In the middle of a tour to promote the their new album-Diamonds-duo JohhnySwim speaks on how they’ve come to make beautiful music together. .
So where are you guys now on tour?
We're in New York.
It's rare that a husband and wife team up to record as a group…how did this come to be?
The way that it all started is kind of how it remains…it started as an excuse to be alone with her and hopefully make out. So once we started making out-we continued to write songs so we could keep making out. Now we're married and I just realized I don't know what the relationship looks like without the music keeping us around each other all day-I'm just addicted to being around her. So I figure we'll just keep writing songs and singing them.
So how did you two meet?
(Amanda) We saw each other across a crowded room-but the first time we spoke was in a coffee shop in Nashville. His roommate at the time was an old friend on mine I happened to be visiting from New York. While visiting Nashville a mutual friend introduced us. The friend who introduced us is a songwriter call Matt Carty-who got his big break in Chicago.
Where are you from originally and how did you get started in music?
I'm from Jacksonville Florida and Amanda's from Los Angeles California.
(Abner) I had nothing else I was really passionate doing with my life other than music. It was the only option for me-I never had a plan B. I never really had a plan-just a big goal of making music and making money.
(Amanda) I also from a very early age loved writing songs some really dumb songs and my dad would record them to cassette tapes-so I have a slew of them hidden away. I found out from a friend the way you got to play shows and be on TV to sing in front of other people is to have an agent. So I begged my parents for an agent from the time that I was five until like twelve until they found someone. Then I just started singing and writing with other people and producers.
When we met we were both a bit burnt out with the music industry. It was kind of a weird time when the old guard was slowly dying. Before the industry was this bright shiny beacon that was then falling apart and everyone was wanting a sure thing.
Separately we got a lot of you could be this person or that person. (Abner) I got a lot of you could be the brown John Mayer. And I was like I'm good…how about I just stay the brown Abner!
So we were both over where the music industry was and decided even if we had jobs we didn't love or day jobs we didn't love-regardless of what we were doing to make money-we'd always be singing somewhere-even if just for ourselves we'd be doing it together. Now we're excited to be doing it for other people and don' t have to be eating Raman noodles all the time-now we're up to eating fancy donuts!
How would you describe your style and musical influences and inspiration?
(Abner)One of my greatest musical inspirations of all time is Bob Dylan. I loved what Bob Dylan said about his songs. They would always ask him what did his songs mean…what is that about. And he would always say the best way to say it is in the song.
I could say we're folky with soul influence and pop stuff which would be pseudo accurate. But I feel like the best way to describe our sound is to have somebody listen to it.
Tell me about the name JohnnySwim.
(Amanda)It was honestly kind of a joke-when we started singing together everyone had these really serious name ideas for us. People kept asking what our name was going to be and we didn't really know.
We had a meeting one day at a coffee shop and were there with some business people who wanted to help develop us and they kept saying-you need a band name instead of just going by Abner and Amanda. They gave us this whole pitch about it being so important and such a big deal to have a name-because that was the first thing people would see. We were honestly over whelmed with it.
(Abner)We didn't have a band name and happened to look up on the screen and John Travolta was on TV and we were right next to a pond with a bunch of kids swimming in it and we were like Johnnny swim! Like straight up out of some dumb movie-where a guy can't make up a name for himself.
What made the name stick was someone from a PR label-said JohnnySwim-that's the worst name I've ever heard. (Amanda) She was like-what does it mean? And we were like it's a metaphor for life. (Abner)The rebel in us made it stick.
Speak about your album Diamonds set to release April 29th.
(Abner)We're super proud of it. I don't have any buyers remorse. I produced the album because Amanda talked me into it. It was a journey writing the songs. It was a journey recording the songs and it's been a journey playing the songs live. It has it's own life and journey as well. I'm just happy to be a part of it.
There are 12 songs in total.
When you pull together a song is there a particular process you go through?
(Amanda)It can be different every time. Sometimes I'll be cooking in the kitchen and he'll start playing something and I'll start singing. Or sometimes I'll be in the shower and come up with a song in my head or a lyric to a melody that already exists to somebody else's song and will sing it to him and he'll put in the guitar.
But it's always different and always involves friends. When you're married you don't always agree on something especially when it's creative and we'll have a third person come in and help out with the direction-be a marriage counselor and tell us what they think will work.
What was your experience like performing on David Letterman?
(Amanda)That was so much fun.
(Abner)It was also nerve wrecking. We've done Tonight Show and the Today Show and have been on stage from as long as forever singing songs-but for whatever reason-Letterman made us crazy nervous.
It was such a fun experience. Afterwards I felt like we were floating off stage. They were very kind to us-Paul Schaffer was really cool. Their guitar player came up to the dressing room afterwards and we had a drink and talked about life and music.
It was one of the moments I could keep in a jar to revisit it and relive it anytime I felt like it.
Letterman is such a New York experience. That theater is tiny. The dressing rooms are little. You've got to go up to the 6th floor. It was just so right for New York City. On TV it looks way bigger than what it really is.
It's so small I literally hit David Letterman with a broken guitar string by accident. That's how small the place is.
You guys are going to perform here in Chicago at the Vic Theater on the April 24th…what can we expect from your show?
(Abner)Hopefully some good jokes! I think the set is 45 minutes and we're going to bring it. It's going to be fun-we'll have the band with us. I think we'll just have the rhythm section-but we're going to go for it.
Chicago has been so good to us lately-we were just in Evanston at Space. We're coming in for this and will be back for Lollapalooza. We never really realized how much of a home base of sorts Chicago would be. The crowds have been so kind.
And as we always say…we only bring half the show…what creates the show is what the crowd brings along with us…the full experience. We know what to expect from Chicago and it will be quite the experience!