The Music of Simon and Garfunkel
“Do you believe what you write?” This is the question sometimes posed to husband-and-wife duo Swearingen and Kelli which they address full-throttle on their upcoming sophomore release, The Marrying Kind (out July 21, 2017). Unafraid of spilling their guts in their music, the Florida-based twosome of AJ Swearingen and Jayne Kelli presents 12 songs that challenge the listener to explore life’s hard questions while embracing what you have in the moment. It’s not your normal, run-of-the-mill set of love songs. “This was the first album I've worked on that I actually choked up with emotion while recording,” says Kelli. “Several of these songs came from a powerful emotional body when I was writing, especially ‘Leaving Yourself,’ ‘Trying to Try,’ and ‘Devil From the Hills.’ They weave through, respectively, fear of losing your soulmate, that deep internal grief that almost turns to complete apathy when hitting rock bottom, and anger mixed with futility on witnessing controlling love.” The Marrying Kind is an album steeped in the sounds of Americana and country-folk with rich harmonies and character voices that are a modern echo of the singer-songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s. Organic, honest, and real, their music springs from a connected, closely shared life. “The creative process is very vulnerable and we trust each other completely,” says Swearingen. Drawing from influences and inspiration unique and shared, they trade off lead vocals, showcasing the strengths of both members. Says Swearingen: “We really dialed in our Americana country sound on this album. I used lap-steel on many of the songs. I was very inspired by the sounds of David Lindley (Jackson Browne) and Jerry Douglas (Alison Krauss). I even used a 1936 Rickenbacker to replicate some of those early sounds from the ’70s.” Kelli gave up a pull towards perfection for the sake of genuine, emotional performances. The lead-off, title track highlights the power of Kelli’s vocal, while telling the story of someone accustomed to her freedom and life on her own terms who second-guesses her aversion to settling down. “Annalise” uses a haunting, Appalachian feel to bring to life a tale of a man holding onto a memory of his true love that will never die. Tracks such as “Trying to Try,” “Survival,” and “Why Wait” are both contemplative and encouraging and promote taking risks, while not discounting the uncertainties that face us all. Kelli’s vocals perhaps do not shine brighter than on “Leaving Yourself,” a song that is part Norah Jones, part Paul Simon and offers an interesting perspective on the story of love. All the way to the final notes of the closing track, “Satellite Friends,” a song that confronts the struggle of truly connecting with others, the artistic benchmark has been set high with The Marrying Kind. The path that led to The Marrying Kind, began as two independent tracks that converged several years back at The Hideaway Café in St. Petersburg, Florida, when they heard each other perform at a writer's night. “I knew the first time that I heard Jayne perform her songs that she was incredibly gifted both vocally and lyrically,” says Swearingen. Since that moment, they have been partners in music, and eventually, love. AJ Swearingen, born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, grew up in a house where the classic country records of Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson were always spinning. “I love that music, but the folk records of the early ’70s like Gordon Lightfoot and Simon & Garfunkel are what really fueled my desire to pursue a life in music.” He began playing at 13 and started performing professionally in his late teens. His acoustic guitar finger style echoes his influences - James Taylor, Paul Simon and Lindsey Buckingham - but his silky, soulful baritone voice is definitely his own. Jayne Kelli’s voice is both husky and sweet, tender and bluesy. Kelli was born in the small country town of Lapeer, Michigan. She grew up listening to her parents perform songs by John Denver, Jim Croce, and Glen Campbell around the campfire. Jayne began writing and recording her own songs at the age of 15. Her first release garnered praise from critics, calling her “a formidable talent with elegantly poetic and emotionally charged songs.” Jayne’s song “Sweetness” was chosen as an anthem song for the domestic violence foundations Victim Services International and Angel Wings International in 2015. This partnership has led to some extraordinary things over the past few years; including writing and producing their own symphonic pop shows of music from the writers that inspired them from the ’70s - Cat Stevens, Gordon Lightfoot, Carole King, James Taylor, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and more - with performances alongside orchestras in Edmonton, Dayton, and Cleveland. Their song “You’re Not Here With Me” (from their debut album) was recorded by folk icon, Tom Rush and is available on his album What I Know. “Give Everything Up,” also on their debut album, was licensed by DMX for restaurant airplay. Swearingen and Kelli, together and separately, have shared the stage supporting Kenny Rogers, Crystal Gayle, Livingston Taylor, John McCutcheon, and Dave Mason, among others. They plan to continue a heavy touring schedule in support of the new album. Hopefully, along the way, their music will help others cope with their own tough situations. “I think the best way to sum up The Marrying Kind is to say that finding your soulmate isn't always easy or pretty,” says Swearingen. “In all the dark places life can take you, fighting for love is worth it,” agrees Kelli. And yes, for the record, these two partners in life and in music believe they are soulmates.