PLAYING ATLANTA: The “Strange Motion” of Swallowed Sun

COLUMNS|Playing Atlanta

You know that feeling you get when you hear a band for the first time and think, “Hmm, they remind me of…someone?” Most of the time – for me, at least – I may never figure out who this brand new find reminds me of, but they have a hint of familiarity and, most likely, a nice little groove underneath that I like.

When listening to Atlanta alternative trio Swallowed Sun, however, there was something in the jazzy, rock-infused lines that reminded me of seeing Tedeschi Trucks Band just a few days ago. Sure, they don’t have a fourteen-person lineup featuring a horn section, but they’re cool, groovy, and just loose enough for you to sink right into the rhythm with them. They just released their self-titled debut this summer, and after talking with lead singer and rhythm guitarist Savannah Walker, I was even more convinced that this brand new band is going to be a major force in the scene very soon. Read on for all the deets!

AF: I love your sound. How did you get started?

SW: I met Aaron and Caleb Hambrick (drums and bass) around a year ago. As soon as I met them, I could tell how talented they were! We played our first show a week later and after that, it just clicked for us. I grew up listening to rock and alternative music while Aaron and Caleb draw most of their influence from jazz, fusion, funk, etc.., so we were starting from opposite ends of the spectrum, so to speak. It’s been a great combination of style for us, and collaborating has been pretty easy to this point. I really love what we’re doing right now!

AF: Were you musically inclined growing up, or was it more of a hobby? What made you decide “Oh, yeah, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life?”

SW: I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t love music. As a child, I was always singing (before I could even talk correctly), and I picked up the violin when I was six. Although I quit playing violin a few years later, it was a great starting point for me to develop my musicality and my passion for playing and learning. It wasn’t until I was around 14 or 15 that I started learning guitar. 

AF: Who do you consider your greatest influences? How have they influenced your style as a writer and performer?

SW: I know this sounds incredibly cliché, but growing up, Zeppelin was a huge inspiration. Houses of the Holy was the only full album I had on my first iPod, way back in ’06. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to appreciate all genres more. Aaron and Caleb have introduced me to some great music over the last year, and now I’m actually studying jazz guitar, of all things.  When it comes to making music, anything is fair game. We’ve really tried to avoid tying ourselves down to one sound. 

AF: Speaking of writing, you released your first full-length record, Swallowed Sun, in June. Can you tell us a bit about it? What inspired the record?

SW: We recently did the math and, speaking in terms of hours, our album was recorded in less than two full days. Of course, those hours were stretched out over a few months, so it seems like we spent way more time recording. The writing process was relatively easy; I wrote most of the chord progressions (Aaron helped) and lyrics, and the guys wrote their respective parts. Most of the first ideas we had were the ones we kept and it was a pretty natural process. We didn’t have finished ideas for a few of the songs going into the studio – everyone just played what they felt and the songs took shape on their own. 

AF: What was it like to record a full-length record after the release of your debut EP earlier this year? What kind of evolution have you seen in just a few short months?

SW: I can see so much progress in our music, even though we haven’t been writing and recording for that long.  When we started, it was a little rough, mostly due to a lack of experience and knowledge on my part.  The difference between the EP and the album is very noticeable; for one, we we were very lucky to have Brooks Mason (Eddie 9V) playing guitar on the later tracks, as his ideas really made the songs. I can say that personally, I’ve drastically improved since last year, both musically and creatively. This has been such a learning process for me.  It’s really great to see how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time! 

AF: What’s it like to get started as a band in the Atlanta music scene?

SW: Atlanta is a great place to be if you’re starting out a band or an individual! There are a ton of musical opportunities here in the city, and getting gigs is way easier than in, say, LA or Nashville. It’s easy to get involved in the scene here and meet other musicians, although you have to know the right places to go. 

AF: What’s your favorite music venue in Atlanta?

SW: My favorite venue that we’ve played here has been the Masquerade. The staff are really helpful and loading in and out is a breeze. My favorite places to go, though, are some of the local jams that Aaron introduced me to. Gallery 992 and Elliot Street are two places you have to visit if you’re ever in ATL. The players there are incredibly talented and you never know who you might see!

AF: What’s next for Swallowed Sun?

SW: Right now, we’re working on writing and recording more music. We’re planning on playing Porch Fest here in Decatur in October and releasing a new single by November!

Follow Swallowed Sun on Facebook and stream their debut full-length record on Spotify now.

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