With more than two decades of making music behind him, both as a solo artist and as a part of acclaimed blues trio Hot Toddy, Fredericton native Thom Swift approached the making of his latest record a little differently.
The record, The Fortunate Few, was released last year and features some of the best lyrical insight to come from Atlantic Canada in recent times. Known for his sophisticated style of guitar-playing and earthy baritone voice, Thom has always been able to connect with a audiences; The Fortunate Few has further cemented that relationship.
Performing at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre this Thursday night, Thom says that instead of spreading out the writing of his newest record over the span of a year or more, Thom set aside a month to focus on writing. He would find a secluded spot just outside his current hometown of Halifax and settle in for the day.
“One thing that is different about this record compared to my previous efforts was that I had the opportunity to write the songs but also think about how they would cohesively fit onto the record,” Thom says. “Having a family, it is sometimes tough to set aside the necessary time to write. With these songs, though, I dedicated a solid month to writing. I would jump in the RV, drive 15 to 20 minutes outside of town, park somewhere beautiful and work there for the day. It helped make the record more focused. I can hear the difference that the writing process had upon the songs.”
Since the release of the record, Thom might as well have adopted “Have songs, will travel” as his motto. A dynamic live performer, he has taken his musical catalogue to audiences across the Maritimes and Central Canada in the 11 months since the album’s release.
A personal and professional highlight of Thom’s already storied career came last summer when he had the opportunity to support Rosanne Cash on two of her tour stops here in Atlantic Canada. Rosanne is, of course, the daughter of country music legend Johnny Cash. Thom says the magnitude of who he was performing with on those nights hit him as he was about to take the stage for that first show.
“I walked out on stage, and her guitar was there on a stand. On her guitar strap, which was hanging over the front of the instrument, it just read ‘Cash,’ and it hit me then and there that I was performing alongside Americana royalty. It was a little surreal,” Thom laughs. “She didn’t disappoint on a personal or professional note. She and her husband, John Leventhal, were such great people. Those shows were lovely. It was such a treat to have been a part of them.”
This past November, Swift’s hard work and determination to make The Fortunate Few one of the best efforts of his career were rewarded when the album won the Music Nova Scotia Award for Blues Recording of the Year. His latest award adds to an already impressive tally of four other Music Nova Scotia Awards, three East Coast Music Awards and two Canadian Maple Blues Awards.
In addition to capably steering his own career, Thom has branched out in the last two years, writing songs with other artists. After having co-written a track on The Fortunate Few with acclaimed East Coast songwriter Dave Gunning, one of Thom’s most recent co-writes comes in the form of “Let’s Go To Bed”, a song on Weightless, the newest record from New Brunswick’s Matt Andersen.
While the experience of working with Andersen was not new to him (Thom has played in Andersen’s band for the past few years), Thom says that Andersen inadvertently helped open his eyes to the world of working with a producer.
“It was a really great experience to hang out in the recording studio and see a world-class producer in action,” Thom says, referring toWeightless producer (and Los Lobos member) Steve Berlin.
“For a long time, I thought that I didn’t need to have a producer involved with my records. I felt reasonably confident about being able to do my own thing. But bringing a guy like Steve into the making of a project just stands to make it that much better in the end.
“So I have definitely come around to thinking about having another set of ears to guide me in the studio. Someone that would be able to listen to a song and shed new light on where it could go. The possibilities are endless, really. I find that very exciting.”
What: Thom Swift
When: Thursday, Feb. 20, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets start at $23. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone at (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca