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Andrew Swift is going from strength to strength

15 October 2020 | 1:05 pm | Mallory Arbour

Find out how Andrew Swift and his new single Right On Down has the Toyota Starmaker going from strength to strenght in our interview.

2 x Golden Guitar Winner, Andrew Swift has gone from strength to strength since finding his feet in the Australian country music scene as a Toyota Starmaker grand finalist in 2017. With his debut country album, 'Call Out For The Cavalry' debuting at #1 on the ARIA Australian Country Charts, the Matt Fell produced record saw 5 singles lifted for release including Runaway Train, Fire & Ice (feat. Catherine Britt) and King of the Sky.

With the recording of a second album currently on hold due to the COVID pandemic, he has released his newest single Right On Down. Andrew describes the song as all about coming home to someone at the end of the day, someone to unwind with, someone to make you feel better when it's been a rough day.

You live in Victoria where the rules and restrictions for the COVID pandemic are very prevalent – how are you keeping yourself sane during what feels like a never-ending lock-down?

I've been bingeing Friends. It's one of those shows that’s on in the background while I'm doing emails and stuff. Sometimes it'll be music, sometimes it'll be TV shows. I've already done Seinfeld, [and] The Big Bang Theory in the last six months. They've shows you don't have to think about because you've seen them a million times. And I've come to the conclusion, I hate Ross as a character.

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I [also] try and find little projects. Merch has been a great project for me. I’ve done two online store upgrades in the last six months [putting] out new lines of merch. There’s a lot of support out there. I don’t think anyone took it for granted before, but they appreciate it now. I have different artists take over my [Facebook] page – instead of me just playing on there every night, I’ve been doing a lot of songwriting and I started a podcast with my mate, Clint Wilson.

[We called the podcast] Talking Tangents. We pull a subject out of the hat and see where the conversation takes us. It’s like you’re sitting there listening into a conversation with friends. It’s very light-hearted [and] it’s meant to be funny – we definitely have a laugh at our own expenses. It’s been a lot of fun during those tougher days here in lockdown, [but] you have a good chat and feel better.

We’ve probably done 10 or 11 episodes [so far]. They’re only short – like half an hour. I don’t even know what I’ve said in them. I hate listening to myself. I’ve had friends’ message me and say something in reference to the podcast and I’m like, “I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about” [laughs].

It’s funny you say that, because I read an article where you said, that, when working on new material, you repeatedly listen to the songs over and over and over again. Is there really such a major difference between hearing yourself speak vs hearing yourself sing?

A huge difference! I think if I listened to my speaking voice enough, I probably would get used to it. But if I don’t have to, then I won’t. I let Clint do all the editing [laughs]. I don’t enjoy listening to my music [either]. I listen to the old album occasionally, and it's more of a nostalgic thing. It takes me quite a few listens to get over the fact that it’s me singing. But I do listen to it – especially when going through the mixes trying to make sure everything sounds good, [then] you have to listen to it.

Not long ago, my mate dobbed me into someone saying I co-hosted a TV show called On The Couch on Channel 31 community TV, when I was 24 years-old or even younger. It was part sitcom so we did a bit of acting, I did a street talk segment, and interviewers would interview artists and bands like Henry Wagons and Wolfmother. I happened to have all that footage, so I put it on as a bit of a laugh, but I didn’t realise how anxious it made me to watch myself. I was just like, “This guy’s an idiot! I’m ashamed that that’s me!” It was fun to watch it back when it wasn’t me on the screen [laughs].

I [also] haven’t listened back to my acceptance speeches at the Golden Guitars. I remember walking offstage and saying to the publicist, “Was that okay?” because I had no idea what I just said. I’ve heard I said good things, but I don’t want to watch it back.

Speaking of the Golden Guitars – you took home the awards for Qantas New Talent of the Year and Alternative Country Album of the Year 2019 – where do you keep the prestigious trophies?

They are in my loungeroom on the TV unit off to the side. They’re on display for everyone to see. I see them all the time, but there are some days where they catch my eye. I just stare at them for a moment, have a little smile and remember the feeling of when I heard my name called out and just the whole night. It makes me feel good and warms me up inside a little. I'm very proud.

Your parents walked the red carpet and attended the Awards with you. What was it like having your mum and dad be in the same room with you when you won?

That was the highlight of my life! That was the first time my mum and dad had sat in the same room with me since I was a kid, because they split when I was young. Not that they fight or anything, but I [wanted them] both there to support me. It was an amazing experience because something else happened that night that changed my relationship with my dad.

I grew up with my mum and my sister, and dad lived in the country. He was always a part of my life, but we were never super close. At the Awards, I gave my mum a hug and told her I loved her. Then, I gave my dad a hug and told him I loved him. He was audibly surprised because we had never said it to each other, and now we say it every day and we chat every day. It’s not often an easy thing for guys to say and I was rather nervous about it, but I’m glad that I did.

Your latest single is called Right On Down. Right On Down is about coming home to someone at the end of the day, someone to unwind with, someone to make you feel better when it's been a rough day. Was the song written during the COVID-pandemic?

