Interview: The Swon Brothers ‘Show a Different Side’ on ‘Pretty Cool Scars’ EP
With the release of their new EP, Pretty Cool Scars, on Friday (March 17), the Swon Brothers are giving fans their second EP in as many years, and their fifth recording overall. The sibling duo got their "big break" in 2013, when they finished in third place during the fourth season of The Voice, but brothers Zach and Colton Swon have actually been making music for far longer: They released their first album in 2009 and have played together since childhood.
Considering their long history, it would be easy to think that the Swon Brothers have their sound down to a science -- but it's actually the opposite. The Swons say that their new EP is like nothing they've ever released; from the retro rocker "Take Off" to the sly nods to old-school country in "Dwight Trashed," Pretty Cool Scars unveils a brand-new side to the Swon Brothers.
The Pretty Cool Scars EP's first single, "Don't Call Me" is a perfect example: The song, which became an "anthem" for the Swon Brothers, contains a universally relatable message but pushes boundaries sonically and instrumentally; Colton Swon even takes on lead vocals for the first time.
"It just shows a different side of us that I don't think people have seen before; it's a little more serious, a little more grown up, I think," Colton Swon tells The Boot. "You can try to compare it to other people or other artists out there, but it's just very fresh, and that's what we loved about. We're really excited about the song and the album as a whole."
It's not just the song "Don't Call Me" that will show a different aspect of the Swon Brothers' musical evolution, but its accompanying music video as well. While an official release date for the clip hasn't been announced, the duo promises that it's going to be epic.
"Our first music video was really playful ... and then we had a video that meant a lot to us, called "Pray for You," and it was more on the serious side," Zach Swon recalls. "For lack of a better term, I think ["Don't Call Me"] is a little more sexier of a video -- not because of us by any means! The actors did a great job, and the location is super cool. I would like it even if I wasn't in it!"
The Swon Brothers' sound on the Pretty Cool Scars EP is due in large part to its producer, Brad Hill, whose most recent credits include award-winning debuts from Maren Morris (Hero) and Brothers Osborne (Pawn Shop). It was under Hill's guidance that the six songs on Pretty Cool Scars came together, and that the Swons were encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and explore.
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"I think his biggest talent is bringing out sides of you that you didn't know were there, musically and vocally" Zach Swon says of their time in the studio with Hill. "It wasn't rushed. We got to spend time and be creative and try weird things, and some stuff worked, and some stuff didn't, but I think, in the end, it brought out a new side of us, but still shined on who we are as artists ... He did a good job of giving every song its own personality and still making it sound like a whole unit."
Still, the Swon Brothers are staying true to what their fans love -- mostly because they've been paying attention to what concertgoers have responded to during their shows. As an opening act on Carrie Underwood‘s 2016 Storyteller Tour, they got to test their new material out on plenty of country music fans.
"One of our biggest ways to know if a song is a winner is by playing it live for people, so anytime we get a chance to do that, we definitely listen to fans, and luckily, we had a huge platform [in 2016]," Zach Swon says. "So, a few of the songs that are on the EP, we got to play on the second leg of the Storyteller Tour, and the response was insane. We can't thank the people enough for listening to us, so one way we're gonna thank them is that we're gonna listen to them."
Pretty Cool Scars is the Swon Brothers' second consecutive EP -- it follows 2016's Timeless -- and while the guys would like to record another full-length album in the future, their main priority is getting music out more often. Again, that decision comes from paying attention to what fans want.
"Given the response from fans -- they like new stuff more often," Zach Swon explains. "So when you put less songs on [a release], it's easier to get it out once every year or once every two years. And we want to give our fans what they want!"
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