Buzz act Andrew Swift on Golden Guitars, touring & teamwork
The major feature of this year’s The Toyota Golden Guitar Awards in Tamworth in January was the number of first-time winners and nominees.
You could sense the excitement and apprehension backstage with teamwork.
One of them was Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Andrew Swift, who took out alt-country album for Call Out The Cavalry and new talent of the year.
He had also been nominated for male vocalist and vocal collaboration.
Doors immediately opened after the win, with bookings at country music festivals and various singles shot back into the charts.
Audiences are swelling for his shows, not least for his tour with The Wolfe Brothers who dominated the 2019 Golden Guitars.
“My speeches were also a bit of a blur,” Swift admits.
“I’ve never had to make an acceptance speech before and I went totally blank for a few moments there.
“The main things that I was trying to get across were that it meant so much to me to have both my mum and dad sitting together with me on the evening, as it’s the first time we’ve sat together since I was a child.
“I remember thanking my friends from high school, when in fact I was meant to thank my friends and family for sticking by me all these years, while I’ve been a mediocre friend as I’m always away.”
Swift’s first solo shows were in his teens, playing in the corner of an Italian restaurant for free pizza and tips.
He then started touring along the East Coast, building up a base.
Last year he met with Nardia Drayton, label manager and head of PR & publicity at Social Family Records.
She was already impressed with the way he had created a buzz for himself in various ways.
These included a caravan park tour in his own unique head-turning caravan “Hazel”, a popular social media campaign based around photos of the Dog on The Tuckerbox tourist attraction, and merchandise items as a flyswatter and a T-shirt with his image and the message “No relation to Taylor”.
Call Out For The Cavalry is a strong bunch of songs, including a duet with Catherine Britt on ‘Fire & Ice’.
They only knew each other from the time Swift spotted her in a Tamworth pub and bought her a drink as a thank-you for being an inspiration for others.
Months later he plucked up the courage to ask her because she seemed to be a take-it-or-leave-it person like the character in the song.
The album took its title from a line from one of the songs and reflected its recurrent theme – someone calling out for help, whether it was facing one’s mortality or coping with grief after the loss of a loved one, ‘King Of The Sky’, which is a live favourite.
The first thing Drayton asked at their initial meeting was: “Are you ready to work your butt off and stay on the road?”
His immediate response: “Of course!”
Drayton: “We marked out a strong timeline, singles/album release and marketing plans, which also included back-up plans, if we needed to change anything along the way.
“We still communicate regularly because the album cycle hasn’t finished yet, following our noses and making sure every ‘T’ was crossed and every ‘I’ dotted along the way, from the social media side of things to artwork/branding and everything else.
“I also make sure that there is strong PR, publicity and plugging going on at the same time, so that no matter where we were/are during the release stages, Andrew’s doing interviews and radio are playing his music.
“Andrew is seriously one of the hardest working and motivated artists I’ve ever worked with – he wanted it and strived hard.
“He was determined to get a Golden Guitar nomination and so was I.
“When there were four, we were both pretty floored.
“When he won two of those four, it was a momentous occasion.”
Swift: “Nardia probably had her own plan but for me, the main thing was to get myself out there as much as I could, not just on social media but by doing shows and taking my music to people rather than hoping they’d stumble across it.
“I really enjoy the storytelling and connecting with people during a performance.
“I didn’t want to put myself in a corner of, ‘I’m this sub-genre and I should stick to those gigs’, when the opportunity came up to support Shannon Noll on his tour, I thought it would be a great opportunity to play to an audience that most likely hadn’t heard me before.
“If they happen to like it, then I was in luck. It’s worked out really well and I’ve had a ball touring with Shannon and the guys.
“My thinking is, that people are either going to like what you do or they won’t, the best way to find out is to get yourself out there.”
In a lot of ways, Swift’s rise comes at a time when country music is expanding its audience to people who don’t realise that when they’re liking is actually considered ‘country’, and attracting a wider mainstream media interest.
Drayton: “They’re slowly coming around, especially when it comes to alt-country/Americana.
“It’s starting to become “cool” in the eyes of some who’ve never really been that into it – and that’s my main marketing and PR angle, when it comes down to it. Hopefully, more of the masses catch up soon!
“The Americana win was significant because at the beginning, like a lot of younger music fans, you didn’t realise that Americana and country music were part of the same painting.”
Swift totally understands the younger audience.
After all in his first band out of high school, he was in a pop-punk band to whom country music was distinctly uncool.
Swift: “No, I didn’t know what Americana music was, I just enjoyed listening to music that captured me, and I still do.
“But if we’re talking more recently, around the time that I found my musical feet within country/Americana music then it was probably South Eastern by Jason Isbell.
“My Dad actually told me to listen to that album, in fact, he gave me a copy.
“He has good taste in music…most of the time!”