For a long time, Andrew Swift did not think he was country enough. A former 'punk rock kind of storyteller,' settling into the country genre wasn't a comfortable place to be. After a friend took him to see a few select shows at Tamworth one year, he realised there was a 'whole alternative country scene, as opposed to mainstream,' and that is where he fitted in.
He says, "This year has been the most hectic. I'm trying to juggle everything, and I'm pretty exhausted most of the time. I get home from work and go, 'okay, I gotta do some music work.' I don't know any other way." The work he is referring to is his full-time day job doing caravan repairs, plus his band The Rattlesnake Choir. As it's wedding season, country covers are in demand and he's doing two-three gigs per week. "Work people say you are burning the candle both ways. [But] Music is always going to be a part of my life."
The Rattlesnake Choir have released an album, and an EP created in El Paso, Texas. He says during the recording of 'Summer Storms' the vibraslap sounded "like a choir of rattlesnakes – and the name just stuck in my head." The second fortuitous moment came at a friend's place in Greensborough, one year ago. "I was going through a breakup and played this song acoustic." The reaction from his friend was instant, "Dude, you gotta record that." Tucked in his pocket was a voucher from a friend to record an original song. So, he hit the studio.
The juggling act does 'make it hard to find time to do an original show.' But, as a driven independent artist, he makes it all happen. "I've never been on the dole. I've always worked hard to support what I want to do. I'm debt free and funded all of my recordings. I just saved hard!"
Amidst the hectic pace, he admits to being a 'slow songwriter' who's very picky. "I am not one of those songwriters that does a heap of songs." Swift follows a certain process, and it involves formulating it in his head. No music sheets or written details.
He's found that collaborating with other artists, like close friend Greta Ziller, has brought this to the fore. "We've started a songwriting session, and she asked if I had a notebook for writing ideas down. [The] Look on her face was horrified!" His reply, "If it's not good enough to stay in my head, it's not good enough to be in a song." That's worthy of being a motivational quote.
He reveals that writing; singing and visualising the lyrics all come together in his mind. "I don't play with lyrics or a run sheet, a music sheet … I can't read music at all." After starting on drums when he was 12, he confirms he could read percussion music, but … melodic music is very different, "I didn't want to read."
It's this 'give it everything' ethos that's seen him establish a foothold in the States and at Tamworth. He says enthusiastically, "I've got such a great network, and I've been making friends so quickly. Everyone is really accepting. I have so many more contacts! [I'm] Definitely going back next year to play more and more shows."
One person who'll be happy about his sojourn to the States, is his number one fan. Otherwise known as 'Swifty's Mum' (or Mom), his mother lives in L.A. "Can't show my mum any demos anymore, she just wants to show people. My mum is an abstract artist, and I said, 'mum, it is like showing a painting that isn't finished.'"
Swifty's also had to cut her off from video previews. "She really cracked it at me as I wouldn't show her the film clip! I said 'mum, I am trying to do this professionally. She then tried the guilt trip on me, 'we are your parents and we've supported you …'"
It's at this point he cracks up and declares, "I am telling you my life story!" I reassure him it's a great life story. He confides that when he first started music, his mum wasn't supportive at all. "I didn't pick up a guitar till I was 16\17 as I was going through depression." Now, his mum is a great support, really proud and even asks him to bring his guitar along to BBQ's. There's even a 'Swifty's mum t-shirt. "Some of my friends at Tamworth want one! I remember she came to a show at the Reverence once and, in between songs I heard her talking. So, of course I heckled my mum from the stage."