No, it wasn't. I first heard this song seven years ago. I was – it sounds so made up – but I was dating someone who was living in Canada at the time, so it sounds like that American theory: “I've got this girlfriend in Canada” [laughs]. Anyway, so she sends me an album of demos by a blues artist called [Tom "Bones" Malone] and this song was on it [but was] never officially released.

A few years ago, Gretta Ziller and I started singing it as a duet on the caravan park shows. We actually started recording it back a few months after my album [Call Out for The Cavalry] came out, so I’ve had it recorded the music for it over two years. After I finished my quarantine, after coming back from the States [earlier this year], I ducked up to the studio in Sydney and finished my vocals on a few songs – including this one – and I’m glad I did. I’m happy with what we’ve done with it. It’s very different from the original. I didn’t know if it was gonna be released as a single when we started recording it, but it’s gonna fit nicely on this next record.

This song does sound different to anything on your debut alt-country album Call Out for the Cavalry, which hit #1 on the ARIA Country Albums Chart. Considering you say that Right On Down will fit nicely on your next release – is this the direction you’re going down?

I’ve listened to the old record. Matt [Fell from Love HZ studios], who's producing the new recordings, said, “you're singing better than you were back then,” which is definitely a compliment, but said, “let's kick it up a notch. Let's take it up a step.” Basically, we take the songs and give them what they need, and if the song calls for it, we’re not afraid to lean towards a more commercial sound.

I don’t really want to release the same album either, like you constantly want to be moving forward. I was stressing myself out, putting a lot of pressure on myself about releasing new music because the last album did way more for me than I could have hoped it would. And then I had this realisation that I've got expectations to live up to now. The week in the lead up to [my previous single,] Never Meant A Break Your Heart being released, I lost sleep [laughs]. Like, “is it good enough?”, “are people gonna like this?” and “is it too different?” – if you could overthink it, I did it.

I guess the main difference with this record is that the majority of songs, bar one at the moment, are co-writes. The last album, I wrote most of the songs – there was only two co-writes, both with Gretta. I'm the first to admit I'm a slow songwriter, but I feel like in the current music industry climate, you need to be putting music out consistently, so I thought to try this Nashville copywriting thing to see if it's for me. So, I've really been second guessing a lot of the songs because they are a little different to how I would usually write them – but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a progressive thing. I hope people love the new album as much [as the old]. I'll know if I've put out a shit album or not soon enough [laughs].

For the first time ever, I’ve got more songs than I need for a record. Now I’ve gotta play favourites. I’m not looking forward to having to make a decision on who’s getting cut. You get attached to these songs. It’s only a new seed of an idea, but I’m looking into maybe doing a limited run of vinyls as well.

You asked friends and family to send small snippets of video for the music clip for Right On Down. On your Facebook page, you wrote: “The lockdown restrictions in Melbourne made it pretty much impossible for me to get out and film a music video so I asked a bunch of family and friends to help me out. What I didn't realise was just how much I needed to see those faces during these times. I was smiling from ear to ear with every clip I received, and it really helped on some of the tougher days down here in Victoria … it brings me so much joy.” Do you consider this your most personal music video yet?

I guess this clip is personal because I've got a whole heap of family in there. This is the first clip I've had more people in it [and] the first time I've done a clip that wasn't sort of a performance clip or [with] a little story behind it. During this second lockdown, it was getting to me. I was frustrated with everything. But asking friends and family to send me video clips of them being happy, every video made me smile. I often say I don’t miss anyone when I’m on the road because I’m so involved in what I’m doing. But being stuck at home, I didn’t realise that I was missing people. It made me feel nice seeing everybody.

One of the first people I sent it to was one of my best mates and his wife, Jess. She just goes, “I’m crying. I love it so much!” That showed me that we’re on the right track, you know, she was crying in a happy way. It made people feel something which is all you can really ask for.

You started your music career when you were in high school, when you played in the corner of an Italian restaurant for free pizza and tips. Often working in fast food or in a restaurant can put people off ever eating the food again – can you still stomach pizza?

I love pizza! [laughs] About seven years ago, I built a woodfire pizza over out the back [of my place]. So, I [make] a lot of pizza. I’m a pineapple on pizza person, and I love a Hawaiian, but mind you, the best pizza I think I’ve made in my pizza oven [was,] I had leftover chilli con carne and I put it on a pizza base with cheese, and then chucked some sour cream on top when it came out – it was amazing!

Valentine’s Day next year will be the 20th anniversary since my first gig. I played for whatever tips I could get and a free pizza. It went well, so they kept booking me back once or twice a week, because they knew I’d play for a free feed – and I got fat! I’d only been playing guitar for about nine months. I didn’t have any originals and I wasn’t good back then [laughs]. If I was to hear myself back now, I would just be like, “Man, how the hell did I get a gig?!” I think the most I ever made in tips was $40.

You also worked at Hungry Jacks as a teen – so, same question – can you stomach it?

Yeah, I can [laughs]. I don't eat it often, but I do enjoy it. I’m a Red Rooster fan. If I’m on the road and I feel like treating myself to some fast food like that, I’ll hold out for a Flayva Wrap Combo.

Keep up to date with Andrew Swift on his Facebook page here.

For more in-depth interviews on CountryTown, check out here.