N.S. favourites Jimmy Swift Band still kicking

If you were to say the past couple of years have been ones of change in the Jimmy Swift Band camp, you would be right on the money. From playing more than 150 shows per year in the early part of the decade to having people wonder if they were even still a band over the course of the past two to three years, we want to assure you, dear reader, that Halifax’s Jimmy Swift Band is still very much alive and kicking. In fact, they are celebrating the release of a new CD entitled When All Is Said and Done There Will Be A Lot More Said Than Done with a show tonight at the Paramount Lounge on Main Street in Moncton.

From a recent tour stop in Montreal, Jimmy Swift Band vocalist-guitarist Craig Mercer says that the group’s individual members have actually continued working on various pursuits even though those projects have lied outside of the Jimmy Swift Band.

“Over the past few years, each of us have been pursuing musical and non-musical projects outside of the band,” he says.

As the owner of the popular Paragon Theatre venue in Halifax, Mercer will be the first to admit that his band’s touring schedule has been trimmed down tremendously compared to what would have been standard for them a decade ago. But the unexpected time off from the Jimmy Swift Band ended up helping each of their members appreciate coming back to the Jimmy Swift Band a little more.

“We were getting all kinds of e-mails from fans asking why we weren’t playing. There were rumours going around that we had split up and I’ll admit that it took us taking a step away from the band to help us realize how special it is,” Mercer says.

“Had we not taken that break, it is tough to say whether or not we would still be together today.

“Once we turned our energy back towards the band though, it was obvious that the break was good for us musically. It seems as though the songs that each of us are bringing to the band is really exciting stuff.”

Mercer tells The Times & Transcript that the newest CD from the Jimmy Swift Band will be in stores on Dec. 8 although the band will have copies for sale at their upcoming Moncton show. More than two years in the making, Mercer says their latest record is comprised of several remixes of older JSB material while also offering fans six brand new songs.

He says that the group’s new material is seeing them head in more of an electronic direction, a result that was partially spurred by the fact the group saw their drummer Paul Christian leave the band (he’s since been replaced by Doug Cameron).

“I see it as a natural progression for us. I think it is where we ultimately see music going anyway. It sounds different than anything we have done in the past.”

If fans are somehow turned off by the group’s pursuit of electronic music, they sure are not showing their discontent yet. Mercer says the group’s shows in Quebec City and Ottawa last week saw fantastic fan turnouts and saw the band sell “a bunch of records” each night.

At the end of the day, Mercer is grateful for their fans open-mindedness when it comes to their music but believes another big factor in what makes the Jimmy Swift Band so popular is the lack of precise musical definition that can be given to the band.

“I believe our strength has always been that we don’t sound like anyone else out there nowadays,” Mercer says. “People in the music business have typically viewed that as a weakness however we have managed to maintain a very loyal fan base to date just doing what we are doing.”

Having survived more than a decade in the “business” by doing things their way has had little negative impact upon the band and only serves to further Mercer’s belief to let things take their course as they will, with one small modification.

“In the coming years, we definitely plan to tour less but record more. Playing less live shows is just going to be the result of the other commitments each of us in the band has going on. We can’t be on the road for 150 dates a year anymore.”

With the physical distribution of their new CD to be handled by Outside Music in Canada, the band intends to continue seeking avenues to get their music in as many hands as possible via whatever means possible.

With practically all bands having migrated towards selling or offering music via digital music outlets such as iTunes, Mercer estimates that for every one physical copy of a Jimmy Swift Band record sold in stores, they move upwards of 50 units digitally.

Though Mercer and his band mates Aaron Collier and Mike MacDougall continue to reap the benefits of selling music in any realm let alone the digital one, he feels that the art of enjoying the record as a whole piece of art is inevitably being lost in the digital world.

“I really do think kids are missing out a lot by exclusively buying their music digitally. As much as we benefit from it as a band, digital outlets have virtually destroyed the concept of a record. The concept of an album being a work of art is dying and I think it is really unfortunate.

“There is a lot of magic to be found in having an actual CD with artwork in your hands and I think the kids are missing out on a lot of that magic.”

Article published December 3, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript