KELLEY SWINDALL / New York City
The story of how Southern Belle & Country-Folk artist Kelley Swindall woke up one morning in a hot, stuffy New York City tenement apartment and instantly became a songwriter is almost a country song in itself. But that’s the dark miracle of heartbreak. “I had been dating a musician, and, when we broke up, I had this out of the blue need, to write a song about it. I never really wrote songs before, but I knew some chords from when I was in church youth group, so I sat down w/ my brother’s guitar, he was living with me at the time, & just started writing and figuring it out. I’d google chord shapes when I got stuck.”
With a rafter-reaching voice, a crazily charismatic stage presence, and a fiercely individual sound, Swindall has been steadily honing her craft & live performance style for the past decade on the road & in the East Village music scene; masterfully blending outlaw country with roots, blues, and folk, on her bold, idiosyncratic debut album, You Can Call Me Darlin’ If You Want, out this year on Velvet Elk Records. Swindall says the LP itself is “all about the heart.”; a coming-of-age album and an emotional tour-de-force built out of love, loss, broken-glass heartbreak, deception, and good ole’ redemption. “All the stuff real country music is made of.
The oldest of 7 children, born in Atlanta, and raised in Stone Mountain, Georgia, Swindall grew up in a strict conservative, Christian household & School, where her exposure to secular culture and music was limited. “Christian, Country, & ‘Oldies, that was pretty much it. My Dad loved Kris Kristofferson, Patsy Cline, and Johnny Cash, and by proxy, so did I. He’d play ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ on the way to church every week. I now appreciate the humor in that. My dad was a funny guy.” She cites Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Alabama, Jewel, & Amy Winehouse as later influences.
A storyteller with a sensibility that’s both hilarious and heart-on-sleeve sincere, the characters in her songs are strong female leads nursing heartbreak and breaking hearts, and boldly defying the docile image of Southern femininity that she grew up with. “I was raised in a culture where I was taught to “be nice”, “don’t make a fuss”, and “don’t act out”, especially when it came to men. I think it’s a Southern lady thing: smile and be gracious, always act like you’re okay, even when you’re not. I think it was my songwriting that helped me realize it’s not only okay but it’s necessary to be open, honest, and real, especially with those emotions & desires that might be deemed “unsavory”. To express how you’re really feeling and what you want and need, doesn’t make you crazy or needy, It just makes you human.”
Without an official single let alone a studio album released, Swindall’s impressively amassed a cult following, almost exclusively on the road, where she tours and performs as a solo artist. You can also catch her with her band, at one of her regular headlining shows at East Village haunts, Berlin & 11th Street Bar. She’s opened for the likes of David Allan Coe, Aaron Lee Tasjen, & Joseph Arthur, dueted with Wheeler Walker Junior, and has just finished a Southern Run supporting Jesse Malin & Tuk Smith.
Stay tuned for her first single and accompanying music video “California”, a Charlie Chaplin meets Easy Rider meets Thelma & Louise road movie, shot on location over 3 hectic days in New Orleans & Austin.