Nashville’s Patrick Sweany talks with C&I about his upcoming album, Ancient Noise.
Recorded in Sam Phillips’ legendary studio in Memphis, Tennessee, vocalist and guitarist Patrick Sweany’s new album, Ancient Noise, draws from rock ’n’ roll roots to create dynamic and original songs.
Album highlights include “Country Lovin,” the organ-driven “Get Along,” and the funky “No Way No How.” With rugged vocals and the guidance of Elvis Presley’s legacy, Sweany’s penned an album that’s sure to get people tapping their blue suede shoes.
We caught up with Sweany to talk about Ancient Noise, his musical process, and the best Elvis hip swivel he’s seen.
Cowboys & Indians: You have a new album out. What do you hope your fans will get out of Ancient Noise?
Patrick Sweany: In the broader sense, any musician that releases any recording, it’s your hope and desire to reach as many people and share your message, gift, experience, or point of view. Actually, I’m not sure I’m using the right words to describe what encapsulates that entity — the desire to share whatever that particular personal “impetus” that drives someone to do what we do.
In a more personal sense, I want people to know my story, and draw happiness from it, and want to watch me perform so we can share that, too. I just got home from touring last night, so the residual “gig high” might have colored my answer. I just really dig performing live.
C&I: What are some memorable stories along the way of the album from concept to actual release?
Sweany: Just the very idea of recording at Sam Phillips Recording, the dream studio of the man who discovered Howlin’ Wolf and invented what we know as rock ’n’ roll, was nearly overwhelming. For a guy like me, it’s the greatest place on earth to make a record. Sam’s son, Jerry [Phillips], a fantastic writer-producer in his own right, met us at the studio door. We’re watching him approach the door to unlock it through the windows, and he hits the Elvis hip swivel, just goofing around, and it just floored me. You’ve seen a million people goof around doing that hip thing, but Jerry is doing the real thing, which nobody gets, taught to him by Elvis Presley himself when Jerry was a little kid! So any confidence I was feeling was incinerated.
Jerry Phillips is one of the most stellar human beings I’ve ever met — just the epitome of cool. He was just goofing around, making us feel comfortable, as he’s probably used to wide-eyed, nervous musicians walking in to what is essentially Santa Claus’ workshop for rock ’n’ roll people. And it scared me to death. I saw him hit that lick and I immediately realized the connection to so much of my life that I’d only read about in books was on the other side of that door. The door I have to walk through in about two more seconds. I was pretty damn nervous!
C&I: What was the writing and recording process like? Where did you draw inspiration from for the sound?
Sweany: The writing process for this album was a lot like the last few. I shut down everything for about four to six weeks before recording starts. I barely left the house. I woke up, made coffee, and started compiling all the little voice notes on my phone and things I’ve jotted down, listening to what might be a good idea for a song I’ve had throughout the year. I sat at the dining room table with the acoustic guitar and a simple drum machine so I could write to the groove. By doing that, I didn’t have to revise a lyric because the groove of the song didn’t fit the phrasing or timing in my mind. Having a deadline and a finite timeline is a tool I use to make an album more representative of my life in those moments. It retains the immediacy and emotional involvement in the performance of the songs when tape rolls.
My inspirations are always going to come from those original blues, soul, and R&B singers and players.
C&I: Are there any particular singers and songwriters that inspired your creative development and made you want to become an artist?
Sweany: Bobby “Blue” Bland is always first in my mind as inspiration as a singer. Dan Penn is always the gold standard for songwriting for me. I’ve always looked to those architects from the past, the originals. You never run out of things to explore when you start at the sources of things.
C&I: Since the release of your first album, I Wanna Tell You, how has your music has evolved?
Sweany: Well, I definitely view the respective songwriting and sonic palettes that I draw from as broader. As my voice developed and aged, my technique got better. I felt freer to explore that range and the dynamic spectrum that it revealed to me. Writing for the ensemble versus just guitar and voice has been the most obvious development. Any job you do for a long time, you’re bound to get better at if you aren’t hopelessly incompetent. Time will tell.
C&I: Is there a favorite song or track on Ancient Noise that you’re most proud of?
Sweany: That’s a tough one. I have a soft spot for the ballads, and “Country Loving” was just such an exciting experience with Charles Hodges on piano. Being able to sing and phrase around the piano like that was just thrilling. I think it allowed me to sing a way that I hadn’t before on record.
C&I: Are there any tracks that didn’t make it onto the album that we can expect later on down the road?
Sweany: I can neither confirm nor deny these allegations.
C&I: What can we expect in terms of touring?
Sweany: You can expect lots and lots of touring.
C&I: What’s something that fans might now know about you?
Sweany: I’m kind of an open book, but I guess I have to say something mildly interesting. I like the band Slayer? I saw Nirvana on Halloween on their last tour? I accidentally walked in on Lemmy [Motorhead] changing clothes when visiting a friend that was his merch guy?
C&I: You’re from Ohio. What are some of your favorite places to visit when you go back home?
Sweany: I don’t get out too much when I’m back home, because I want to maximize the time with family, as the time is usually short. We love to play the Rumba and Musica. Music Box in Cleveland was really great, the first time we played there. The old haunts are still great: The Zephyr in Kent, the Lockview in Akron, the Matinee. But it’s always more about the people not the place. Baker’s in Canton is a favorite restaurant. Fred’s Diner is amazing. I would always recommend going to a Massillon Tigers football game.
For more information on Patrick Sweany, his new album, and upcoming tour dates, visit his website.