Sierra, I’m curious – how do you think you manage to write lyrics that are deeply autobiographical but aren’t precious to the point where others can’t relate?
Swan: “Being brought up by musicians and being around them so much, I think songwriting just seeped into me. My dad was in Kris Kristofferson’s band and then toured on his own. I heard Kris' music for two months straight – I was hearing it backstage on the couch. That stuff sinks in. The lyrics and the soul that you have to draw out and connect to – that’s what Kris is all about that; that’s what my dad is all about. So it’s not like I studied songwriters and said, ‘I’m going to be like whoever.’ It’s just the only way I know.
“Phil Everly was a really good friend of my dad’s, and I was lucky enough to write some songs with Phil five months ago, before he died. I had no idea how sick he was until his son called me the day he died. It was a total shock. But Phil is another one of those writers, people who reach into their heart to express something very, very personal. It’s not the kind of thing a lot of teens will listen to right now, but it’s stuff that means a lot over time.”
Like Billy was saying, the downside to not chasing the charts is that the industry doesn’t know what to do with you. But there can be your own special upside if it all works.
Swan: “And that’s sort of all you can work towards; it’s ultimately all that matters. I mean, it’s tough to do this financially. People have to want something in order to want to help you. There has to be a pay-off, a reward, and I get that. But that’s the thing about Billy and his contributions: It didn’t involve money or ego; it was simply, ‘I like what you’re doing and I want to help.’ In this day and age, that’s pretty rare. He was just being supportive. There was really nothing he was going to gain from it.”
In regards to your earlier records, what were you looking to do differently with Billy?
Swan: “It’s funny: Billy and I have always had something of a hate-love relationship. He likes to joke about me having such strong opinions, although, of course, so does he. He would always say, ‘You watch – one day I’m gonna produce you.’ And I would be like, ‘No. Way.’ [Laughs] But he knew that I had to go through my musician bullshit and run myself into the ground before I could ask for help.
“Letting my ego stuff go was important. I had to be willing to let go of my control issues. Billy has a great, great ear for what works and what should happen naturally. That was the main thing, really – allowing him to see what the songs needed, what they didn’t, and to let him tell me without putting up a fight.”