Photo credit: Jen Coyner
Flower Shopping, the latest project from Ross Swinson (Release the Dog, Barnwell) is a reflection on age and the meaning of friendship. On “Waste” Swinson’s lush assortment of guitars suggests late career Elliott Smith mixed with bands like Noah and the Whale. It’s smart of offering of passing chords and epiphanic revelations that show Swinson’s not only a great guitarist, but a keen arranger and lyricist. He joined me for a chat about his new EP, questions of identity, and finding inspiration in old things.
You can listen to “Waste” here.
SC: Tell me about “Waste”
RS: I'll get the shameless promotion out of the way and start off by saying it's the single off my upcoming EP, which will be out June 8th.
Basically it's a song about how relationships suffer over time. As we get older, life gets more complicated and it's just hard to keep up with everyone you might want to stay in touch with. Ultimately you just have to cherish the time you get to spend with people and be thankful for the people that reenter your life here and there, even for just a moment.
SC: I love these lyrics “Our voices crack and howl at the thought of spending our lives just as we're told” Can you tell me about them?
RS: A lot of times meeting up with old friends can make you feel like nothing's changed, even though it's been years. At the age I'm at, it feels like a lot of people are split between going full adult, or being in this sort of arrested development stage where you're refusing to do what is expected of you. I feel a little torn between the two, like I don't want to grow up but I feel like I kind of need to in some ways.
SC: The song ends with a musical interlude with guitar feedback. Does this relate to the song’s theme?
RS: I thought that the acoustic part at the end was really pretty, but I couldn't really find a place for it to happen more than once. I wasn't really thinking about the overall theme relating to that part, more that it just sort of evokes this sense of longing and it doesn't fully resolve. So I guess in that way it does inadvertently fit the theme.
SC: What was your process for writing “Waste”?
RS: The main acoustic part I actually wrote a long time ago, like maybe 6 or 7 years ago in college. I like to record all my ideas from over the years and when I'm trying to write some lyrics, I'll pick the riff that seems to evoke the feeling I'm going for the best. I wrote the first half of the verse to this song and was stuck with that for a while, and then recently I redid the music to the chorus to what it is now. The rest of the lyrics and the structure of the song came together in like an hour after that. I have a lot of songs like this on deck from over the years that just didn't work with the bands I've been in for the past 6 years or so, which is why I'm excited to do my own thing and finally get them finished.
SC: What’s your songwriting process like? Do you write every day? Do you wait to be inspired?
RS: I split the writing into two different parts, the music and the lyrics. The music I can usually just sit down and come up with something I like if I set my mind to it. Lyrics usually have to be a little bit more inspired by events or thoughts I have while living life. I'll just have a thought that might be a good thing to write about or a good line, and I'll jot it down in my phone to expand on later. How often I write depends on the project and what stage of the project I'm in. Like right now I've been finishing up the EP, so I'm focusing on recording instead of writing.
SC: How does your community of songwriters inspire you?
RS: The music community in Columbia in general is pretty interesting. It's not a huge scene, and I feel like a result of that is that people are pretty enthusiastic about new bands or projects coming along. So it's kind of nice because it feels like just being a new project is enough to get you some sort of attention. I try to tell everyone that's even thinking about starting a project that they should just go for it. We could always use more new people in the scene. There are also some great songwriters around here, but I feel like everyone is generally down to earth and approachable as normal people, which can't be said about every scene.
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