Talking with Johnnyswim



Yesterday I received a phone call that I'd been waiting for all week. Guess who it was? JOHNNY-FREAKIN-SWIM! It was the best phone call ever.

The music of Johnnyswim has accompanied me on late night drives in Des Moines, road trips through Tennessee, and summer adventures in the no man's land of the Midwest. They hold a special place in my heart as a music lover. The duo (real life couple, Abner and Amanda) have a rapturous stage presence that is unlike anything I've ever see. You need to buy tickets, trust me.

I saw you guys perform back last fall in Lawrence, Kansas. While waiting in line, I noticed your son, Joaquin, was walking around backstage. Tell me how having a child has influenced your art.

Amanda: Well, I think having a baby changes everything! It definitely seems to make everything you do matter a little bit more than it once did. You only have a certain amount of hours in the day and you want to give your child your full attention, but you also want to give attention to your work, too. When your time is divided, I think you have to be intentional about finding a balance. 

I've found that after having Joaquin I'm way more efficient than I've ever been before. I wonder constantly: what did I do with all my time before I had a kid? I can get so much done in one day and I think that speaks to the idea of having to be intentional when you become a parent, whether or not you're an artist.

As far as art is concerned, I think with this record we wanted to say certain things to him through our songs. You can hear those messages in "Touching Heaven" or in the title track. We wanted to pass down a little of what we've learned these past few years because they've been the most impactful years of our lives. 

What's one of your favorite memories from the past couple of tours.

Abner: We met in Nashville and started the band there, too. Before that time, I was a valet at the Hilton downtown and I would often see the Ryman Auditorium and have dreams of one day playing there. I remember this one time in particular thinking about it and telling myself you know, Abner, just don't get your hopes up about that ever happening. 

I was reminded of that late last year when we pulled up to the auditorium to play to a sold-out crowd. It all came full circle in such a sweet way and that memory stands out the most for me personally. 

Amanda: Well, my memory is kind of a bad one. (Laughing)

On our last American tour, I got really sick during the last two shows. Generally, I get sick after the tour is done when all that creative adrenaline wears off, but this tour was so hectic that I became sick during it.

I remember having a hard time getting out of bed and I was really wondering how I was going to get on a stage and perform. Literally, I felt like I was going to die and I was sure everyone was going to notice it when I came up on stage. But I powered through and afterwards, our manager commented on the show and didn't even mention me appearing sick at all. That was very rewarding for me and I felt so proud that it was almost like I had won an Oscar for my performance! (Laughing)

Tell me about a favorite song from your first two albums?

Abner: On this last tour I've really enjoyed singing "Georgica Pond." It's very real and very emotional for us to perform; Amanda will even ask the lighting guy to dim the lights because she often cries while singing it. When we sing that song to an audience, I'm reminded of why we do this because it feels as if we're communing with the audience on a very personal level. 

After so much success with this last album, do you feel pressured to create something similar with your next album? I'm curious how you stay motivated to create new songs and new sounds.

Amanda: That's a great question! I don't feel that we've achieved our life goals, you know what I mean? We're very happy where we are, though, and we're not thinking oh, I'll be so happy when we can fill stadiums! We're happy right here.

Abner and I both feel that we've written our songs in such a way that our fans have come to learn and grow alongside of us. We're not dependent on radio or pressured by our label to create that one hit song and our fans know that. Over the years, they've allowed us to write about what's happening in our lives. We really feel that we can write honestly and that our fans will respond to it. Our goal in creating music has always been to be honest.

We're really looking forward to this next season of our lives and creating art within that season.