Exclusive Interview: Five Minutes with Emma Swift

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Australian-born songwriter, Emma Swift has shared her reworked version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Queen Jane Approximately’ along with the official music video via Tiny Ghost Records. The single is taken from her upcoming album, Blonde On The Tracks which consists of another 7 of her favourite songs from the legendary musician. Swift is well recognised in her field in her home country as an ARIA nominated Australian songwriter and having opened for the likes of Ryan Adams however herself and her partner, Robyn Hitchcock  (of The Soft Boys) are currently based in Nashville, Tennessee. The two regularly tour together, sharing a passion for music and he features in the upcoming album on guitar.

Find out more about the unique songwriter and her love for Bob Dylan in the exclusive interview below.

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

I’ve always been magnetised by words and music, ever since I was a small kid clutching a Kylie Minogue 7 inch and begging my parents to play “The Locomotion” on the stereo again and again. Even before I was making music myself, I was involved in indie radio in Sydney and spent all my money on CDs and vinyl and going to shows. I’ve got an old school singing voice and so my influences run that way too: Marianne Faithfull, Sandy Denny, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan – they’re my heroes. Being Australian, Nick Cave is a big influence as well. I’m very inspired by his grace and intelligence and commitment to his fans, but also by his gothic sense of humor. 

Though music was my first form of therapy and it’s still my greatest comfort and my biggest love, I’m also very into visual art, particularly collage, gelatin prints and stop motion animation. I went to the Dora Maar exhibit at the Tate Modern in London last year and absolutely loved it. She’s best known as Picasso’s “Weeping Woman” but her surrealist photographs are absolutely stunning. Recently I’ve begun making my own video clips and my biggest influence there is Terry Gilliam’s animations for Monty Python.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

The idea always comes first. When I am writing songs, I do so mostly on acoustic guitar and piano, so everything sounds quite raw in the beginning. When production starts, I lean hard on the vocal reverb and everything else is intuitive, depending on what the song calls for. For the “Blonde On The Tracks” album, I worked with a wonderful producer, Patrick Sansone. He’s in Wilco and is an exceptionally talented multi-instrumentalist. We both love jangly Rickenbacker guitar, 60s California radio and the Mellotron.

What’s on your current playlist?

Sharon Van Etten – Seventeen 

Sandy Denny – Blues Run The Game

Jen Cloher – Forgot Myself 

DMA’s – The Glow

Cat Power – Stay

Adia Victoria – Different Kind of Love

Bob Dylan – I Contain Multitudes 

Nick Cave – Jubilee Street 

Weyes Blood – A Lot’s Gonna Change 

Hot Chip – Colours 

TV On The Radio – Wolf Like Me

Johnny Marr – Walk Into The Sea

The Sundays – Here’s Where The Story Ends

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

To me, a gig is a spiritual experience. It’s all about eye contact, singing my truth, hoping that resonates with the audience. I’ve played to a thousand people and I’ve played to five. What matters is not the size of the audience, but the way you make them feel.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

There’s never been a moment where I didn’t want to do this.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

I wear a gold bee necklace to help calm nerves and stay in the moment

Any emerging artists on your radar?

YES! I love finding new artists to get excited about. Here’s a few: 

Tristen

Becca Mancari 

Kira Puru

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Whether I’m singing a song I wrote or someone else’s song,  I feel a connection with, I am looking for a way to deal with a feeling that is challenging to me in the real world. Sadness, desire, lust, frustration, longing, hope, joy… They’re all good artistic motivators.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

I play a 1968 Gibson Hummingbird acoustic guitar and a rickety silver electric guitar made in Italy in the 1960s called a Crucianelli. I’ve got a Kawaii piano that I thump out tunes on as well. I’m a singer really, but I use these tools to craft the songs. In the studio, I hire folks who play guitar much better than me!

Any side projects you’re working on?

I have a few fun secret projects on the go, but I don’t want to jinx them by sharing just yet! 

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

My reimagining of Bob Dylan songs, “Blonde On The Tracks” is out on August 14, 2020 on Tiny Ghost Records. I have a full length record of my own songs, “Slow Dancing With Ghosts” that is 70 percent finished, it’s just that with the pandemic it’s been hard to get back into the studio. Hopefully work will get done on that project in the autumn this year and it will come out in 2021.

Famous last words?

Anger is just sadness on fire

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