Meet Derek Swain

From time to time I discover an artist who is on the cutting edge. It's always very exciting for me to see what independent musicians are doing, evne if they don't fit the mold of "World Music" in the way we think of it. I tend to think of World Music as music of the world, and that can be pretty much anything. It's all a matter of perception.

Derek Swain is one such artist. Based in Ontario, Canada, his folk, country, pop rhythms combine with a simple songwriting style expressing the beauty of life, love, and just taking the time to pay attention to what's around us. His new album SImple Things, pretty much sums it up. His themes are universal, and that, to me, is really what World Music is all about.

I asked Derek a few questions about his career and music. Please pay attention: I am expecting that many of you will be hearing this name quite often int he near future.

Paula: What made you decide to pursure music as a career?

Derek: I started music as a bass player in a Rockabilly/ R&B/ Punk/ Country band, and really enjoyed it. We were in it just for the fun of it really. Then I started writing songs, and as they got better and better, I just found myself wanting to write songs and play music as much as possible. It's really too bad that so many people have this notion that you can't be "just" a Musician or a Songwriter.

Paula: You are a very prolific songwriter -- on your bio it says you wrote one song a day until you became a dad, and now it's more like a couple a week, which is still a lot. What is your inspiration? What drives you to write?

Derek: A good portion of the songs that I write have a very strong moral fiber. That's not to say they are religious, because they are not that. Somewhere in my mind I have this ideal of what life should be like - relaxed, honest, happy, family oriented,and gratifying among many of the other "simple things" that lead toward that kind of a life. Unfortunately much of what we are exposed to in the world is exactly the opposite- depression, stress, dishonesty, crime, abuse, disrespect toward others etc.- that is the perceived reality we face. Most of my songs are written as a self healing, or a release of the day to day crap that goes on, and in that respect, I would have to say I do most of my writing for my own purposes. It's really kind of weird to see that some of my advice and opinions actually make sense to me and to other people too.

I also happen to really love my wife a lot, and the whole idea of love and trust, so a good portion of my songs revolve around that premise. Not to say that they are all love songs, but songs about love.

Paula: What do you hope to accomplish with your music, and as an artist?

Derek: I don't know what I want to accomplish with my music. I would like people to enjoy my music, and remember my songs, or at least parts of them, and I guess name their children after me.

As an artist, I would like to record an album a year - at least- and tour around where ever it takes me, at the same time, be able to support my family well enough that they have what they need and want, and I can get my van fixed up so people stop making fun of it.

Paula: Who are your musical influences?

Derek: My musical influences are more the songwriters than actual musicians, although many are one and the same. As well, most are Canadian. Here is my current list of influences: My biggest influences have got to be Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen, John Prine and Warren Zevon. I also really like James Taylor, Nancy Griffith, Stan Rogers. Some of my not too distant influences ( I haven't listened to them lately) are: Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Sr.., and Merle Haggard.

Paula: Do you draw inspiration from other cultures/ethnic groups?

Derek: When it comes to the lyrical content of my songs, I'm not so sure that I draw inspiration from other cultures so much as I do from people in general. That might sound a bit flaky, but I honestly believe where ever you go people have the same basic instinctual emotions. When you write about love and hopes and dreams, the listener -I hope- derives their own meaning, and forms their own image of what each song is about. It depends on the listeners own life experiences as to how they react. Many of my songs are just poems put to music, with a chorus and sometimes a bridge.