By Kelly Baughman
At first glance, you might think Kevin Swanson is your typical Texas cowboy, but underneath that ten gallon hat, there’s a father, military man, martial artist, and an overall genuinely nice guy who knows who he is, and puts every ounce of himself into his music.
Born and raised in Humble, Texas, Swanson started playing the piano at his mother’s request at the age of 5. “She played a little and wanted me to do the same, so I started piano lessons and began Kung Fu at the same time. Let’s just say I stuck with the martial arts a lot longer than the piano,” the now Kung Fu Black belt laughed.
By the time Swanson was 8, he knew he only wanted to play the guitar. “It was just cooler,” he said. Swanson had a natural gift for learning the instrument, as it didn’t take long to teach himself to play.
By the age of 15, Swanson had written his first song and knew that he’d been bitten by the music bug. “I joined a rock band in high school, and we played talent shows, Battle of the Bands, anything we could find really,” he said. Playing songs by Guns N Roses, Iron Maiden, and Boston, the band kept him active in music, but for Swanson, the genre was all wrong.
“I had a cousin who listened to a lot of country music. We’d drive around listening to that in his car and that’s when I realized the beauty of the storytelling in country music. I could relate to that, and knew that’s the kind of music I wanted to write,” Swanson said.
But life took a turn from music when Swanson joined the military just before graduating high school. “I joined the Navy, got married, had kids, and put music away for a while. The military is a very structured life, and unfortunately music was tough to fit in,” he said.
Swanson spent his time focused on his career in the Navy as a Medical Diver and Dive Med Tech using hyperbaric medicine to treat the bends and promote wound care among other things. Upon being stationed in Virginia, Swanson met Nate Allen, a fellow military man and musician, who rekindled his love of the guitar and an empty stage. “He convinced me to go to a couple of open mic nights with him, and eventually we started playing gigs,” said Swanson.
As things began to shift in his life personally, Swanson put his feelings onto paper and began immersing himself in songwriting. Needing a change, and having been stationed at Pensacola NAS from 2005-2007, Swanson recalled the fantastic music scene on the Gulf Coast and decided to call it home.
“It was going to be Perdido Key or San Diego. People said I was crazy for not going to San Diego, but I just remember going to see Wes Loper at the Flora-Bama when I was barely 21 years old. The country music and songwriters scene here was really thriving, so I felt like this was a place where I could explore this new path,” Swanson recalled.
And explore he did, frequenting open mic nights, sitting in with other local musicians, playing gigs all over the Gulf Coast, and making a name for himself as the good guy in the cowboy hat.
Now, Swanson has turned to music full time after retiring from the military after 14 years. “I’m thankful for my martial arts background and my years in the military because it taught me the structure and discipline I need to make myself successful, not just in music, but in life as well,” he said.
Swanson travels from Texas and back playing at venues and festivals along the way, but said it’s his new album entitled ‘Memory Lane’ that he’s most excited about. “I got together with Nick Biebricher, Jonathan Newton, and Jonathan Puzan to write some really great songs. We just finished recording it at Sandy Roots Productions, and it should be released sometime this month,” Swanson said.
The album, which features the already released single ‘Counting Exit Signs’ and the title track ‘Memory Lane’ will feature an upbeat vibe Swanson said “you’ll want to dance to”, along with one slow track, ‘Finally Learning To Fly’, a country waltz that he wrote for a friend’s wedding day.
With influences like Garth Brooks, Guy Clark, and Townes Van Zandt evident in Swanson’s album, his songs will remind you that a good storyteller can make you laugh, break your heart, or take you back in time. His soulful vocals and relatable lyrics will appeal to nearly everyone, much like Swanson himself.
The album will be available on iTunes and Spotify this month. For more information about Swanson’s ‘Memory Lane’ album release or for upcoming live shows, visit www.perdidokeylive.com or www.kevinswansonmusic.com.