a really productive collaboration with Gavin Neves of HXXS. Was that a one off, or is there more in the works?
Gavin is amazing and uber talented. Not only is he one of my dearest friends, he is one of my favorite collaborators. I hope to always work and collaborate with him in some capacity. There are still two or three songs I haven’t released yet. I plan on releasing everything we worked on as an EP before the end of the year and you will be able to download that via my bandcamp:http://swinney.bandcamp.com My ultimate goal is to do a small cassette release of the EP, but I’m not sure if that will come to fruition or not.
Is there going to be any new Sophont material as well?
Hopefully. Mike and I would like to release an album at some point. We’ve demoed around 20 songs over the past couple of years. We’ve recently narrowed down the list to 10 songs. Mike and I have had a crazy year personally and it’s been difficult to schedule a time to get those songs finished. I hope we get a chance to get the material completed because I think we’ve come up with some really cool and vibe-y songs.
What sort of electronic gear do you use?
I’ve only recently begun producing my own music. I have a long list of things that I want to buy and learn how to use, but I’m currently using an Arturia key step and Studio One; I’m starting simple.
If you had your pick of any synthesizer or piece of gear that has ever been made, what would you chose? Would you keep it or sell it?
There are sooo many things I wish I had… Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer, Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1, Roland GAIA SH-01 Synthesizer, etc. etc. I would absolutely keep them and continue to add to the collection. When I was a kid, I had a Casio Rapman Keyboard with scratch disk, voice effector, and microphone; I would give anything to still have it.
For most of my life I have been pretty dismissive of mainstream pop music, but I find your appreciation of it to be really endearing. Do you like it for the glamour and surface appeal or is it something beyond that? What do you take away from pop music?
For me pop music goes far beyond the glamour and surface appeal… I get the dismissiveness of mainstream pop music because most of it is generic crap. However, I think pop music is an underrated art form that doesn’t get enough credit. It is extremely difficult to write and produce pop music and while there is a tried and true formula it’s what can be done with that formula that interests me. With that being said I think pop music has shifted so much over the years. Most of the time I’m not even sure what qualifies as pop music and what doesn’t. To me someone like Jessy Lanza writes and produces great pop music, but someone that listens to top 40 pop would completely disagree with me.
Could you share your expertise and give us five pop songs that are worth listening to?
I’m going to stick with 5 songs that have been released in 2016. I could get advanced and dive deep into the 80’s, 90’s, and early 00’s but that’s a whole other article.
1. Terror Jr. “Come First”
2. Ariana Grande “Touch It” or “Into You” (really anything on Dangerous Woman – it’s a really well done pop album)
3. Anhoni “Watch Me”
4. Beck “Wow”
5. ABRA “Pull Up”
What sort of role does playing music have in your life? Is there joy in it? Necessity?
Music is everything to me. Music is something I try to work on every day in some form. I find myself getting very frustrated if I’m not working on music.
Do you work in other artistic mediums than music? If so does it give you some sort of balance?
I was a visual artist before I ever started making music and it’s very much an important aspect of my creative process. I usually listen to what my mind wants to do as far as creativity is concerned. Some days working on a painting or drawing appeals to me more than working on music. As long as I’m creating every day I usually feel pretty balanced.
Do you have any grand plans for the future or are you just going to see how it goes?
At this point I’m concentrating on producing my own music; I hope to evolve and become completely self-sufficient. Eventually I’d like to make art and music full time but what that means exactly I’m not sure. Like every artist/musician I want to reach as many people as possible through my work, but the tricky part is figuring out how to make that happen. In the meantime I’m going to stay focused and keep working.
Any upcoming projects or shows?
I have no shows planned currently. It was important for me to perform the material I worked on with Gavin, but I don’t see myself playing another show until I figure out how to play my new music live. I’d also like to incorporate more performance art into my set as well. I have a lot of ideas on how to improve my live show and I hope to work on those ideas over the next couple of months. As far as upcoming projects are concerned, I hope to release a collection of self-produced songs by the end of summer. In the meantime, I have a lot of collaborations in the works. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of electronic, dance, and hip-hop producers and I’ll be featured on some of their tracks over the next couple of months.