A case of cheap domestic lager, a sun-baked front porch and a cracked-open front window, so the sounds of a dusty blues record, Eddie Hinton side or Mendocino, could be heard floating from inside to out. And Patrick Sweany avoiding yard work, talking about his 2011 album That Old Southern Drag and how he left Ohio for Nashville.
That’s the ideal situation for this interview.
Instead, we got cell phones, laptops, computer files, click-clacking computer keys and Patrick Sweany talking about his great new record, and how he ended up playing rough-hewed roots, blues and rock in a town known for being a country music factory.
The journey for the new album started with his move to east Nashville about three years ago. During a phone interview with the Reader, Sweany says it got to the point where he would have to leave Ohio or get a job outside of music.
He had trouble keeping a good touring band together in Ohio. Nashville seemed like the place to go, since it was packed with professional musicians.
“It was purely a business move at first, but since I moved I’ve really fallen in love with the place,” he says.
He now has a steady line-up of players, though shares musicians with several other Nashville-based artists. Pulling double-duty is just the circumstance of making a living wage as a working musician, he says.
“There is some rotation through the line-up,” Sweany says. “It just depends on who’s available.”
The shifting line-up works, thanks in part to the seasoned nature of his band. The guys come into rehearsal already knowing the material in-depth, so pre-tour preparations are easy.
That also helps with Sweany’s goal for every tour, which is to be better live than on the previous tour. He wants crowds that have seen him to walk away thinking the set was better than the last time they saw him and his band.
“The people who come out to see us are the people that put food on my table,” he says.
Nashville also incubated the creation of That Old Southern Drag, as he recorded, mixed and mastered it in the city, during sessions helmed by Joe McMahan.
Sweany had chucked his first two attempts at recording the album. He wasn’t about to take any short cuts on his third try.
“If you’re going to stake your career on something, it’s best not to cheap out,” he says.
The all-in approach meant bringing in McMahan to produce and going all-analog.
“Everything cut live to tape. There was no automation,” Sweany says. “It was all humans.”
Sweany says tape just works better for him.
The approach also fit in with the lyrical bent of the record, which draws on his move from Ohio and his feelings on seemingly being a decade behind the curve, in a city populated with musicians half his age.
Sweany says songwriters usually try to spin their personal narratives in a way that makes the songwriters come out sounding cooler than they are. The intimidation of relocating to Nashville helped zap that desire out of Sweany, as he tried to make his lyrics simpler and more direct on this record.
Sweany came up through the blues circuit in the late 90s, often being the lone band playing all original songs. He would also end up playing first, even when he was far away from his hometown of Kent, Ohio.
While Sweany loves early electric blues and finger-style blues, he’s also drawing on elements of soul music and classic country.
“There’s a lot of blurred lines between that,” Sweany says.
He’s a fan of hot guitar, but his songs aren’t just a vehicle for guitar solos, he says.
Eventually, he could see that most of the circuit was carrying diminishing returns for his band.
Sweany says the glut of bands featuring bad singers who “shred endlessly on overdriven guitars” killed his desire for playing on those sort of bills. “That’s about as boring a thing as I could ever imagine,” Sweany says.
Still, Sweany is able to point out the exception, including Lincoln’s the Zoo Bar, where Sweany will return Saturday. It’s a blues club that straddles the line between blues, rock, roots and Americana.
Patrick Sweany w/ Sons of 76 play the Zoo Bar, 136 North 14th St. in Lincoln, Saturday, August 6 at 9 p.m. Tickets for the 21+ show are $8 at the door. For more information, visit posterchildproductions.net.