The words that open the newest album from Thom Swift ring with a truth that will certainly resonate with the common man:
“These days are getting harder for a young man to breathe. I got a wife and two babies they're all depending on me.”
In a day and age where lyrical subject matter is playing second fiddle to the creation of a hit, you are given a musical masterpiece such as Swift’s newest record The Fortunate Few. The album, Swift’s third solo effort, is all at once soulful and mesmerizing with the acclaimed singer-songwriter finding new depths in his music.
The reason for this is relatively simple: Swift writes songs and sings them from a grounded, real perspective. If you ask the singer about the subject matter contained in the 10 songs on The Fortunate Few, he will be quick to tell you he doesn’t know how to write music any other way.
“There is no smoke and mirrors to me. I have been doing this a long time; more than 18 years now. I pride myself on being real because that is all I can be. I pride myself on integrity and respect and try to live all aspects of my life by that,” Swift says.
With almost two decades of making music behind him, the writing process of The Fortunate Few was unlike anything he had undertaken in the past.
“One thing that is different about this record than my previous albums was that I had time to write the songs and think about how they cohesively would fit onto the record. Having a family, it is sometimes difficult to set aside the time necessary to disappear and do what I have to do. Songs on my previous records were typically spread out over the course of a year or two. With these songs however, I dedicated a solid month to the writing process. I would jump in the RV, drive 15 to 20 minutes outside of town and park somewhere beautiful and work there for the day. It allowed the record to be more focused and more cohesive. I can hear the difference that the writing process made in the songs.”
After the stylistically diverse Blue Sky Day (2010), a record that earned Swift accolades from national publications such as Canadian Musician, SOCAN’s Words and Music and Penguin Eggs, Swift settled into where he is perhaps most comfortable: the realm of roots and blues music.
Swift wrote all but two of the songs on The Fortunate Few, a testament to the success of his daily songwriting excursions last fall.
The track “Circle of Boots” was written over the course of one evening with his good friend and fellow singer-songwriter Dave Gunning. Also with Blue Sky Day, The Fortunate Few also boasts a cover song. This time around, Swift chose to include a track written by Ray Bonneville. The friendship between Swift and Bonneville dates back many years and helped cement Thom’s decision to include Bonneville’s song “River John” on his newest record.
Swift’s longtime band mates, Geoff Arsenault (drums), Brian Bourne (bass) and Bill Stevenson (piano and organ), helped the singer-songwriter lay down the bed tracks of The Fortunate Few live off the floor, much as they have done with Swift’s previous efforts. Unlike his prior albums, however, Swift enlisted the help of a few folks that he has encountered while on tour, including Mike Stevens, touted as Roy Acuff’s favourite harmonica player as well as St. FX musical alumni Scott Marshall, whom Swift has known for the better part of two decades.
In addition to welcoming contributions from Stevens and Marshall onto his record, Swift also had the opportunity to work with acclaimed guitarist Kevin Breit whose enviable resume includes having performed on Norah Jones’ landmark record Come Away With Me.
“I met Kevin Breit 15 years ago in Vancouver when my band Hot Toddy performed at the jazz festival. Kevin was playing with a band called Sister’s Euclid and his playing just blew my mind. I consider him to be one of the top guitarists in the country. After having reconnected with Kevin at a show in Toronto a couple of years ago, I reached out to Kevin to see if he would be interested in contributing to the record. He asked me what I wanted to hear from him. I told him I simply wanted his brain in these songs and as a result, he ended up playing everything from banjo to mandocello, recording at his home studio and then sending everything back to me.”
Thom took the work of Stevens, Marshall and Breit and incorporated it into the bed tracks that were previously laid down by his core band of Arsenault, Stevenson and Bourne. With the assistance of engineer Ed Renzi, the project came together. Once Renzi had completed mixing the record, he and Swift took it to Charles Austin's studio, with whom he worked on his two previous records, and ran it through an old 80's Studer board to half-inch tape.
The result? The Fortunate Few is, by Swift’s own account, his best effort to date. And though musicians typically say this, the deliberate, thoughtful choice of words on Swift’s part when discussing his record makes you believe that this is the case.
“This album is the best record I have done, bar none. It flows and just makes sense. The first time I listened to the finished product, I realized that it was the first time that I was happy with absolutely every aspect of the record. I am 14 records into my career and to have this be the first record that I truly felt that there is nothing I would change, is a remarkable feeling.
And that, I believe, can be easily tied back to the music being something real for me.”
Thom Swift is a multi-award winning singer-songwriter who performs a distinctive blend of roots-blues. Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Swift is known for his “sophisticated guitar-playing”, “earthy baritone voice” and “textured and truthful” lyrics.
Prior to his fruitful solo career, Swift played with blues-folk trio Hot Toddy for 12 years. As a solo artist, Swift has three recordings to his credit: 2007’s Into The Dirt, 2010’s Blue Sky Day and a 2011 children’s recording titled, The Wood Buffalo Youth Song Project.
On March 5, 2013, Swift will release his third solo recording, The Fortunate Few.
Swift has performed in support of John Hiatt, Dolly Parton, Bill Frisell and John Mayall and has performed at countless folk and blues festivals throughout Canada, United States and Europe. He also performed shows at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, co-headlined a sold-out show with Symphony Nova Scotia and recently represented Atlantic Canada at the 2013 International Blues Summit in Memphis, TN.
Recent awards and nominations include:
Wood Buffalo Youth Song Project
2012 East Coast Music Award for Children’s Recording of the Year
2012 Music Nova Scotia Award for Children’s Recording of the Year
Blue Sky Day
2011 East Coast Music Award for Blues Recording of the Year
2010 Music Nova Scotia Award for Blues Recording of the Year
2011 East Coast Music Award nominee for Album of the Year & Male Solo Recording of the Year
2010 Canadian Folk Music Award nominee for Producer of the Year
Into The Dirt
2008 East Coast Music Award for Blues Recording of the Year
2008 Canadian Maple Blues Award for New Artist of the Year
2008 Canadian Maple Blues Award for Galaxie Rising Star
2008 Music Nova Scotia Awards for Musician of the Year & Blues Recording of the Year
2009 Canadian Maple Blues Award nominee for Acoustic Artist of the Year & Songwriter of the Year