Photo courtesy of Sabrina Sibbald of Chases the Sun Photography
“I’m outgoing and confident. I try to be funny. And I love music.” As we were sitting at the front window of My Dog Joe, Dana Swarbrick began making faces at the adorable golden retriever outside. Perhaps this was where the true magic began, as I started to interview the local Hamilton singer – songwriter. I had first seen her perform at the very same café not too long before, where I had witnessed her eccentric hallmark – what I call: the mouth trumpet.
Every bit as unique as the personality that faced me, my jaw literally dropped as Swarbrick pursed her lips together to weave the bridge of Fireflies and Starlight, a song about her best friend. A technique taught to her by a fellow member of her vocal jazz group, Swarbrick has now held workshops of her own on the creation of the perfect brass instrument sound.
Swarbrick’s personal favourite is her recent single, Waterfall “It’s about a woman falling in love with a waterfall. The word waterfall itself is never mentioned in the song. It’s very poetic. It flows like a waterfall – I wanted something that would ascend quickly and flow down a bit slower. I wanted to write a song in ¾ as well.” Then as a quick cheerful addition – “In the city of waterfalls!”
In addition to the well-versed musical knowledge, mouth trumpet, and burgeoning joy, Swarbrick also possesses one of the purest voices with, what I would describe as, a vintage overtone. It’s homely and calming and perfect for tracks like my personal favourite, L’Art, a song about artistic passion which encourages listeners “…de t’exprimer, de t’exprimer”. Having done french immersion, Swarbrick and I initially began our conversation in French… quelque chose que j’ai apprecié beaucoup!
Her passion is something that translates beautifully into her performance and her appreciation for her fans is extraordinarily humble. In fact, Swarbrick dedicates the time and effort to create her EP covers with her fans’ favourite colours.
Photo courtesy of Dana Swarbrick
“My dad was always really into music… He’s always been a big influence to the genres I listen to.” Swarbrick’s musical journey continued in school as a part of the community choir and band (she also plays baritone sax!). Musical influences include Norah Jones, an icon of whom Swarbrick’s folk-jazz-blues has been wonderfully compared to. Personal favourites include Fleet Foxes, Beirut, and Grizzly Bear.
Having opened for Hannah Georgas at Casbah, Swarbrick is also a local ambassador for the local Hamilton music scene. She’s began Ham Tams, a local initiative rooted from Montreal’s Tam Tams, that celebrates the spirit of the local creative community, with activities like slacklining, a drum circle, and of course, jam sessions.
“I want to write a jazz song that makes people feel the blues. I want to write a song that makes people fall in love again.” And here is an artist who does just that.
P.S. Come see Swarbrick perform at the YPNHOI sponsored show at Homegrown Hamilton August 23rd! (She’s on at 9:25pm! Email us for more information.)
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