This week’s Swag Spotlight series features artists Jayne Kelli, and AJ Swearingen, also known as the country folk duo Swearingen & Kelli. Singing and songwriting are what brought this husband and wife duo together, and their infectious story-telling and harmonies are something we will all appreciate.
So how did these two gifted artists come together and create their own musical love story? Well, Kelli grew up in a small town in Michigan, just north of Detroit and Swearingen was born and raised in Bethlehem, PA just north of Philadelphia. They had been solo artists for many years and it was not until their paths crossed at a small venue called “The Hideaway Cafe” in St. Petersburg, Florida that they began working together. Swearingen initially played lap steel in Kelli’s band, and before they knew it their synergy and cohesiveness revealed something special. Swearingen spoke of their effortless ability to collaborate saying, “She fills in the blanks pretty quickly, and we understand each other musically.”
Their country-folk style is heavily influenced by genres that span across decades, and both agreed they were inspired by similar artists. Kelli explained, “We love so many styles, but there’s a lot of folk and country from the ’60s and 70’s that we really pull from and love.” Swearingen agreed, and he added, “My Mom used to spin all kinds of country records like Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. So I really was steeped in that and almost exclusive to country music when I was growing up, so that became part of who I am. Lyrically, we’re influenced by the singer-songwriters from the ’70s. ”
The duo has spent the last two years in Nashville writing and recording songs. Swearingen and Kelli drew inspiration from visiting an old timin’ country bar called The Station Inn. In between trips to the bar, they were able to put together an honest record with a classic sound that originated from their own life experiences entitled Cold-Hearted Truth. In order to showcase the realness of this album, they did not use any autotuning on their vocals, with no click tracks, and no isolation booth. Their goal was to let their onstage chemistry and intimacy be heard throughout the recording of the album. Swearingen said, “There’s a lot of our history coming out in all of this writing, and that feels good to us, its a very honest record.”
Cold-Hearted Truth truly is as authentic and raw as one can imagine, and the “live” feeling is captured throughout the entirety of the record. Swearingen and Kelli are currently on the road promoting Cold-Hearted Truth and will be opening up for David Bromberg on select dates. In addition, they plan to release a recently recorded Merle Haggard classic before the year’s end.
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