Raised by Swans is the musical alias of Canadian solo artist Eric Howden. A singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Howden has written, recorded and released three full-length independent albums as Raised By Swans thus far; Codes and Secret Longing (2005), No Ghostless Place (2010), and Öxnadalur (2014). He is currently (February 2017) preparing to record his fourth.
Songs from Raised By Swans’ albums have not only drawn admiring words from media (reviews by Exclaim! and Rhombus magazines described No Ghostless Place as “13 moments of aural splendour…transcendent and angelic” and “starkly beautiful”; see here for more) but have made fans of some influential and well-respected filmmakers. Academy Award and Palm d’Or nominated director Atom Egoyan included three songs from Codes and Secret Longing in his film, Adoration (2009) and two songs from No Ghostless Place in the erotic thriller Chloe (2010). The then live version of the band also appears as itself in a scene in Chloe, which stars Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried and Liam Neeson.
“Violet Light” from Codes and Secret Longing is featured in novelist Douglas Coupland’s film Everything’s Gone Green (2007), voted Canadian Feature Film of the Year at the Vancouver International Film Festival. The song was included on the soundtrack CD for the film (Lakeshore Records) alongside such artists as Final Fantasy, The Golden Dogs, The Fembots, and Sloan.
Over the years prior to recording the final versions of each at the House of Miracles, Howden wrote and recorded fully realized and orchestrated versions of Codes and Secret Longing and No Ghostless Place alone, using a variety of old and damaged multi-track machines. Friends/musicians accompanying him at the time for live performances learned their parts much as one learns cover songs. During these years he often fell back on the pronoun “we” instead of “I” when referring to Raised By Swans, including presenting himself in biographical information as a band rather than a solo artist, as he felt most comfortable hiding within a collective and behind a pseudonym. Fierce pride in his body of work eventually culminated in his revealing the truth in an interview conducted in between the release of No Ghostless Place and Öxnadalur, where he finally clarified things, if only for his own peace of mind.
For Öxnadalur (named after a valley in North Iceland, pronounced UX-na-DA-lure), Howden kept the recording process even more close to the chest than he had on his previous two albums, and besides a few drum tracks added during the final weeks of recording, no other musicians were involved in its performance. He began writing its 14 songs in North Iceland in the winter of 2011, and subsequently devoted the next three years to building them part by part at Andy Magoffin’s House of Miracles recording studio in Cambridge, Ontario. More information on Howden’s ties to Iceland here.
In 2013, Howden recorded and released the single ‘Sightings‘, which he initially made available through bandcamp.com exclusively as a digital download. He wrote the song following a visit to Berlin, Germany in 2012, and released it in the hopes of raising money to help fund the final months of recording, mixing and mastering Öxnadalur.
In September 2016, Howden released ‘trains we both missed /pale blue black holes’, a virtual 7-inch, on bandcamp, iTunes and a number of other digital retailers; both songs will appear in slightly different forms on album #4.
Raised By Swans performed live sporadically in support of Öxnadalur throughout 2015, finishing out the year with a solo eastern European tour in November, including dates in Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Croatia with UK-based Midas Fall. He returned to Germany and Russia in October 2016, performed his first piano-and-voice only show in Toronto in early December, and has plans to return to Europe in 2017 for a full solo tour.